UN Secretary-General Guterres 7 July announced that reunification talks had collapsed, following intense round of talks between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders joined by guarantor powers in Switzerland 28 June-7 July. Sides blamed each other for collapse, with main disagreements over issue of security guarantees. President Erdoğan 10 July blamed failure of talks on “negative attitude” of Greek Cypriot side. Greek Cypriot govt spokesperson 7 July blamed collapse on Turkey’s refusal to relinquish intervention rights and presence of troops on island. Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 18 July announced Ankara would work with Turkish Cypriot leadership to get support for recognition of “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC) as separate state, called for lifting of embargoes and restrictions on “TRNC”. Spat over drilling for potential offshore hydrocarbon sources immediately resumed after collapse of talks; tensions increased with reports 12 July of exploration activities by two companies off Greek side of island, and Turkish naval forces patrolling. Ankara 10-11 July said unilateral drilling and exploration unacceptable, resources belong to both sides of island.
To avoid another failed effort at federal reunification in the new round of Cyprus negotiations, all sides should break old taboos and discuss all possible options, including independence for Turkish Cypriots within the European Union.
Though newly discovered gas reserves off Cyprus are currently driving the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities further apart, they could offer both newfound wealth if, together with Turkey, they would start a new dialogue.
To capitalise on twelve years of normalisation, and at a time when both could benefit from a foreign policy success, Greece and Turkey should settle their expensive, outdated and stressful stand-off over Aegean Sea maritime zones and related issues.
With stalemate looming in the UN-sponsored Cyprus reunification negotiations, parties to the dispute need to take dramatic, unilateral steps to break the decades-long distrust that is suffocating them.
Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean will remain hostage to full settlement of the Cyprus dispute, but the property issue – one of its most intractable knots – can be solved now if Greek and Turkish Cypriots compromise on new proposals currently before them.
Three decades of efforts to reunify Cyprus are about to end, leaving a stark choice ahead between a hostile, de facto partition of the island and a collaborative federation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities living in two constituent states.
Originally published in Transatlantic Academy
Originally published in The Majalla
Originally published in IP Journal