The Republic of Cyprus was not founded as a Greek state or a Turkish state. It was founded as a state based on the equal partnership of two ethnic communities and with the guarantorship of Turkey, Greece and Britain. In other words, the Turkish Cypriots, though less in number, were not a minority but a founder of the Republic with equal status. However, the Greek Cypriots considered the Republic as a ‘transitory stage’, a ‘temporary period’ which would eventually lead to an independent Greek state on the island. It was this ambition which caused the state to disfunction in Cyprus. First of all, the Turkish Cypriots were de facto deprived of all their government posts granted to them by the constitution. The Greeks were placed to all Turkish contingencies in security forces, and the ultra-nationalist Greeks made it impossible for Turks to fill their posts in politics and bureaucracy. As a result, the Cypriot state was usurped by the Greeks through the violation of the constitution. The Turks were unable to participate in the executive and legislative bodies. Moreover, many Greeks from Greece were brought to the island for settlement. During the course of the events, the international community as well as Greece and Britain, which were the guarantors of the Cypriot State and held rights and responsibilities including military intervention in case of disruption in constitutional order, only preferred to watch. As the Greek policy of deporting Turks out of the island occasionally turned into massacres, the UN Peace Force (UNFICYP) was deployed in the island in 1964. This was the beginning of the never-ending adventure of the UN in the island.
Though the UN arrived at the island, it neither managed to stop the violence nor was it able to put the rights granted to Turks into practice. In the meantime, the armament of the Greeks continued apace.
The military coup in Greece on 21 April 1967 had negative effects on the Cyprus issue. Although Turkey wanted to intervene in Cyprus as a guarantor state in these years, this action was prevented by the US and Britain.
The intercommunal talks failed many times, and the UN and the international community clearly proved their inability to save the Turkish Cypriots, who were forced to live in enclaves. But the Turkish public felt very disturbed upon the release of the photos of massacred Turks in the international media. Among the photos was a photo of a child killed in a bathroom. The final event that caused Turkish frustration took place in 1974. The radical nationalist Greek Cypriots considered unacceptable even the policies of Makarios that caused the exclusion of the Turks from the system as moderate and ousted the Makarios government. As Makarios hardly survived, more uneasy days were ahead for the Turks. The constitutional order, which had already ended practically, was now being wiped off by use of armed force and violence, and the island was being transformed into a Greek homeland. Turkey called Greece and Britain to stop the violence and take necessary measures to save the Cyprus Republic, but she was turned down. The international organizations and great powers did nothing but released statements of regret for the Greek coup on the island. Consequently, Turkey, upon the rights granted to her by international agreements, intervened in the island. Turkey had two goals with this intervention:
1) To protect the Turkish Cypriots who were facing the threat of annihilation,
2) To revive the Republic of Cyprus, within the framework of the international agreements and the constitution.
Turkish troops - though able to seize the entire island - only seized the north of the island, where Turks were densely populated, and stopped there. During the 1970s, Turkey permanently defended that the island be reunited on the basis of the constitution and the international agreements. In the South, the coup attempt failed and the Greek Cypriots maintained the Republic of Cyprus unilaterally. On the other hand, the Greeks did not allow the Turks to cross to the southern part and to assume posts in any of the government institutions. However, even the flag of the Republic was designed by a Turkish Cypriot (Ismet Guney) and the constitution allocated seats to Turks in every institution including government.
As the Turks were unable to cross to the South, they formed their own administration in the North. As the Turkish hopes for unification continued, they did not declare independence; but there were now two separate states on the island practically.
Unfortunately, the international community has never been neutral enough in the Cyprus issue. Particularly the Western organizations and states gave notable support to the Greek side and this support has been viewed as a ‘Christian solidarity’ by Turkey. The US, which was unable to protect the Turkish Cypriots and to assist them in regaining their rights in the state, even resolved on an arms embargo against Turkey, thanks to the influence of the Greek lobby in the Congress. This may be the first time that an arms embargo was imposed against a military ally. By the same token, the then-European Community (EC) strictly warned Turkey as the Greek Diaspora managed to get support of ‘its fellows in Europe’. Despite these events, both the US and the EC were aware of Turkey’s status of guarantorship during the 1970s. Both the US and the EC admitted that the Cypriot state was unable to join any international organization without the approval of its guarantors as it was written down in the international agreements. As Greece was progressing on the way to the EC (that is, the European Union, EU) and as Turkey was lagging behind in this process due to the economic problems and internal political instability, Brussels assured Turkey that Greece’s membership would not affect the EU’s stance on the Cyprus and Aegean disputes. In other words, the EU would not act partial on the Cyprus issue in case Greece is admitted. Naturally, the promises were broken. As Turkey remained outside, the EU neutrality was seriously damaged on the Cyprus question.
On the Turkish side, the Turkish Cypriots formed their own administration on the north of the island in 1975. Though its name was not a “state”, this structure was a state in fact. In terms of elections and parliament, it was a more democratic state than those of Turkey and Greece. On one hand, the Turkish Cypriots tried to overcome their state needs by practical solutions, while on the other hand they strived to be included in the state, which was closed to them by the Greeks in the South, within the limits of the constitution. The UN’s efforts, expectedly, failed again. The Vienna Rounds could only produce more distrust. While the Greeks did not admit that Turks were the constituent community in the Cypriot state, the Turks disavowed to depend on the mercy of the Greeks. The initiatives followed initiatives. As the Canadian, English and American proposals were presented, the Turks were unable to cross to the Greek side even for negotiations. When the negotiations stalled, the Turkish Cypriots unilaterally founded their own state in the North on November 15, 1983. However, the Turkish hopes for the unification of the island continued. Both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) maintained that the two communities could unify under a single entity, be it federalism or another solution.
During the 1980s, the TRNC was only recognized by Turkey, and the Greeks acted as if they were the only representatives of the island. Not only the flag of the Republic of Cyprus, which was founded collectively by the Turks and the Greeks, but also all posts in the ministries, military, police etc. were occupied by the Greeks.
The problem faced by the Turkish Cypriots was not only non-recognition. Initially, they were barred from exporting potato and citrus to the EU countries. They were even unable to send a letter. You needed to write an address in Turkey in order to send a letter to TRNC from the US or Europe. The world, so to say, ignored the TRNC. The Turkish Cypriots were even unable to play matches against teams of other nations. It was impossible to take a direct flight to Northern Cyprus. The UN efforts, definitely, continued in the 1980s as it did in 1960s and 1970s. England, the US and other powers continued their roles as mediators, though useless…
The scene continued with no change in the 1990s. Negotiations, failures, mediations, and endless plans…
In 1994, the European Court of Justice, with the lobbying of Greeks and Greek Cypriots, outlawed any trade with the north of the island. Strangely, the Court decided that the export of potatoes and oranges from the North was illegal. As the parties on the island were trying to agree on confidence-building measures, this event cast doubts on the neutrality of the ‘Europe’. The Turkish Cypriots were isolated in the EU and the Greek Cypriots were made the sole possessor of the island. The EU support encouraged the Greeks and the Greek militants attacked on the Turkish border posts.
The EU, in 1998, listed Cyprus (that is, only the Greek part) among “the potential countries” to join the EU. As a matter of fact, this resolution was in violation of the international agreements in two aspects. First of all, it was impossible for a country with border disputes to be a member of the EU. Secondly, it was impossible for the Republic of Cyprus to enter any international organization without the approval of Greece and Turkey, based upon the agreements and documents that established the Republic of Cyprus. As Turkey did not approve the Cyprus’ membership under these conditions, the EU was defying both its laws and the international agreements.
The UN had to renew its 36-year mission to Cyprus in 2001. The same year, after failed efforts to convince the EU, Turkey and TRNC collectively announced that they might consider unification of the North with Turkey. For Turkey, the EU was, unilaterally and in violation of all international law documents, preparing to admit the Greek Cypriots as a member as if they were the only legal representatives of Cyprus.
The Greek and Turkish leaders, Clerides and Denktaş, started negotiations with the UN’s good offices in 2002. Same year, the UN General-Secretary Annan presented a comprehensive plan to the parties. The plan seemed to be in favor of the Greeks. However, the lack of a settlement was more to the disadvantage of Turkish Cypriots. Hence, the Turkish side seemed to be more in favor of unification on the basis of a federation. As the UN was pressuring the both sides for a settlement, the US and the EU could have assisted the UN’s efforts. Especially the EU could have easily pressured the Greek Cypriots, who were on the accession process, for a solution. However, instead of this option, the EU called for the full membership of Cyprus (that is, the Greek side) in the Copenhagen Summit in 2004. So, the Greek Cypriots were able to obtain whatever they hoped for, that is, the EU membership and the guarantee of full membership. As a result, the Greeks had no more expectations from the negotiations.
A few weeks before the submission of the Annan Plan to the sides, Tassos Papadopoulos defeated Clerides, who were on the negotiation table by then, in the parliamentary elections in the South. As a result, a leader who was opposing the Annan plan became the president in the Greek side and the prospect for the approval of the plan was in jeopardy. On the eve of the plan’s referendum in both sides of the island, the EU and the US announced that the party which voted in favor of the plan would be rewarded whereas the one which voted negatively would face the consequences. Significant promises were given especially to the Turkish side. It was promised that direct talks would be initiated with the TRNC and the isolation on the Turkish side would be lifted, provided that the TRNC voted in favor.
The Turkish side overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Annan Plan. The situation was exactly the opposite in the Greek part. The Greeks overwhelmingly voted against the plan. TRNC and Turkey were hopeful about the results. It was hoped that the Greek side, which voted “no”, would face the consequences whereas the promises given to the Turkish side would be realized.
To demonstrate their goodwill, Turkish Cypriots not only voted “yes” in the referendum but also opened the borders with the South. They allowed the passage of all Greek Cypriots to the North. So, the Greeks personally saw that there were people in the North and that Turks were human beings just like Greeks. But the promises were soon forgotten and it was the party who refused the plan, not the one with the goodwill, which was rewarded. The Greek Cypriot Administration was admitted in the EU as the representative of the Republic of Cyprus on May 1, 2004. The Turkish Cypriots were left outside. Thus, the confidence crisis between Turks and the EU peaked.
It has been more than two years since the referendum was carried out. The isolation of the Turkish Cypriots still continues. However, the Greek Cypriots do not even attempt to negotiate with the Turkish side. Because the Greek side is an EU member and the problem has become an issue between the EU and the Turkish Cypriots. The EU, which was an “arbitrator”, has suddenly become “the other party” in the problem. Likewise, the UN General-Secretary clearly stated that the Cyprus’ membership to the EU caused a deadlock in the peace process.
Honestly, the EU’s admission of Cyprus, that is the Greek Cypriots unilaterally, was madness. The admission caused deadlock on the issue. This policy made it causeless for the Greeks to negotiate with the Turkish side. However, much more madly and incomprehensible is to condition Turkey’s membership on the Cyprus issue. To condition Turkey’s membership on a problem that the UN was unable to settle for 42 years, that is, the Cyprus problem, is to never let Turkey into the EU. It is to have no goodwill. It is to come up with reasons to procrastinate Turkey. To demand new concessions from Turkey, though Turkey has given all, still not stepping forward even an inch is to act unjustly against Turkey. It is even mocking with Turkey. But this isn’t surprising. There are countries which oppose Turkey’s membership due to cultural reasons, and France and Austria are the leading countries of this position. These countries can not prevent Turkey’s membership on the basis of economic and political criteria. Both the December 15 (2004) and October 3 (2005) summits have proved that Turkey’s economy and democracy easily met the minimum requirements of the EU. In this case, there is no reason left to impede Turkey’s membership. There are only few obstacles left against Turkey as it is evident that Turkish economy, the world’s 17th largest, performs far better than Romanian and Bulgarian economies. One of these obstacles is the Cyprus issue, and the other is the Armenian problem. The Cyprus issue hasn’t been resolved for half a century and the Armenian problem hasn’t been resolved for a century. It seems that a solution is impossible with these conditions because Turkey is told to “shut up and accept what is said”. Given that it is almost impossible for Turkey to accept this situation, to condition Turkey’s membership on the Cyprus and Armenian issues means that the EU doesn’t want Turkey’s full membership.
The EU should be more sincere within this context. The procrastination policy no more works. The EU violates its own rules one by one. It makes up new criteria to leave Turkey outside and this harms EU more than it harms Turkey. There is very little Turkey can lose at the end of this process because Turkey has reached this level without the EU, or even despite the EU. Hence, Turkey will not face much difficulty if she proceeds without the EU from now on. But how easily can the EU without Turkey proceed? We will cover this topic in our next comments.
Translated by: Abdi Noyan ÖZKAYA
20 June 2006
Director, International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), Ankara, Turkey. BA (Ankara U.), MA (University of Sheffield UK), PhD (King’s College, University of London). Assoc. Prof. Dr. Laciner is Davos Economi Forum Young Global Leader 2006.