Turkish Cypriot president Mustafa Akinci has suggested that in the event of a unified government on the island of Cyprus being formed with the Greek Cypriots, a new state by the name of the “United Cyprus Federation” could be born.
Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot negotiators have been meeting since peace talks between the eastern Mediterranean island’s two main communities were revived on May 15 following Akinci’s election as president of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in April.
Talks had previously broken off by the Greek Cypriots over a dispute over drilling for hydrocarbon reserves in the island’s waters by the Greek Cypriot administration in the island’s south.
Both the TRNC government and Turkey had insisted on drilling being suspended until talks had paved the way to guarantee shared rights to the reserves for the Turkish Cypriots. However, failure on behalf of Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades’ administration to heed warnings over unilateral action regarding the reserves led Turkey to send its own seismic vessel to search for natural gas in the region.
The withdrawal of a drillship operated by the Italian-South Korean energy consortium Eni-Kogas from the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in early April after it failed to discover sufficient natural gas reserves to economically justify exploitation was shortly followed by the withdrawal of the Turkish seismic vessel, thus presenting a window of opportunity for talks to resume.
Since the revival of talks - which aim to reunite the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities within the framework of a UN-backed bi-zonal, bi-communal federation - both Akinci and his counterpart Anastasiades have been meeting frequently to discuss a number of issues in need of being resolved before reunification can take place.
Speaking to foreign journalists on Wednesday, Akinci said the name of the country should reunification be realised will be the “United Cyprus Federation” - a change from a previously proposed name of the “United Federal Republic of Cyprus” coined by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan under his “Annan Plan,” which failed the reunite the the island when it was rejected by the Greek Cypriots in a 2004 referendum.
While expressing his optimism that the 41-year-old “Cyprus Problem” could be solved within months if talks continue at their current pace, Akinci also warned that, should reunification plans fail again, future generations of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots will no longer pursue peace, and will instead seek the permanent division of the island.
“In the agreement to be reached with the Greek Cypriots, every community will dominate in its region and will be self-administered. We want to see that these principles will be permanent,” Akinci said.
“In other words, a balance should be formed between the bi-zonal, bi-community and the EU principles," he added.
Guarantor debate not on agenda
In the news briefing, Akinci further stated that the issue of “guarantor” states is yet to be discussed in the negotiations and is not among the list of topics planned to be discussed in future discussions.
The issue of Turkish troops on the island has been a topic of contention between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots for decades, as the two sides struggle to agree on terms to end over four decades of division on the island.
Cyprus was divided in July 1974, when guarantor state Turkey conducted a military intervention on the island to secure the island’s north as a safe haven for the Turkish Cypriot community in response to a coup carried out by the Greek junta. Turkey has since then maintained a military presence in the island’s breakaway north, which declared independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983.
According to the Treaty of Guarantee - which was signed shortly after Cyprus became independent from the British Empire in 1960 - Turkey, Greece and the UK are responsible for ensuring peace in Cyprus.
Greek Cypriot administration leader Nicos Anastasiades previously demanded in an interview with CNN Turk’s Elif Ozgen that Turkey withdraws its troops from the island’s north as a pre-condition for reaching a political solution with the Turkish Cypriots, while suggesting that a reunited Cyprus should not have guarantors.
In a speech in June, Anastasiades also criticised the role of the “motherlands” of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot people, referring to Turkey and Greece respectively, blaming them for the division of the island.
While claiming that everyone shared a part of the blame, the Greek Cypriot leader said “unfortunately, to a limited extent initially, the motherlands played the worst role; one of them at least, while the other one continued.”
According to Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, he and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Anastasiades may meet with representatives from the three guarantor states in a multilateral meeting in New York this coming September.