Journal of Turkish Weekly conducted and interview with Prof. Dr. Kamer Kasim, Head of the USAK Centre for EU Studies, on the recent verdict of Kosovo and possible implications on Cyprus dispute.
Q: Is a comparison between the Republic of Kosovo and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus tenable? If it is tenable, what are the elements that allow you to make such a comparison? If it is not, what prevents you from doing so?
A: A comparison between the Republic of Kosovo and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is tenable because of the various similarities between the two cases. A first central element is that of history. In that respect, one notices the fact that in both cases one is dealing with a confrontational history between the communities living respectively in Kosovo and on Cyprus. With the end of the Cold War, Yugoslavia became a zone of intensive troubles. Prior to that, in 1989, Milosevic abolished the independent status of Kosovo. With the coming of Ibrahim Rugova, resistance against Serbia took place. With the end of hostilities and the Rambouillet Accord in 1999, Serbia though did not accept the proposed draft.
When turning to Cyprus, one mentions first the long presence of British administration on the island, taken over in 1878. The years 1963 to 1974 are made of conflicting events between the two communities living on the island. With the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1973, it is from 1974 on that the two communities will definitely live separate from one another, though living next to one another on the island. As in the case of Kosovo, differences between the communities on Cyprus are found in the ethnic, linguistic but also cultural areas, showing definite discrepancies between the groups.
Central is though the ability each part must possess in order to run itself. In that respect, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus shows much more ability than its counterpart, namely Kosovo, and proved in the last 27 years that it was able to manage with its fate.
What is also of certain importance is the length that has separated the two communities on Cyprus and, in that respect, the interviewee mentioned that each part should join separately the international community (the example of Czechoslovakia was provided with the creation of two countries and their respective and separate inclusion into the community of state).
In sum, the presence of conflicting history in addition to the ethnic, linguistic and cultural differences between the communities living in Kosovo and Cyprus speak for similarities between the two cases, which in turn allow a comparison to be made. Differences are also there in that with the de facto separation of Cyprus since 1973 and the 1983 declaration of independence, the two entities have been existed and have managed to run their respective part. In comparison, the two communities in Kosovo have not reached, so far, that level of self-running.
Q: Why do you think the International Community took such a swift decision in the case of Kosovo but did not provide improvements/solutions in the case of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus?
A: In the case of Kosovo, the image rendered by the events that took place in Serbia is of crucial meaning. The International Community, in the face of the atrocities perpetrated notably under the reign of Milosevic, had to react. With massacres such as Srebrenica, the International Community had to promptly respond in order to prevent such events from happening again. It is NATO that undertook the operation that would bring an end to the violent interactions in Serbia; the initiative was thus external to Serbia but also Kosovo. In the following period, Kosovo was granted a special status and later the International Community realized that there were several communities living inside Kosovo and that a proper solution had to be worked out. Special UN Envoy Ahtisaari was charged to draft a plan that would bring the country to reach independence. In February 2008, the U.S., as one of the strongest international player, recognized the independence declared by Kosovo and this recognition gave impulses to manifold countries and smaller players to do the same, thus following the lead given by a strong country.
In the case of Cyprus, Turkey has often stated that it wants to reach a federal or a confederal state. In that respect, Turkey has always fostered the dialogue between the two groups and tried to bring Greek and Turkish Cypriots to talk together. The Annan plan was proposed in order to calm down the dispute on the island but it failed, due to a refusal expressed by Greek Cypriots. This refusal was a strong disappointment for Turkish Cypriots that had been favourably fostering the implementation of the plan. Accordingly, embargo against Northern Cyprus was not removed and the isolation of that part of the island was still omnipresent. Turkey, for its part, could now start pushing more in order to get out of the stalemate the Cyprus issue is now stuck in. Turkey repeated its stance that it would encourage the formation of a federal or a confederal form of government on the island. Even though the Annan plan brought tremendous disappointment, Turkey continues for its part to give talks a chance in order to settle a suitable solution to the Cyprus issue.
Q: Can the Kosovo case represent a precedent for the Republic of Northern Cyprus? In other words, how can the Kosovo case be used by the Republic of Northern Cyprus for its own recognition?
A: TRNC can use the case of Kosovo case towards the EU countries. Now the TRNC administration can easily say to EU members to recognize it as they did with Kosovo. In the future Kosovo may become a member and maybe TRNC should become as such. This is an argument.
The only thing that may hinder EU from recognition is the membership of Greece which will never recognize it. Now 5 EU members do not recognize Kosovo but the other 22 do recognize it and this is enough, not all their recognition is necessary.
Another argument may be related with the Annan Plan, it failed because of Greece and I believe that Turkey did not use this fact. In negotiations with TRNC there are many problems like for property, administration however, the main problem is that the Greek part does not want to give equal rights to both of communities which live in the island.
EU made a big mistake in relation to Cyprus. The Greek par new that they would get more than the Annan plan; they knew they would become members of EU so they did not sign the Annan Plan. If EU forced them to accept the Annan Plan in exchange for membership they could have signed it.
Similarities between those two states comprise a dilemma in this context. EU did not take in consideration Serbian Territorial Integrity and they recognize Kosovo as independence, and the same EU considers Cyprus territorial integrity and does not recognize TRNC why? We may say Kosovo is a unique case, but every case is unique and there is not an easy line to define what is unique and what is not. Of course I do support territorial integrity but in base of those similarities they should recognize both of them.
Interview is conducted by Quentin Blommaert and Arjola Balilaj (JTW)