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But What Solution?

By on July 10, 2024
Endy Zemenides

by Endy Zemenides

As the mandate of the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy on Cyprus – Maria Ángela Holguin Cuéllar, former Foreign Minister of Colombia – comes to an end, there will be much anticipation over how she will evaluate the prospects for a solution in Cyprus even as Turkey’s illegal occupation reaches the 50-year mark.  What we know for sure is that Turkey’s Erdogan and his hand picked Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, have not backed away from their disavowal of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.  Even negotiations to reunify Cyprus seem to be far off in the distance at best.

Since Turkey and its appeasers have masterfully played the “blame game” since 2004, we can expect a narrative that blames Greek Cypriots and Hellenes of the diaspora for the continuation of the Cyprus problem.  We should also be prepared for attempts by Ankara to drive a wedge between Athens and Nicosia while it pursues détente with Greece.

To beat back the “blame game” we must engage in a detailed debate about what kind of a solution we would support.  Given two decades of disinformation regarding the rejection of the Annan Plan and what happened at Crans Montana, lies that are promoted as convention wisdom must be dispelled.

  • Greek Cypriots rejected a federal solution by voting no to Annan

This disingenuous claim was recently made by Özdil Nami – the former Turkish Cypriot lead negotiator – during the annual Delphi Economic Forum this past April.  Since Mr. Nami is British born, we’ll politely call “rubbish” on his claim.
It is easy to discern how wrong this assertion is.  A post Annan exit poll of those who voted “No” found that 75% of them cited “security” as their reason while only 13% stated they preferred to live separately from Turkish Cypriots.
Furthermore, the claim that a federal solution was actually presented to the people of Cyprus is questionable.  The Annan Plan provided for inconsistent application of the acquis communautaire of the European Union between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot zones.  Since the entirety of a reunited Cyprus would be in the European Union and the EU acquis is effectively the supreme law of the land in each member state, the non-uniform application of the acquis makes designating such a state “a federation” dubious.
Other fatal flaws of the Annan Plan included: keeping the Treaty of Guarantee in force; silence on the unilateral right of military intervention; and there was no enforcement mechanism in the event of non-compliance.  It wasn’t a federation that was rejected, but an acceptance and normalization of Turkey’s occupation.

  • Greek Cypriots don’t want to grant Turkish Cypriots political equality

More rubbish.  Unfortunately, this rubbish is often repeated by some Greek Cypriots (including by a representative of the Cyprus Forum this past February during the Southeast Europe and Eastern Mediterranean Forum in Washington DC).  This is worse than rubbish, it is an intellectually lazy suggestion.
A federal solution in and of itself provides for political equality, since it would establish a Turkish Cypriot sub-federal entity (or as others put it, a Turkish Cypriot “constituent state”.)  The application of the EU acquis and the European Convention on Human Rights provides additional layers of political equality.

What is overlooked (to a criminal extent actually) is that Greek Cypriots have accepted political INEQUALITY in order to reunify their homeland.  Whether it be the percentage of territory to be governed by each community, the amount of representation in government, or the decision-making ability in that same government, Turkish Cypriots would have more power than their percentage of population would suggest.

What Greek Cypriots want is an assurance of a functional state.  At the end of the Conference on Cyprus process in Crans Montana, the UN Secretary General himself noted the lack of a deadlock breaking mechanism as one of the major outstanding issues.  The ability to maintain a deadlock is NOT synonymous with political equality and it should never be treated as such.

While we push back against lies and incorrect “conventional wisdom”, we should also be more nuanced and exact in the arguments WE make.  For example, rejecting the use of the term “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation” can be read in the same vein as Tatar’s insistence on a two-state solution.  Since that formula is at the heart of UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, rejecting it effectively rejects the resolutions.  Let’s be exact – we are rejecting “fake” federal solutions that provide for different legal regimes across Cyprus, that relegate Greek Cypriots to second class status on part of their island, that give Turkey the right to militarily intervene and legitimizes its occupation presence on Cyprus.  Similarly, let’s not disingenuously use the “one person, one vote” argument.  Those of us in the United States know that WE don’t have it (given that every state has two Senators) and we know that Greece and Cyprus benefit from the exact opposite principle since they wield the same veto power as more populous members of the EU.

The announcement of the US-Cyprus Strategic Dialogue, the Amalthea Initiative, the development of the EU’s common defense policy and Cyprus’ 2026 Presidency of the EU make the details of any Cyprus solution more important than ever.  We must be ready to engage in this debate with facts, details, honesty and creativity.

About Endy Zemenides

Endy Zemenides is the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), a national advocacy organization for the Greek American community. To learn more about HALC, visit www.hellenicleaders.com