No country for reluctant peacemakers

Agora Contributor: Nikos Skoutaris
Photo by MacroPolis
Photo by MacroPolis

It seems that reports of a solution to the Cyprus issue were greatly exaggerated. Again. This is far from a surprise. All negotiations concerning this age-old dispute follow the same pattern. There is optimism in the beginning, frustration as time passes by and sheer disappointment at the end. 

There are some contrasting reports as to what exactly happened during that fateful conference. At the moment, all sides are engaging in an activity that as time has gone by, they have mastered: the blame game. Notwithstanding who bears the responsibility for the failure of the negotiations, one has to wonder what is the possible road ahead for the resolution of this ancient conflict.

Immediately after the end of the Cyprus conference in Crans-Montana, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that it is impossible to reach a solution within the UN parameters. This could mean two things that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It might signal Turkey’s intention not to take part in UN-led negotiations in the future. Most probably, however, it sheds light on Turkey’s view that the Cyprus issue cannot be solved in accordance with the agreed parameters of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Instead, a loose confederation between two equal States or a two-States solution where the Greek-Cypriot side would accept the recognition of TRNC in exchange of some land in the North would be the way forward.

It is not only the Turkish side that is questioning the UN parameters, however. One of the frontrunners to become the next President of the Republic, Nicolas Papadopoulos, is supported by EDEK and Solidarity. Those two political parties are openly against a solution that is based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation while his own party DIKO is ambivalent about it. Of course, they are not favouring partition as the Turkish side does. They prefer a more unified State. Still, they are de facto rejecting the solution that has been described in countless UN Security Council Resolutions.

At the same time, even the UN Secretary General has invited the leaders of the two communities to reflect on the road ahead. In a way, he has asked the communities to think whether after 40 years of negotiations and more than 50 years of partition, they want to live in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. This question is now more pertinent than ever. During the last ten years, in two different periods, the two communities were led by leaders that supported (at least ostensibly) the reunification of the island (Christofias-Talat, Anastasiades-Akıncı). If they did not manage to reach a mutually agreed solution, one has to wonder whether anyone else can.

One of the biggest problems that every attempt for the resolution of any conflict has to overcome is that the different sides are asked to make peace with their enemies. This might sound as a truism but it highlights the difficulty of reaching an agreement and sometimes sharing power with a group against which one has been fighting. It does not matter whether the preferred solution is reunification or partition. Reaching an agreed settlement needs political willingness, decisiveness and sometimes even bravery. Reluctance never helps. There is no country for reluctant peacemakers.

*Nikos Skoutaris is a Lecturer in EU law at UEA. His website focuses on Secessions, Constitutions and EU law. Follow him on Twitter at @NikosSkoutaris.

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