The Joint Declaration made on 11 February 2014 as a result of the agreement between the then President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Dr. Derviş Eroğlu, and the Greek Cypriot Leader, Nicos Anastasiades, envisaged a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality and a ‘single’ sovereignty which emanates equally from Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. According to the aforementioned joint communiqué, the federation to be established would be composed of two founding states of equal status and neither side could claim authority or jurisdiction over the other. In this context, intensive negotiations on all chapters, except for ‘territorial adjustment’ and ‘security and guarantees’, which were to be discussed during the final phase of the intensive negotiations, began between President Eroğlu and Greek Cypriot Leader Anastasiades, and later continued between TRNC President Akıncı and Greek Cypriot Leader Anastasiades as of May 2015.
As a result of the constructive approach of the Turkish Cypriot side, a five-party conference was held outside the Island where the criteria for Territorial Adjustment would be identified and the chapter on security and guarantees would be discussed within the context of brainstorming exercises. In this regard, the first meeting took place in Mont-Pèlerin, Switzerland, between 7 – 11 November 2016 with the participation of the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. However, an agreement could not be reached and upon the request of the Greek Cypriot Leader, a nine-day break had to be given.
During the second round of Mont-Pèlerin talks between 20 – 21 November 2016, despite the bold openings of the Turkish Cypriot side, an agreement again could not be reached due to the maximalist demands of the Greek Cypriot side. The intransigent approach of the Greek Cypriot side did not allow for an agreement on the principle of rotating presidency and various elements of decision making mechanisms which are of vital importance for the Turkish Cypriot side. Furthermore, the Greek Cypriot side did not show any flexibility with regards to the criteria of territory and aimed at discussing the issue of territory independently from the other chapters. With this attempt, the Greek Cypriot side violated the already agreed principle that ‘all unresolved core issues will be on the table, and will be discussed interdependently’ as per the Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014. In a similar vein, the Greek Cypriot administration insisted on introducing preconditions for moving on to the five-party Conference.
Pursuant to the fact that the Mont-Pèlerin talks that did not deliver the desired results, it was agreed during the two Leaders’ meeting with the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide that a five-party Cyprus Conference would be held in Crans-Montana, Switzerland for the first time in the half-a-century-old negotiation process. This success can be attributed solely to the persistence of the Turkish Cypriot side. With this goal on the agenda, the sides attempted to make progress on unresolved issues regarding the five chapters during the meetings held between 9 – 11 January 2017. The said Conference was held with the participation of Turkish Cypriot side, Greek Cypriot side, three guarantor countries, namely Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, with the European Union as an observer. The sides reflected on their respective positions regarding security and guarantees but upon the request of Greece, the participant countries decided to give a break and conduct technical-level talks between 18-20 January 2017 in Mont-Pèlerin.
During the press conference following the five-party working group meeting held on 19 January 2017, UNSG Special Representative on Cyprus, Mr. Espen Barth Eide, stated that the talks continued in a positive spirit and that the leaders would meet again in order to set a road-map.
Despite the sincere efforts of the Turkish Cypriot side to reach a settlement, the decision taken at the Greek Cypriot Parliament on 10 February 2017 to commemorate the 1950 plebiscite of Enosis, where 96% if Greek Cypriots had voted in favour of union with Greece, dealt a severe and irreparable blow to the negotiations.
The negotiations, which reached a deadlock for a period of two months, resumed when a legislation was introduced to the Greek Cypriot Parliament which foresaw amending the said decision.
UNSG Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide resumed shuttle diplomacy on the Island in May, after which the two sides expressed their will to resume negotiations in June. On 4 June, President Akıncı and Greek Cypriot Leader Anastasiades met with UNSG Guterres in New York and hence decided to resume negotiations from where they were left off at the Cyprus Conference on 28 June 2017.
The 2nd Conference on Cyprus, which convened on 28 June 2017 in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, concluded after two weeks with no result. On the third day of the Conference, UNSG Guterres came to Crans-Montana and proposed a “package approach” on five headings (territory, political equality, property, equivalent treatment, security and guarantees). In this framework, the two sides presented their proposals on the five headings, while the guarantors prepared and presented their proposals solely on the chapter of security and guarantees. It was determined that the initial proposal of the Greek Cypriot side was not within the UNSG’s framework. It was observed that the Greek Cypriot side stepped back from some of the convergences which were previously achieved. The proposals made by the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey, on the other hand, were in line with the UNSG’s framework. Despite all of this, as well as the fact that the UNSG returned to Crans-Montana on 6 July with a view to finalizing the process, the Greek Cypriot side did not show any signs of agreement on the five headings and insisted on its approach of “zero troops, zero guarantees as of the first day the settlement is implemented” and the UNSG Guterres declared that the Conference had failed. UNSG Guterres emphasized that there was no single reason for the failure of the Conference and that it failed due to the inability to agree on all of the chapters.
This result once again clearly depicted the intransigent stance that the Greek Cypriot side has displayed since the beginning of the negotiation process in 1968, and that it adamantly continues to refrain from taking any steps to reach a settlement which involved power-sharing and political equality with the Turkish Cypriot side. Presently, given the inconclusive end without a settlement to the Cyprus Conference on 7 July, it can be said that the efforts towards reaching a federal settlement within the framework of the UNSG’s Mission of Good Offices and the current parameters have been exhausted.
It is unacceptable for the Turkish Cypriot side to resume negotiations from where they were left off. What ended inconclusively was not the Cyprus Conference alone, but rather the entire negotiation process under the current parameters.
It is amply clear that we cannot waste any more time on this or any similar process which aims to reach a bi-communal bi-zonal federal settlement based on political equality, which in fact has been tried and failed for the past 50 years. The sides have already commenced a phase of deep reflection regarding the way forward regarding the Cyprus issue in the period ahead.