Turkey should try to do its best to support the new leadership and avoid arguments and tensions with the Turkish Cypriots.
The election of Mustafa Akinci as President of the TRNC on 26th April has heralded a new era in Turkish Cypriot politics, writes Serkan Demirtas in Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ There are some circles who are wary of Akinci’s vision of reunification of the island. Akinci has already taken the stance that he does not want the Turkish Cypriot community to remain under Turkish tutelage. What he asked for was the TRNC to be as “two equal brothers” instead of “motherland and babyland”. This elicited an indignant response from Turkish President Erdogan.
However, it appears clear that Akinci intends to remain faithful to the joint declaration signed by President Anastasiades and President Dervis Eroglu last February, so Turkey, by and large, should know what to expect from the new Turkish Cypriot leader.
This joint declaration is key as it outlines the nature of a potential agreement (based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality) between the two sides. Some experts on the Cyprus problem have argued that the declaration, aside from a few minor alterations, was essentially, a drafted blueprint of an agreement. This would allow both sides to conclude talks in a few months before holding a referendum.
Akinci, having declared his intention to adhere to the joint declaration, has also talked about introducing confidence-building measures to bolster the give and take process of the negotiations. Within this context, he has suggested returning the fenced-off town of Varosha to its former owners. This is not an isolated gesture, but a comprehensive deal in tandem with the comprehensive package.
“Let’s negotiate this as part of a three-leg issue, and let’s do it if we can finalise the agreement,” he said the day after he was elected as president.
Varosha, once a town bustling with tourists, was seized by the Turkish army during the 1974 military operation. The Greek Cypriots been urging the Turkish Cypriots for its return for a long time. Meanwhile, the Turkish Cypriots have said that the Varosha issue is part of a comprehensive solution. Now Akinci has taken a different slant.
“Closed off Varosha can be opened as a residential area under the control of the U.N. But there are so many things that should be done before this,” he said. Akinci is clear that this should be part of a package where the Turkish Cypriots should be enabled to enjoy customs-free trade with European Union countries through its Port of Famagusta and Ercan Airport should be open to direct flights.
“I propose this as parallel to a comprehensive solution. It does not mean that we should forget about the comprehensive solution and proceed chapter by chapter,” he said, at the same time, calling on the EU to provide assistance to make Famagusta a European port.
Demirtas notes that UNSG’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide, is coming to Cyprus on 4th May and that Akinci’s positive language about the solution to the Cyprus problem is remarkable. Naturally this will not be an easy process, he says. All parties, in particular, the Greek Cypriots, should want a solution this time and should abandon delaying tactics. The guarantor countries, Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, as well as the EU and the United States, need to support both sides with concrete action.
He concludes that the solution of the Cyprus problem will naturally have regional economic and political consequences and will be of benefit to both Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Further, Turkey would also benefit directly from the solution, as nearly half of the chapters in its EU accession process would be opened. This should give Turkey the incentive to back Akinci.