The Cyprus Issue; a matter of schedule or a matter of understanding the history and going further? Photo by Leonidas Asimakopoulos
UN Green Line, Nicosia, Cyprus

For over four decades Turkey occupies the north part of the island and specifically almost one third of it. A series of negotiations throughout the past years have always ended up to the conclusion that there will not be a solution. For the first time the reunification of the island seems to be a common will of the official government of the island and the Turkish community.

Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci have started a round of intensive talks and all outstanding aspects of the problem will be on the table. The property issue and the effort to define criteria for restitution, compensation and exchange of properties was discussed at the first meeting on November 2, as well as on November 5.

Related issues such as territorial adjustments and settlers were also discussed on that day. The property issue will make the journey to the solution difficult as the Greek Cypriot who refuged in 1974 from the north part of the island to the south have not abolished their rights on immovable properties in the north part of the island. 

However in contrast with the Turkish occupied North, the immovable properties of the Turkish Cypriots have not been inhabited by Greek Cypriots or other minorities but they are still empty.  It does not take long to understand that the value of the properties and the ownership status of the properties in the north will make it difficult for the leaders to come to a solution.

The European Court of Human Rights has clearly supported in several cases that have arisen before its members that according to the Article 1 of Protocol N1 of the European Convention on Human Rights «Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law. The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.». So it is still to be answered how can the Greek Cypriots get even satisfaction for their occupied, damaged or demolished properties and which court will have jurisdiction on the resolve of the mutual compensation system concerning immovable properties.

Furthermore Turkey has to comply with the International Law Regulations concerning the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus and furthermore Turkey has to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Turkey had issued statements and engaged into actions challenging the Republic of Cyprus’s right to exploit hydrocarbon resources in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone for the benefit of all Cypriots. The EU Commission says that the EU has repeatedly stressed the sovereign rights of EU Member States which include entering into bilateral agreements, and exploring and exploiting their natural resources in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The EU also stresses the need to respect the sovereignty of Member States over their territorial sea and airspace. Other aspects that are still pending concerning the human rights of the Cypriot citizens and the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyrpus is the process of granting the Committee on Missing Persons full access to all relevant archives and military areas needs to be expedited, and the elimination of the veto of the Republic of Cyprus concening joining several international organisations and institutions, such as the OECD. The EU accession of the entire Republic of Cyprus and the suspension of the EU regulations in parts where the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control tends to be one of the Turkish Cypriots’ argument that the EU recognises the “TRNC” by not applying the EU law in its territory.

Even if the latest report on the Accession Process of Turkey, there are steps to be done concerning the freedom of movement between Turkey and the Republic of Cyrpus and specifically the issues of the prohibition on Cypriot flag vessels from entering Turkish ports and the lack of communication between the airservices centres. 
Akinci is not new to compromise politics in Cyprus. During the 1980s, as mayor of the Turkish municipality of Nicosia, he worked with his Greek Cypriot counterpart to address a series of issues in the capital. Later, he founded the Peace and Democracy Movement to promote reunification based on the Annan plan, the UN proposal for a federation and consequent accession of a united Cyprus into the EU. The proposal was approved by Turkish Cypriots but rejected by Greek Cypriots, who entered the EU alone. Akinci’s desire for a solution is also reflected in his views on the relationship between Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. During the past few years Turkey’s involvement in north Cyprus has increased, not least in the form of promoting Islam through education and the construction of mosques.

But unlike many Turkish Cypriot politicians, such as his predecessor Eroğlu, Akinci’s loyalties lie more with Cyprus than Turkey. During his campaign, he challenged Ankara’s role by saying that the relationship between north Cyprus and Turkey should be one of “brothers and sisters” rather than of “a motherland and her child”, which has been the mantra of Turkish governments and of the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who rebuffed Akinci’s remarks after his victory.

In terms of the settlement of the dispute the solution of a federal state regime seems to be closer than ever. During November, the sides will try to find common ground on issues such as the executive, the competences of the federal and the constituent states, as well as the sensitive issue of signing international agreements by the federal units as part of the sovereign united Republic of Cyprus.

In case there are security concerns, the guarantors could intervene strictly by diplomatic means or, for instance, by imposing sanctions.

The Cyprus Weekly understands that the Turkish Cypriots have repeated the above position on the table, insisting also that guarantees should be imposed for at least a period of time. Greek Cypriots seek to abolish guarantees as a matter of principle.

Nevertheless, they are ready to accept that the controversial system could be abolished when a solution is implemented. Considering that the implementation period could take up to five years, there is room for a mutually acceptable compromise. The two leaders will meet five more times this month in a bid to work out an agreement on the thorny issue of properties left behind by almost 200,000 Greek Cypriots who fled ahead of advancing Turkish troops in 1974.