Cyprus: A Case Study On The Problems Of Trust

According to the UNDP, solid majorities of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots do not believe that the other side is willing to make the compromises that would be necessary for both to live in the same country in peace.  As a result, some 84% of Greek Cypriots and 70% of Turkish Cypriots do not think that a viable and fair settlement of their claims is possible.  Given this widespread pessimism after nearly 50 years of frozen conflict between the two sides, it makes sense that there should be preparations made for votes on partitions.  After all, the last time that a potentially viable compromise effort was made, it was support with 2-1 margins by Turkish Cypriots but opposed on 3-1 margins by Greek Cypriots and it seems unlikely that any further deals would be more favorable to Greek interests, seeing as the increase of length of time Turkish settlers and their children and grandchildren have spent in North Cyprus, the less likely that Greeks are going to get the property back that was taken away when Cyprus fell into its state of current division.  The best that can be hoped for at present is compensation for what was lost and a very limited restoration of some areas that have fallen under Turkish rule.

How did Cyprus get to be in such a mess to begin with?  For centuries Cyprus has had a divided population between Christians and Muslims and has had some sort of condominium where either an outside party or some sort of power sharing agreement allows the interests of both communities to be respected.  After 1878 Great Britain served as a power who was seen as a third party and at least generally respected by both sides.  After Great Britain left, though, and Cyprus gained its independence, it did not take too long for there to be deep trouble.  The trouble was entirely predictable but also something that the leadership of Cyprus was unable or unwilling to avoid.  Given that somewhere around 3/4 to 4/5 of the population of Cyprus is Greek-speaking, and that enosis was popular among Greek Cypriots and their leaders, the unwillingness of Turkish Cypriots to be ruled by distant Athens was something that should have restrained the behavior of political leaders who insisted on a unitary state in contrast to the understandable desire of a minority community to have some degree of autonomy on a divided island.  These wishes were not respected, exterior powers (namely Greece and Turkey) intervened, and there has been little progress since the 1970’s in forming a lasting peace.

At least as an outsider, it does not appear that the desires of either North or South Cypriots are so far apart.  Both of them desire to live in the island that they share and profit from it.  Both appear to want to be a part of international organizations and struggle with the isolation that comes from their compromised position.  North Cyprus is an unrecognized state that will not be recognized until and unless partition is agreed to by both sides.  For such recognition to happen there will likely have to be a settlement of the claims that Greek Cypriots have regarding land that was lost to them in the face of the Turkish invasion of the island to stop it from being entirely controlled by Greeks.  The fact that the Turkish population on the island has increased because of settlement in Northern Cyprus by Turks complicates matters, as it makes for a more even population balance than existed before 1974.  While the international community still hopes for a Daytonesque peace that would allow for a bi-national federation on the model of contemporary Bosnia-Herzegovina, such hopes appear to be dwindling within Cyprus itself and eventually the international community may be willing to accept partition simply to have the problem solved.

After all, Cyprus still suffers from its division.  Not only is there an international force that still keeps up the Green Line separating the two communities from each other, but North Cyprus is still an immensely isolated area that is close to Turkey but has few other connections with the outside world.  Cyprus was allowed into the European Union where its presence continues to roil relations between Greece and Turkey, but Cyprus has not even been allowed to begin the process of joining NATO because any stage of NATO enlargement requires unanimity on the part of existing NATO nations, and Turkey is not giving permission for Cyprus to be involved even in the Partnership For Peace until the status of Northern Cyprus is resolved.  It has been a long wait, and barring some sort of changed behavior on the part of the international community on being willing to accept partition or some massive increase in trust on a part of either of the Cypriot communities it appears as if that wait will continue to exist, especially since the suffering that results from a lack of resolution with regards to international problems does not appear to hurt the international community at all.  Frozen conflicts can remain for a long time because the pain of changing one’s opinion in geopolitics is greater for outsiders than the pain of not accepting reality on the ground, while the opinion and suffering of those who are dealing with the disconnect between de facto reality and international norms is not generally relevant to those who make the decisions.  And that is a great shame.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, International Relations, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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