The New Cyprus Strategy "Recognition"

Prof. Atilla SANDIKLI
03 November 2009
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The Cyprus Problem is definitely one of the most important issues that restrain Turkey’s rapid development. Strategies and initiatives that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (the TRNC) implemented in order to sign a lasting and fair peace agreement have always failed due to the intransigent stance of the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus (the GASC).

The ability of the GASC to use its upper hand that it gained after joining the European Union as a tool to pressure Turkey and the TRNC, induced the GASC to say no even to a comprehensive plan like the Annan Plan. Can the current strategy that is implemented lead the Greeks to a deal? Do the developments in the foreign policy atmosphere and circumstances that have happened since the emergence of the problem necessitate a new Cyprus strategy? What should be the aim of this new strategy?

To find answers to the problems that are brought up, it is useful to examine the emergence of the Cyprus Problem and the phases it has gone through. After 307 years of Ottoman rule, the administration of Cyprus was transferred to England in 1878 under the condition that the Ottoman Empire would keep its dominion. Turkey recognized the English sovereignty over the Island with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Starting from 1931, Greek Cypriots begin to express their demands to unite with Greece and after the Second World War they accelerated the “ENOSIS” movement which can be summarized as a plan to turn Cyprus into an “Elen” island by uniting it with Greece. The inability to get a UN decision in favor of unilateral self- determination – Enosis, resistance of the Turkish Cypriots against the Enosis and Turkey’s determination to support them provided an opportunity to start negotiations between Turkey and Greece.

Turkey and Greece came to an agreement in Zurich on February 11, 1959. England and the leaders of the two communities of Cyprus gave approval in London. Zurich and London Agreements that took form in this way were based on the principles of independence, partnership of the two communities, societal autonomy and the guarantee of Turkey, Greece, and England. Greek side did not give the Republic of Cyprus a chance to survive in the way it was established. It engaged in activities to isolate and exclude the Turkish Cypriots from state institutions; to end their existence on the Island and eventually to pave the way to unite with Greece (ENOSIS). This campaign that is known in Turkish Cypriot history as “Bloody Christmas” was grounded on the previously arranged “Akritas Plan”.

The leader of EOKA, Nikos Sampson, aimed at unifying the island with Greece, seized the power for a short period of time via a coup against Makarios with the help of the Greek Junta on July 15, 1974. Upon this move that violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, at first, Turkey proposed joint intervention with England in the scope of the 1960 Guarantee Agreement. When England rejected the proposal, Turkey started the Peace Operation on July 20 1974 considering the security of the Turkish people on the Island. Consequently, unification of Cyprus with Greece was prevented and the existence of the Turkish Cypriot community was secured.

All sides engaged in lengthy negotiations in order to sign a lasting peace agreement under the UN auspices. During these negotiations, major critical deadlocks and problems came forth from time to time.  With the aim of resolving these problems and urging the GASC to make peace, Turkish Cypriot People founded the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus on February 13 1975 to constitute the Turkish wing of a possible future federation. When the Turkish Cypriot community could not get any response for its attempts, with the intention of forcing the GASC to peace, it declared the TRNC on November 15 1983 on the basis of self-determination and political equality. While choosing this way, the federation thesis was preserved and calls for peace and resolution were made to the Greek side. Hence, sufficient and decisive attempts for recognition were not carried out.

The EU accession process of the GASC as the Republic of Cyprus completely defeated the peaceable efforts of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The Annan Plan, which was finalized after lengthy talks and negotiations and with the endeavors of the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was placed before the two communities for approval in referenda in the GASC and TRNC on April 24, 2004. While 75.83% of the Greek community rejected the Plan, Turkish Cypriot side said “yes” with 64.91% majority despite the difficulties that the Plan would bring for them. Upon the rejection of the Greek people, this comprehensive resolution plan that was supported by the whole international community, including the UN and EU, became invalid.

The UN Secretary-General, in his goodwill mission report of 28 May 2004, points out that the situation of the Turkish Cypriots should be dealt by the international community and that there is no reason to put pressure on the Turkish Cypriots and to isolate them from the world. In this framework, he made a strong call to the international community and Security Council, demanded the removal of the embargos and restrictions imposed on the Turkish Cypriots and an end to the implementations that prevent the development of the Turkish Cypriot side and isolate them from the world. He emphasized that the Security Council Resolutions 541 and 550 do not constitute barriers for this.

On July 29 2005, Turkey signed the Additional Protocol that extends the 1963 Ankara Agreement to the ten new member states, including the GASC, which joined the EU on May 1 2004. The fact that the signing of the Additional Protocol does not entail the political recognition of the GASC was acknowledged with a separate declaration. In parallel with the Additional Protocol, the pressures on Turkey to open its harbors and airports to the ships and aircrafts of the GASC are reflected on the Turkey’s accession negotiations and 8 chapters are suspended for this reason.

As it can be inferred from the explanations, the GASC concentrated its efforts to maintain the embargos and isolation imposed on the TRNC and to keep Turkey’s EU membership negotiations deadlocked. It also carries out all sorts of activities to undermine the peace talks. Its purpose is to hinder the economic development of the TRNC; to render the Turkish community poor and pauperize them to the GASC; to set the people against the state, and to incorporate TRNC officials into the Republic of Cyprus in a minority status. It desires to force Turkey – the biggest impediment for the fulfillment of this plan – to accept this by blocking Turkey’s EU negotiation process. The EU sometimes behaves and acts in ways that serve the GASC’s strategy.

As the historical process clearly shows, the current status quo in Cyprus is in favor of the GASC. Therefore, it tries to avert all attempts intended to disrupt the status quo. It does not endorse the groundwork that was attained as a result of the talks and negotiations under UN leadership. In order to compel the GASC to sign a peace agreement and to eradicate its negative effects on the Turkey-EU negotiation process that progresses in baby steps the strategy should be changed. Focusing efforts on a fair peace agreement and signaling the continuation of such efforts can not break the irreconcilable attitude of the Greeks. The only way to eliminate the intransigency of the GASC is to decisively concentrate endeavors on the recognition of the TRNC while continuing to work on a peace agreement. Such endeavors aimed at the recognition of the TRNC do not pose an obstacle for the peace agreement efforts. In contrast, they will serve for the formation that was brought forward by the TRNC and formalized by the Annan Plan as an entity with two communities, two founding states, and based on political equality and for Turkey’s active guarantor role thesis.

To conclude, for a lasting and fair peace agreement between the TRNC and GASC, a strategy directed to change the status quo should be devised. In order to have a peace treaty, peaceable and humanitarian attempts devoted to the recognition of the TRNC should be pursued. Recognition will not only change the direction of the pressures on the TRNC and Turkey but also provide a room for bargaining since the basis of the talks and negotiations will be altered. Moreover, it will compel the GASC to sit on the table and negotiate in a way to reach a certain conclusion.

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