New Leader, New Vision and New Hope

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

“It’s been dubbed a graveyard for peacemakers, the Rubik’s Cube of diplomacy, but despite the odds Cyprus may well defy naysayers in 2016 by solving its decades-long division,”
The Guardian 2016

Mustafa Akinci is elected on 26 April 2015 as the fourth President of the TRNC
Mustafa Akinci is elected on 26 April 2015 as the fourth President of the TRNC

New President Mustafa Akinci holds the future of Turkish Northern Cyprus. Now divided Cyprus tries its best to become united during 2016. Mustafa Akinci is a reformist. He is a passionate politician who believes in conflict resolution through dialogue, diplomacy and development. He is a successful and popular politician who can take bold steps of negotiations with Greeks in order to resolve the unsettled issue of Cyprus. He is also an experienced administrator who knows the arts of administration and accommodation. Moreover, He has had valuable cooperation and connections with his Greek counterpart.

The Guardian’s Forecast 2016

Most recently, the Guardian’s list of global predictions for 2016 has included Cyprus foreseeing that a solution to the political problem will be reached during this year.
According to the paper Cyprus, the strategic Mediterranean island, home of Europe’s last partitioned capital, is now hoping a historic window of opportunity. Turkish and Greek Cypriots regard this year ahead as the last best chance to end the ethnic divide. Moreover, Turkey-Russia tussle and re-energising of its EU accession process has put the need for a Cyprus settlement centre stage. It would have multiplier effects on the region and especially Turkey. It would diversify its energy supplies with the island’s subsequent transformation into a regional transport hub for oil and gas reserves and boost its chances of joining the EU.

Saga Continues

As 2016 began, TRNC entered its 52th year as a politically separated nation and its 42th year as a physically divided country with a permanent solution to end the divisions far from being achieved yet. Attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem and unify the two communities have undergone various levels of negotiations and missed opportunities over this period, and thus far a succession of Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have been unable to reach a solution acceptable to both sides.

High Hopes

Hopes are high. Holistic efforts in terms of strong political determination for the wellbeing of its people are being carried forward to finalize the accord on the issue of Cyprus. Emerging socio-economic realities, geo-political and geo-strategic scenarios has provided a golden opportunity for both the Cyprus to shun the spirits of enmity, distrust and disassociation and jointly work for the unity of Cyprus acceptable to both of them in the days to come.

Swan’s Song

The Cyprus dispute is still an ongoing conflict between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. Till today, over 100 negotiations have been presented to Greek and Turkish Cypriots in hopes of coming to an agreement, but every time one is proposed, one of the sides refuses the deal. The Cyprus dispute is still, to this day, unresolved.

TRNC’s Wishes

TRNC wants a settlement that respects democratic principles and human rights. The settlement may be based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality. The TRNC is doing whatever necessary to work on a new partnership based on a two-state solution and political equality.

Good Optics at Davos

Optimism about the reunification of Cyprus reached a high as the two leaders of the ethnically split island pledged their commitment to reach a settlement, all with a symbolic handshake, at Davos in the Swiss Alps, the setting of the ongoing World Economic Forum.

Both leaders met in Davos and said that a deal was possible this year to end decades of conflict over the divided island and called on the international community to fund peace efforts.

TRNC President Mustafa Akinci told delegates that both would “continue hard work to put an end to the problem and pave the way for new economic opportunities.”

“I believe 2016 could be the year that we end the unacceptable status quo,” Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Long-stalled UN-brokered peace talks, which many observers see as the best chance to reunify Cyprus after four decades of division, were relaunched last May, 2015. Now, both leaders believe a Cyprus settlement “is within reach”. But several thorny disputes, including territorial adjustments, power sharing and property rights will need to be resolved if a unified, federal Cyprus is to occur. It is hoped that both leaders would take tough compromises on property and territory.

A former mayor of Nicosia, Akinci is seen as more supportive of reunification efforts than most of his predecessors. Both leaders called on the international community to fund peace efforts, with any agreement likely to prove costly as property disputes may require substantial payouts.

“We do hope that we should have the support of the international community at large, particularly as regards substantially contributing to meet the financial aspects of the solution,”

“Living in the midst of a region of turmoil, we are committed to continue working with resolve to heal what is an open wound at the heart of Europe.

Meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci had a working lunch with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who urged the pair to seize the positive momentum in ongoing talks, acknowledging however that “a number of sensitive and difficult issues” remain. Territorial matters as well as power-sharing and property rights are seen as the largest stumbling blocks to a peace deal.

The Turkish-Cypriot leader said that energy deposits discovered off the island were a catalyst for a solution. “With this solution, newly found hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean will act as a source of peace cooperation rather than conflict and tension,” he said.
In earlier comments to the media, Akinci said that potential normalization of Turkish-Israeli ties would make a Cyprus peace deal an imperative.

WEF president Klaus Schwab called Cyprus “a ray of hope just where the Middle East meets Europe”. Energy cooperation based on recent offshore gas discoveries off Cyprus could provide a crucial incentive to reach a deal, he said.

It is hoped that through the determination and political will exists in both sides and also the contribution and assistance of Ankara, which should encourage and support the decisions of the Turkish Cypriot side, I hoped that in 2016 Cyprus is reunifying as joint homeland, creating conditions of a modern, European, functional state, but especially securing the prospects and future of the whole of our people, whether Turkish Cypriots or Greek Cypriots”. It is now seemed that “no one is aiming at abolishing the Republic of Cyprus” and both sides are pursuing the evolution of the Republic of Cyprus” into a “bi-zonal bi-communal federation along with human rights, the four fundamental freedoms will also necessarily be guaranteed.

European Commission President

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker has expressed his hope that Cyprus will be reunited in the first six months of 2016, in a press briefing.

“I am very confident that in the first six months of this year we will come to a final agreement on the reunification of that island,” he said.

“I certainly hope that will be the case because I very much like the Cypriots,” Juncker said.

Juncker added that he thought both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots were very hard-working, intelligent, and educated people. “I hope 2016 will be the year that we can finally resolve the Cyprus issue,” Juncker had closed.

Financial Assistance Imperative for reunion of Cyprus
Securing jointly funding prospects for the solution of the Cyprus problem the two Cypriot leaders have recently visited and attended Davos. The aim is to exploit the presence of economic factors, and heads of state.

It seems that both leaders are on the same page. Most recently, in an interview with Milliyet, Mustafa Akinci, said he will comprehend the possibility of financing the solution of the Cyprus problem.

“One of the sponsors of the solution will be the solution of the Cyprus problem itself. There is no expectation for free. Cyprus solution will offer many investment opportunities,” he said. Furthermore, Turkish Cypriot leader welcomed Anastasiades “initiative” that Turkish becomes an official EU language.

Both sides wanted to find solutions without winners and losers, Anastasiades said in his interview, underlining his personal respect for Akinci.

CYPRUS 08

“I have to admit that the new Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Akinci, is a man with whom I can share the same vision for the reunification of the island, for a solution that will create a model state, a European state which will respect human rights. All these are elements which were missing in 2004,” President Anastasiades said.

President Akinci is a visionary leader. He has already indicated interesting and viable visions of preparing such an accord by preliminary agreement on individual disputed subjects. He advocates common reconstruction and administration of Varosha and the use of the harbour of Gazimagusa together with direct flights to and from Ercan in the common Greek and Turkish interest. Initial response from the President of Greek Cyprus was not so prompt and productive but appeared very congenial.

Unfortunate Past of Mediterranean Island of Cyprus

The Mediterranean Island of Cyprus has suffered a long history of foreign domination, violence and civil strife. Now it is the high time to resolve this issue according to the ground realities beyond the realms of power-politics and wishes of imperialistic forces. The will of people of TRNC must be supreme.

‘The measures for developing trust should continue,’ Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Presidency spokesperson says
There is no need for new mistrustfulness, misunderstandings and conflicts”.

The spokesman highlighted that Turkish Cypriots along with Turkey had a solution-oriented vision to resolve the Cyprus issue and hoped that the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, too would contribute in the talks by building a common vision.

Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci said ongoing Cyprus peace talks aimed to realize a framework during a UN meeting in September, 2015 in New York where the guarantor countries would also join.

During 2015, Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders along with UN’s Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide gathered at the UN’s Good Office on the island due to which political tensions in the long-divided island eased since talks resumed on May 15.

Both leaders agreed on a five-step plan to resolve the Cyprus issue following a meeting hosted by Eide. These steps included opening more crossing points, interconnecting power grids, allowing mobile phone interoperability on both sides of the island, resolving the issue of radio frequency conflicts, and forming a joint committee on gender equality.

Divided Cyprus Unites

BN-IH043_CYPTUR_J_20150506135457

A joint application from both sides to grant it the same protected status as champagne or Parma ham, meaning only cheese produced on Cyprus could be called halloumi or hellim, was published by the EU which hailed it as a symbol of hope of reunion.

The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the joint cheese application shows “the commitment of both communities of Cyprus to work together on projects unifying the whole island”.

He added: “The common understanding reached around this application is highly symbolic and it confirms the willingness of the two parties to work together with the help of the commission to build confidence with concrete measures.”

Strategic Vision

Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci, says his community must regard their Greek neighbours on the island not as enemies but partners. All his life, Mustafa Akinci has worked towards peace. There has been his language: a lexicon of feel-good words infused with the precision of a conflict-resolution professor. And there has been his belief that small things can lead to big things in his splintered country.

In his early months in power, the president Mustafa Akinci, the soft-spoken and peace loving did not waste any time. He initiated many meaningful measures to reduce political divide by dispensing with the visa requirement, a highly symbolic stroll, arm in arm, across the island’s buffer zone with Greek Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades; and an array of confidence-building measures ranging from increasing the crossing points connecting the two communities to linking mobile telephone and electricity grids widely seen as the most positive signs yet that inter-ethnic relations are on the mend.

There is the issue of direct flights, which are banned, and exports that cannot place and absence from any political platform that might confer recognition. Young Turkish Cypriots are unable to participate in international sporting events. Even cultural contacts are restrained. Its tourism industry is also at receiving end due to sanctions and isolations.

Two different national discourses/narratives towards conflict resolution produced destruction for the dreams of greater socio-economic prosperity, political engagement and international exposure within both the parts of Cyprus. In broad terms the conflict in Cyprus can be resolved generally in one of two ways i.e. recognition of the two parties as two separate states or guaranteeing the integrity and sovereignty of each party while providing for a mechanism that links them.

Proactive action is necessary to prepare for the future for a sustainable settlement of the Cyprus issue. There is need to build institutions, which would facilitate the two peoples and two states of the Island, to work together. Cyprus has common environmental, water and health problems on the Island. It is essential that the two states of the Island through their departments come together and discuss these issues. They can initially use the facilitation of a third party to start the process.

Both parties need to start removing the obstacles on each other, including trade between ourselves and sports and other things, not only on the Island but off the island as well. We need to deal with the issue of embargoes urgently. We need to build up the needed trust and confidence. We need to supplement intergovernmental contacts with the contacts of NGO’s.

The island of Cyprus is the common home of both the Turkish Cypriot people and the Greek Cypriot people. Neither of these two peoples would accept to be dominated or governed by the other. Yet, the two peoples are destined to share the island, to co-exist and to work together for a better future, stability and quality of life.

United Nations special adviser for Cyprus

The United Nations special adviser for Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, has said he is very optimistic about the prospects of reuniting the ethnically split island.The Norwegian diplomat says that unlike the 2004 Annan Plan, which was voted down by Greek Cypriots, this time a settlement will not be “imposed by somebody else” but will be the product of an agreement between both sides.

He also emphasizes the good chemistry between Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and his counterpart Greek-Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, adding he is convinced they are both genuinely interested in reaching a solution.

The formal leaders’ meetings between both sides started in May, 2015 and have happened uninterrupted until now. Till today the negotiators have their 63rd meeting, and if you add the working groups and technical meetings, there are hundreds of meetings.

A Complicated Political Landscape

It is a complicated political landscape on both sides, and they want to solve this; it’s quite important that the papers, the documents are produced by them very pragmatically.

Energy Cooperation

It is hoped that through energy cooperation we will make it easier for Cyprus and its neighbors to find the most logical solutions to the hydrocarbons issue, commercially rational decisions.

Concluding Remarks

In a unified and reunited Cyprus, all Cypriots will be citizens of Cyprus with equal rights, and the Bill of Rights will be federal, bi-zonal and bi-communal. Where, bi-zonal means two constituent states and bi-communal means two communities. Everyone will vote at all levels of government.
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is blessed with a visionary leader in shape of Mustafa Akinci, the torch bearer of peace, hope and reunion. He has pragmatic approach to resolve the long waited solution of Cyprus, suitable and acceptable to both the sides of divide. He has strong political will to surpass all the hurdles of the past to achieve a durable political solution along with sustained system in the days to come.

Moreover, he is flexible enough to resolve the complicated matters of properties, profits and territories. He stands for the wellbeing of his people. He works for the lost paradise. He dreams of socio-economic prosperity, national dignity, constitutional guarantees and the last but not the least, federalism with equal political, economic and human rights in the united Cyprus. He tries to eliminate socio-economic discrimination and strives for equality in its true sense.
Emerging socio-economic bitter realities, geo-political bargains and the last but not the least, geo-strategic power chess board has provided a window of opportunity to achieve a workable solution and functional political system in a unified and united Cyprus in the days to come. Let us hope that “window of opportunity” would be open, transparent, optimal and productive for both the sides. Let us hope to shun political deadlock/enmity and work for speeding up of commercial diplomacy, private investments, joint ventures and renewables.

Cyprus has huge potential of renewables and energy reserves which need to be tapped jointly and equally.

Mediterranean sea/island has a long history of rich cultures and civilizations converging different faiths and communities for so many centuries in a same reference of time and space. Its waters are not so bitter to dissolve any existing political bitterness.

Its sun is not so dull to dilute any difference to achieve a bright future full of peace and harmony for both the different communities. Its sand is not so helpless to absorb the horrendous of the past. Rather it ideally provides a basis of socio-economic integration and better political understanding. Hopes are high and stakes too. President Mustafa Akinci is the last hope for reunion and brighter Cyprus.

Leave a Reply