Sunday, 2 August 2015

Turkey's guarantee of Turkish Cypriot safety is "non-negotiable" warns former Chief Negotiator

Turkish troops at a swearing-in ceremony in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, 2014

By Ismail Veli & John Oakes

Former TRNC Chief Negotiator Ergün Olgun says that only when Turkey enters the European Union and the situation stabilises can there be any change in the guarantee structure for the whole island. Greece, Turkey and the UK are all still Guarantor Powers under the 1960 Independence Treaty. 

Ergün Olgun
A former Denktas aide and one of the architects of the 2004 UN-backed Annan Plan, Olgun’s warning comes in a report he wrote for the independent TRNC think-tank Beşparmak. It was submitted to President Akıncı when he entered office and is only now being made public.

Turkey's Guarantor status and the question of territorial adjustments are the last two big questions still to be settled by the UN Talks, and this report delivers a cold shower to the current mood of euphoria.

Petrol and energy companies, Olgun observes, are eager to see some stability in the area via a settlement. This would pave the way for them to exploit the region’s energy reserves, most economically via a pipeline through Turkey. The EU is anxious to reduce its dependence on Russian energy and diversify its energy sources, while also combating Russia’s efforts to grow its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

'Turkish water can help boost the whole Cyprus economy'

An agreement would also allow Turkey to play a bigger part in improving island-wide prosperity: Turkish water, set to reach Güzelyalı, in northwest Cyprus, via a 25 km pipe across the Mediterranean later this month could boost the whole Cypriot economy.

However, the turmoil in the increasingly volatile region, along with other pressing global problems, means the decades-old push to unite divided Cyprus is causing fatigue both internally and internationally.

Piped water from Turkey set to start later this month. Photo: North Cyprus International
One of the biggest barriers to solving the Cyprus problem, says Ergün Olgun, is the Greek Cypriot drive for total control and maximum concessions from the Turkish side. Turkish Cypriots, he claims, however, are more prepared to give concessions in order to achieve a win-win agreement that is based on a bi-zonal, bi communal federation with political equality.

While the Turkish Cypriot side needs to solve the issue, it also needs to be vigilant, argues Olgun.  A properly-negotiated solution can only emerge from a partnership that reflects current realities; the agreement must be viable in its implementation in order to avoid the terrible historical mistakes that led to the collapse of the republic in 1963.

The two most tricky and vital issues still to be negotiated are the territorial adjustments and, for the Turkish Cypriots in particular, the continuation of Turkey as a Guarantor Power. The general criteria have already been discussed, but it is the last phase of the talks where these two key issues will be finalised.

'It is essential the bi-zonal character of any future state is protected'

Olgun says it is essential the bi-zonal character of any future state is protected and the aim should be to cause the minimum upheaval of population possible. The island should learn from the experiences of other countries. Funding for the relocation of people needs to come from international organisations.

Map of divided Cyprus: Wikipedia
Any bi-zonal solution must ensure economic equilibrium. For example universities, hotels, air and sea ports should all remain intact to avoid upheaval. The coastline and natural resources should be allotted equally, so as not to give advantage to either side. 

'Only when Turkey joins the EU can the parties review the guarantees'

Territorial guarantees are a matter of immense importance to Turkish Cypriots: past experience teaches them their security and survival must not be compromised. There were provisions for this in the 2004 Annan Plan, except that the clause to review the situation every three years would have led to constant concern and instability.

The TRNC Parliament reiterated its position that Turkey's guarantee is non-negotiable on 24 February 2010. Only when Turkey joins the EU and the situation stabilizes can the parties sit down and review the guarantees, based on certain criteria that may be established in the future.

The acceptance of this principle, Olgun claims, is absolutely essential to any current political solution. 

Additional reporting by İpek Özerim.