Athens has long harbored ambitions to make Cyprus part of Greek territory like Crete and other Aegean islands, hampering the resolution of old territorial issues with Ankara, experts say.
After Turkish military intervention in 1974 prevented Greece from taking over Cyprus in a military coup, the Mediterranean island’s Turkish and Greek populations were divided, ruling their own territories.
Over the past four decades, despite the fact that Turkish and Greek Cypriots have engaged in several negotiations, the two sides have been unable to find common ground to resolve the dispute.
Greece has often resorted to backbiting and accused Turkey of complicating the Cyprus issue. But on closer inspection, regional experts see Athens as the main culprit.
Ismail Bozkurt, who was chairman of the Turkish Cypriot community assembly between 1973 and 1975, a crucial period in the disputed island’s history, believes that Greece and the Greek Cypriots are keeping the conflict unresolved and working together tandem to exert political pressure on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots. .
“Even though they know that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots will not give in to pressure from the Greeks and the Greek Cypriots, they continue to do so in the hope of rallying world public opinion behind their political maneuvers,” Bozkurt said. . World TRT.
Another stumbling block is the way Greek leaders distort both the Aegean island issue and the Cyprus dispute when interacting with world powers like the United States. “They want to create an anti-Turkish perception in the Western world using the Cyprus dispute and the Aegean islands tensions,” Bozkurt said.
“As long as the Cyprus issue remains unresolved, EU member countries, Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration are exploiting the issue against Turkey,” said Mustafa Lakadamyali, Turkish Cypriot Ambassador, representing the Turkish Republic of Cyprus from North (TRNC) in Washington, DC.
After the failure to resolve the Cyprus issue following Türkiye’s military intervention in 1974, the Turkish Cypriots in the north declared their own state, the TRNC, in 1983, recognized only by Ankara. The Greek Cypriot Administration (GCA) is another southern political entity run by Greek Cypriots.
Since then, the disagreement between Western states, mainly Greece, which oppose Turkish intervention and military presence in the island, and Turkey, which strongly defends its presence in the island to protect the Cypriots against Greek aggression, created a stalemate known as the Cyprus Question.
“The Greek Cypriot side aims to impose its conditions for a solution by gaining the support of EU member countries. Greece is also using the issue as a way to put pressure on Turkey,” Lakadamyali said. World TRT.
Why the Greeks are keeping the issue locked
The Greek side also prefers the current status quo, which is to keep the issue unresolved. While the Greek Cypriots and Greece claim that they still support the model of bizonal bicommunal union, also called the Republic of Cyprus established in 1960 under the guarantee of Ankara, Athens and London, they still maintain the old policy of marginalizing Turkish Cypriots and snatching away their rights, according to Lakadamyali.
“Greek Cypriots are comfortable with the current status quo on the island. The current status quo offers international recognition to Greek Cypriots who exploit this illegal and unjust status against Turkish Cypriots,” Lakadamyali said.
Therefore, Greek Cypriots prefer the status quo for a global settlement where they could no longer represent and claim to act on behalf of the whole island, according to Lakadamyali.
This Greek political agenda has long been the main reason why negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriots have sometimes failed. More recently, in 2017, in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, the Cypriot negotiations failed due to the lack of political will of the Greek Cypriot leadership, notes Lakadamyali.
“All efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue on the basis of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation have failed during the 50 years of negotiations, due to the reluctance of the Greek Cypriot side to share the power and wealth of the island with Turkey. Cypriots,” says the Turkish Cypriot diplomat.
Concerted efforts by Greece and Greek Cypriots to block a comprehensive deal have also heightened calls for a two-state solution in both Lefkosa (Nicosia) and Ankara.
As a result, in April 2021, the Turkish Cypriot side proposed the two-state solution in Cyprus at the informal Cyprus conference in Geneva, where both sides of the island, the guarantor countries and the UN were present, according to Lakadamyali.
Towards a two-state solution?
After decades of failed talks on Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots and Turkey have lost patience with the intransigent political nature of Greece and Greek Cypriots. But also, regional tensions between Turkey and Greece, from the Aegean islands to the eastern Mediterranean, complicate the dispute.
“The Cyprus conflict has its own idiosyncratic settings and complications for resolving the conflict. On the one hand, it is also very much linked to the general Greek-Turkish tensions and the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean,” says Zeliha Khashman, professor of international relations at Near East University in TRNC. .
Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration in southern Cyprus have excessive maritime claims in both the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. “Unilateral activities in the region in complete disregard of the rights of Turkey and the TRNC obviously increase tensions,” says Lakadamyali, who called on Athens and its Cypriot ally “to put an end to illegal unilateral actions” in the region.
In the face of escalating tensions, Turkey and Turkish Cypriots increasingly believe that a two-state solution may be the only way to settle the long-standing dispute.
“The two-state solution is now well established in Ankara,” says Bozkurt, the prominent Turkish Cypriot politician. Bozkurt also draws attention to the fact that recent parliamentary and presidential elections in the TRNC have favored political parties that advocate the two-state solution.
“When you look at recent election results, it is understood that this new policy has also been adopted in the Turkish Cypriot community,” Bozkurt says. “I don’t think that after this point there can be a return to the one-state solution. I also think there should be no turning back,” adds Bozkurt, referring to the Turkish Cypriots’ new stance on the two-state solution.
Bozkurt, who was also once a member of the TRNC Presidential Advisory Council responsible for negotiations with the GCA, sees no real possibility that Greek Cypriots could accept equal status with Turkish Cypriots under a one-state solution.
“They don’t want equal status with Turkish Cypriots. But they want to show the global public that they are right by claiming to want equality,” Bozkurt says. With this false position, they are trying to present Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots as unfair parties, who do not want to accept a resolution of the dispute, according to Bozkurt.
As a result, under these conditions, reaching an agreement with the Greeks on the one-state solution is “impossible”, says Bozkurt. As the one-state solution has increasingly become an unrealizable offer, Lakadamyali, a Turkish Cypriot diplomat, firmly believes that the TRNC will not be alone.
“Turkey has always supported the Turkish Cypriot position and this is valid for the current Turkish Cypriot position of the two-state solution,” he said.