Ever since talks between the perennially divided peoples on Cyprus began back in 1975, when RR Denktas and Glefcos Clarides were the respective leaders of the disparate peoples, there has been marked reluctance on the part of the Greek Cypriot community to come to a point of convergence to make a lasting, workable solution and a settlement on Cyprus. Indeed, as the late president Denktas once remarked, no matter how much Greek coffee, or even Turkish coffee the two old friends would share together, Clarides always made it quite clear that he had no need to come to an agreement with his counter-part at all. That attitude remains solidly in place in south Nicosia today, within the mindset of a great many people there.
Signs of optimism are eagerly snapped up by those who are pro-settlement. Minister Nami recently saw a great deal in the pronouncement that even the religious leaders are now supportive of an agreement and indeed, this is a significant step given that the Orthodox church were the architects of the entire Diaspora anyway! Both the USA and Britain are supportive of a settlement, indeed the US has been most strenuous in their efforts to bring about precisely that but with her own agenda firmly in mind, which is hydrocarbon transfer based. Turkey too, has much to gain if the Cyprus Question is answered. Greece too is openly supportive now, for she too has much to gain should a gas transfer pipeline flow through Turkey, for en route to Western Europe, it would come through Greek territory as well.
But there remains to be huge differences between the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot positions. South Cyprus continues to demand the unconditional return of Varosha purely as a ‘confidence building measure’ and goodwill gesture on the part of Northern Cyprus. But no quid pro quo gestures, such as the lifting of embargoes, are to be seen from south of the line. Additionally, Greek Cyprus is now demanding additional territory to support around 160,000 people and they are baulking at the idea of a rotating presidency of a one state, bi-zonal, bi-federal country. In fine, nothing short of 100% control under a Greek Cypriot controlled government will appease or satisfy them. Turkish Cypriot politicians are champing at the bit to speed up the process whilst their counterparts have their feet firmly wedged on the brake pedal.
In the meantime, UN secretary-general has drawn fire from south Cyprus for having the temerity to appear to downgrade the status of the ‘Republic of Cyprus’ to that of a mere community, when he suggested recently that the Greek Cypriot community were not ready for talks, ‘for some reason’. This simply underscores the true mindset of Greek Cypriots, one which has been firmly established for countless decades. The Cyprus Problem began because the Greek Cypriots tried to usurp the inalienable rights of the Turkish Cypriot people – including their right to live – and has been continuing because of their ongoing intransigence in recognizing the need to share the sovereignty and administration of the island with Turkish Cypriots. The territorial aspect is of course relevant, but the fundamental aspect of the Cyprus problem relates to recognising Turkish Cypriots as political equals.
The Turkish Cypriot president, Derviş Eroğlu has just been visiting New York where he has been meeting secretary-general Ban Ki Moon in order to elicit enhanced support from the UN, to use their influence to encourage the feet-dragging south to up their pace. Turkish Cypriot politicians of all persuasions, are displaying rare unanimity and concord in respect of a ‘quick-fix’ settlement too; indeed they all demand the pressing of the accelerator pedal, or a ‘foot on the gas’, so to speak but of course, the Greek side will say that it is their gas so hands (and feet) off! They are more obsessed with the prospect of being downgraded to mere ‘community’ status. Whether or not, the UN can persuade the Greek Cypriots to look beyond Varosha and their myriad territorial claims, only time will tell.