| Cyprus Problem |Politis



One cannot disagree with the assessment made by the special representative of the UNSG [UN Secretary-General] in Cyprus, Colin Stewart, that currently in Cyprus, “There is a political impasse with regard to the Cyprus problem. The positions of the two sides are indeed far apart.” Speaking on Thursday at the Cyprus Forum on the topic of ‘Inclusivity: Unleashing the power of diversity,’ Mr Stewart did not hide his pessimism when he stressed that at present, the two sides “cannot even agree on what settlement talks would be about, let alone the conditions for coming back to the table.”

The sticking points

Up until the dinner in Crans-Montana, the two sides were discussing the Guterres Framework, which in the UN Secretary-General’s view, had brought Cyprus to the brink of a solution. The inability/unwillingness of the two sides to come to an agreement led the T/C side to the decision to try and change the basis of the solution. The Turkish side is no longer talking about a federal solution, but about the recognition of the sovereign equality of the T/Cs, which goes so far as the recognition of two states. Of course, nothing concrete is being said beyond that, leaving even the United Nations unaware of Turkey’s real intentions. Cyprus as a whole belongs to the European Union. If the Turkish Cypriots proceed with the declaration of an independent state, what form will their relations with the EU take? On the other hand, if they are seeking a two-state solution, why is Turkey not launching a campaign for the recognition of the pseudo-state by third countries? Some respond that Turkey is in no hurry to sort things out, as time is on their side. 

Today, after Turkey’s and Mr Tatar’s change in stance, and despite President Anastasiades’ backtracking, the G/C side is playing it safe and declaring faith in a federal solution. It’s even calling for negotiations to resume from the point where they left off in Crans-Montana. Of course, Mr Anastasiades’ credibility on the Cyprus issue at the United Nations and in the EU has now hit rock bottom. According to a foreign diplomatic source, President Anastasiades “did not appreciate and therefore did not explore, at least to the very end, the colossal effort undertaken by the United Nations with the support of the EU from 2015 for a solution to the Cyprus problem, during which Turkey was backed into a corner to such an extent that it had started discussing the abolition of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee”. Mr Anastasiades, as everyone in Cyprus now knows, chose through his re-election in 2018, to better serve his personal and family interests above the interests of the country.


Everybody understands that any discussion on the Cyprus problem is also made more difficult by the elections. Cyprus is already in an election period for the February 2023 Presidential elections; Greece will also have elections in the spring of 2023 and, of course, Turkey is in the midst of a long election campaign ahead of next May’s elections.

The [political] climate at present is literally being lit with a fuse, mainly by Tayyip Erdogan who is seeing his party’s numbers shrink for the first time since 2001 and his re-election prospects diminished. Others, of course, are also benefiting from Erdogan’s stance. The Turkish president’s decision to heighten political tension by resorting to nationalist rhetoric against Greece and Cyprus indicates that he is able to retain some support, which is wilting as a result of the economic crisis. It seems that [Devlet] Bahceli’s nationalists will remain by Erdogan’s side so long as they hear him threatening Greece that he will attack in the dark of night, that he will occupy islands and that he will implement the Lausanne Treaty at will. 

On the other hand, the heightened tension obviously favours Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Greece, who on a daily basis responds to Turkish politicians and military staff, presenting Greece as ready to give an all-out battle to defend its freedom. In this way diverting the Greek people’s attention from their economic problems, and above all, from the big surveillance scandal, which had the potential to sink the Prime Minister and New Democracy to hell.

The heightened tension and the Cyprus problem deadlock also favour President Anastasiades, who does not wish to participate in any negotiations process to the end of his term. The whole game is useful – with Mr President occasionally picking up the gauntlet, as he did at the UN General Assembly, for example – since at least for a while some people forget the financial scandals weighing down him and his administration.

In conclusion, the propaganda favours Tayyip Erdogan who seems to have dropped in the polls. The climate of fear and the demonstration of patriotic reflexes favours Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens, as he attempts to fashion himself into a national leader and top statesman, and it certainly favours President Anastasiades in Nicosia, who, citing Ankara’s extreme statements, attempts to deflect his responsibilities over the non-solution of the Cyprus problem. These irresponsible tactics exhibited by all may of course even lead to a tragic accident that will affect the entire region.

The question

We are, of course, faced with a question: While the tactic of keeping tensions high by all sides is clearly evident, is there a chance that the political game set up in the run-up to the elections could get out of hand, resulting in some form of heated incident? It is true that no one is ruling it out, although everyone agrees on one thing. That Cyprus is the weakest link in the Athens-Ankara-Nicosia triangle. As usual, Cyprus has been paying the price in recent years.

In any case, Erdogan is covered however things turn out, even with the policy currently being pursued by his ally, Russia. Putin’s move to first annex Crimea and then the Donbas the other day following a referendum is always a good yardstick for Ankara. If, of course, the scenario of annexing northern Cyprus to Turkey ultimately turns out to be inconvenient, there is always Cyprus’ EEZ and the Green Line, areas where a crisis can be generated and tensions heightened. 


Colin Stewart’s assessment that beyond the lack of prospect of talks, what is at stake is whether there can be a mutually acceptable formula for the reunification of the island, is also correct. It is true that after the resounding failure of the Crans-Montana negotiations in 2017, the prospect of reunification is fading and “will not be available much longer.”

What is keeping the two communities together today are some advantages that all enjoy on both sides of the buffer zone. G/Cs are visiting the North en masse, not to establish relations and cooperate with T/Cs, but to put cheaper fuel in their cars and buy supermarket good at better prices. The T/Cs are benefiting from employment opportunities in the South and better wages, which when spent in the North, clearly give them a sense of royalty. 

At the same time, of course, we also have the usual suspects. Namely, the pro-rapprochement G/Cs and T/Cs  and friends who struggle to change the mindset of the masses, but without any substantial results so far. These are difficult times for the pro-rapprochement people, and the case of [Andreas] Soudjis speaks for itself. There are also the technical committees, which work mainly to resolve problems, with the most prominent being that of Culture and the restoration of monuments, which truly builds bridges and communication, but above all mutual respect between our country’s two communities. 

What can be done?

It is almost certain that until the elections in Cyprus and Turkey are completed, and with political personnel to the standards of Erdogan, Tatar, and Anastasiades, there is not even a one in a million chance of serious negotiations resuming.

Turkey could return to the negotiating table after the elections if the geopolitical situation in the wider region favours this. The crisis in Ukraine, which is not expected to end soon, will gradually force Turkey to choose a side. The scenario of playing with everyone in the medium term is becoming increasingly difficult. If it wants to remain in the Western Camp, to take part in a new management of gas deposits and exercise its regional economic role in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, it will probably have to engage in a substantive normalisation of relations with countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Syria and Egypt.

If it chooses to stand with countries like Russia, Iran, and China, then it chooses the logic of power politics that give way to perpetual confrontations and clearly not to problem-solving.

Some believe a turn to the west would be the most preferable, for example, if Erdogan fell from power and the more western-oriented Kemalists were to take over. For Cyprus, of course, things will always remain difficult.

In Cyprus, there are chances for a substantive engagement in negotiations after the elections, if either Averof Neophytou or Andreas Mavroyiannis are elected to the presidency, and if a federal solution returns to the table. In the event Nikos Christodoulides is elected, things become more difficult, in the sense that this will be done with the support of DIKO, EDEK and many other nationalist groups and actors who oppose the solution framework of a Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation. Regardless of what he says in public, in order to secure the vote of the two nationalist parties, Mr Christodoulides has already pledged that if negotiations on the Cyprus problem arise, they will be conducted according to the logic of ‘zero guarantees, zero troops’. With such a position, it is not easy to pressure the T/C side to return to the logic of a federal solution.


Director of Politis Newspaper. Born in Limassol, he studied history at AUTH (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) and Queens College NY. He started as a journalist in 1986, working in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Since 1999, he is a Publishing Consultant at Politis newspaper, and from 2016 its Director. He lives in Nicosia.

You may also like

Comments are closed.