Two states in Cyprus? Why not, then, a unitary one?
An informal summit on Cyprus is scheduled to take place in Geneva in late April, coming at a time when Greek-Turkish relations are anything but good and tensions are high in the broader region. The aim of the meeting, according to the United Nations, “will be to determine whether common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon.”
The Turks are coming to the table with demands for two states in a loose federation. They claim – in pointed terms – that this is the only solution under discussion right now.
This approach is a complete departure from the standard international position in favour of a bizonal, bicommunal federation. As the international community is understandably eager for progress, some feel that even maximalist demands, like a two-state solution, should stand in the way of that.
Successive governments in Nicosia have for decades supported the idea of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, not necessarily because they saw it as ideal or desirable, but because it was broadly accepted as an honest and feasible compromise.
But if the Turkish side abruptly breaks with a decades-old norm and departs from the federal solution, then one can think of the Greek side going into April’s meeting with its own goal of a unified Republic of Cyprus, with no “zones,” and where every citizen gets an equal vote and where the rights of the numerically significant Turkish-Cypriot minority will be respected, along with the other three much smaller minorities on the island, the Maronites, Armenians and Latins.
Distortions on how one perceives political equality have resulted in proposals which in essence grossly violate the rights of the overwhelming majority of the island’s residents, defying not just common sense, but also the prospects of a solution that will be functional within the context of the European Union.
Such a solution would be opposed by Turkey, which would refuse to consider it, as it is, indeed, not in line with the spirit of the high-level agreements of 1977 and 1979, even though a solution such as this, both democratic and functional, may have been preferable to the international community and especially by the EU.
But if there are those who dismiss the idea of a unitary solution instead of a federation as maximalist or even as completely off base, how could they see the Turkish demands for a two-state solution as an acceptable starting point?
(A version of this article was originally published by Kathimerini and reproduced by permission.)