By the Way, Whatever Happened to Cyprus?

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Nothing has changed for years in Cyprus, which is disputed between Greece and Turkey, and there is little hope for a solution in the near future, writes Sami Kohen.

We have not heard anything about the Cyprus issue for weeks — months, even — either in Turkey or anywhere else. Nothing is moving on the Cyprus problem. Negotiations are deadlocked. There are no Eroglu-Hristofias level meetings. The issue has been passed onto committees but we hear nothing from them.

Meanwhile, the Middle East is boiling. All attention is on Syria, Egypt, Palestine and Iran. Cyprus is not on the agenda.

In such a situation, it was very useful for academics and journalists to have a chance to listen to Turkish Cypriot President Dervis Eroglu at a lecture he gave at Kadir Has University of Istanbul. We heard from him the reasons for the current inertia and what might happen from this point forward.

We must note that the Turkish Cypriot leader is pessimistic, if not hopeless, about the future of the negotiation process and possibility of a solution. So much is changing in the region and in the world but these have no bearing on a possible solution between Cypriot Greeks and Turks. Unfortunately there is no sign that 2013 will be a year of solution for Cyprus.

According to what we heard from Eroglu, this is how the picture looks:

1) Negotiations: Eroglu says if the negotiations, which have been going on for 44 years, are to continue, then their parameters must be changed. They must not be open-ended and must be time-restricted. There may be benefit from participation of the three guarantor states, Turkey, Greece and Britain, at a certain point of the process. Although the Turkish side is not hopeful it will agree to resumption of the talks under these conditions. Eroglu says, “We don’t want to be the party that abandons negotiations.”

2) Greek elections: The Greek side will have presidential elections in February. The strongest candidate is the leader of the moderate DISI party, Nicos Anastasiades. But DISI will be entering the elections in partnership with right-wing and anti-reconciliation DIKO party. That is why Eroglu doesn’t expect anything new from a change of government.

3) If there is no agreement: In such a situation, Eroglu says the Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic must be recognized as a separate state. He cites Kosovo, Northern Timor and South Sudan as examples. But, to be honest, the Cyprus question is different from all of those. Don’t forget that when Kosovo declared its independence, Western and Islamic countries immediately recognized it.

4) Embargo:  Eroglu complains that the Islamic world, in addition to not recognizing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, participates in the embargo against it. He recalled that Azerbaijan and Iran have not kept their promises to start direct flights.

For a solution of “a federal structure based on two states” as the Turkish side wants, both the Greeks and the external powers will have to alter their now fossilized positions. But there is sign of a change on the horizon. Eroglu doesn’t believe that even the economic crisis in Greek Cyprus will induce a softening or flexibility to the Greek position.

In a nutshell, we are where we started.

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