by Markella Toumaniou. Originally published on 2014/05/03

On February 11th, 2014, a joint declaration was drawn by Nikos Anastasiades (President of the Republic of Cyprus) and Dervis Eroglou (leader of the Turkish community), the two leaders of Cyprus. It inaugurated a new round of negotiations to resolve the Cyprus issue. This declaration is a preliminary agreement which regulates the framework of the negotiations on several central issues. It establishes, for example, that a single sovereignty will be placed in the hands of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal structure of which the Turkish and Greek parts of Cyprus will be the constituent states.

The origins of the Cyprus issue can be traced back to 1960 when the island, a former British colony, declared independence. The creation of the new state was based on three major Treaties, of which one established the guarantor ship of Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom. The 1960 Constitution established a model of shared powers governance between the two communities living in Cyprus: the Greek-Cypriots (GCs) and the Turkish-Cypriots (TCs). In 1974 a coup d’état was executed by the “EOKA,” a Greek-Cypriote nationalist organisation, in conjunction with the support of the military junta in Greece. Its goal was to strive for “Enosis”, or the union of Cyprus with Greece. As a consequence, the Turkish army invoked its guarantor rights and invaded Cyprus to protect the TCs on the island. The invasion has led to the displacement of a huge number of people, human casualties and the illegal possession of 37% of the island’s territory by Turkey. In 1983 the TC community declared the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, which is still not recognized by the international community.

As a result of these developments, free movement between the two communities was restricted. However, in 2003 these restrictions were partially removed. In 2004, negotiations between the two communities, under the supervision of the United Nations (UN), led to the “Annan Plan” which suggested a possible scenario for resolving the Cyprus issue. After referendums were held on both “sides”, the plan failed. TCs accepted the plan with 65% positive votes, while the GCs rejected it with 75% negative votes. After the accession in 2004 of the Republic of Cyprus in the European Union (EU), no significant progress took place in term of negotiations. In fact, the Turkish side withdrew from the process in 2013 when Cyprus assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

After all these years we have once again come to the realization that the Cyprus issue needs to be resolved. Nonetheless, there currently is no simple solution. Indeed the issue has been transformed into a complex and difficult to deal with situation, mainly for three major reasons. Firstly, it can be analysed from a geopolitical, financial, diplomatic and military viewpoint. It can be also seen as part, in a broader framework, of the developments taking place in the Mediterranean and Middle East area. Secondly, the Cyprus issue, despite the serious responsibilities that Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom have for the tragedy, was and still is characterized as an issue of military invasion and illegal possession of territory by Turkey. The aforesaid characterizations can be found in several resolutions and decisions of the UN Security Council . Finally, the most important point that has to be stressed is that the bad financial situation of Cyprus today should not be used as a means of intimidation for the imposition of a solution to the Cyprus issue.

After reviewing the Joint Declaration by Anastasiades and Eroglou, some general conclusions can be drawn. The joined declaration reproduces in a word-by-word format some of the principles of the “Annan Plan” that was rejected by the GC population in the 2004 referendum. This can be exemplified by the statements in relation to the creation of “constituent states”. What I personally understand from this novel term is that the Republic of Cyprus will be downgraded to become a constituent state. At the same time, the illegal TC regime will be upgraded to the same constituent state level.

In answering the basic question of the single sovereign status, the answer may be tricky. I am primarily concerned with the definition provided within the Charter of the UN, which is solely about the functioning of the state as a subject of international relations and international law. The agreed document is focused exclusively at the jurisdictions of the constituent states and in a way “ignores” the jurisdictions of the federal state. Therefore, we are witnessing the institutionalization of a separatist structural political context. The particular context does not include or integrate powerful elements of a unified federal state, nor does it establish the meaning and the spirit of the sovereign Cyprus state. The new unified state seems to be downgraded within the document to the benefit of the constituent states. This seems to be in line with the priorities of the Turkish diplomacy for all these years. Therefore, the joined declaration of the leaders can be seen as a diplomatic victory for the Turkish side.

Of course there is always a sense of self-righteousness for President Anastasiades since he was in favour of the “Annan Plan” in 2004. Today, it is obvious that the joint declaration of the leaders allows negotiations to start over the “Annan Plan” which was never rejected by the current President. The principal part of its provisions was seen by the people and political parties back then as a disaster for Cyprus and an illusionary solution to the Cyprus issue. However, Mr. Anastasiades was presenting the Plan as the ideal solution and our last chance to reach a state of “peace”. The joint declaration can be seen as the sequence of the “Annan Plan” and according to my point of view, he continues to brutally disregard the democratic decision of the great majority of GC population.

In short, on the one hand the joint declaration is a document that includes some positive points that can be used and further developed to the benefit of Cyprus and the Cypriot population. On the other hand, it includes a series of “constructive” ambiguities. It allows Turkey, for example, to intervene within issues of natural resources. However, what are needed are crystal-clear viewpoints and not misunderstandings since it is the time of realism, power correlations and joint interests. The negotiations that have started are very important. If a solution is to be found it will require a number of compromises from both sides.

A new failure will probably result in serious consequences for both communities living in Cyprus. The primary target is the unification of Cyprus within an equitable and sustainable framework without borderlines and military troops. The solution needed is the one in which the political equality of all legal citizens of Cyprus would be guaranteed. The evaluation of the negotiations will be done by the legal residents of Cyprus, the Turkish and Greek in origin. We are those in charge to take responsibility for the future of our country. But most importantly, we are those who need peace.

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