Failure of Unity Talks
23 November 2016
A statement from the UN just after 1.30am said the leaders had been engaged in serious and sustained negotiations over the last two days in Mont Pelerin.
“Despite their best efforts, they have not been able to achieve the necessary further convergences on criteria for territorial adjustment that would have paved the way for the last phase of the talks,” the statement said.
“The two sides have decided to return to Cyprus and reflect on the way forward.”
The statement added that the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, Espen Barth Eide, would “bring these developments to the attention of the Secretary-General”.
Greek Cypriot spokesman Nicos Christodoulides tweeted at around 1.20 am: “Unfortunately the issue of criteria for territory was not resolved.”
There would appear to be a number of issues that remained as stumbling blocks -
1 The number of Greek Cypriot 'refugees' who would return to the North. It has been stated that the Greek Cypriot camp want some 80,000 to 95,000 refugees to have an opportunity to return while the Turkish Cypriot camp wanted a limit of 65.000.
2 The percentage of territory for each constituent state. Several figures have been quoted such as between 24 to 31% for Turkish Cyprus. One source stated that Akinci suggested 29.2% and the Greek Cypriots proposed 28%. A map needed to be drawn indicating which villages should be in each community sector. This did not happen and the question of Guzelyurt or Morphou was not resolved
3 Allocation of the coastline and hence marine rights to the two constituent states.
The population of North Cyprus, based on census data, is some 294,000 persons, and this includes the 150,000 mainland Turks who have settled in the North, primarily in the Karpaz peninsula. As the Greek side wish for some or all of these 'settlers' to be repatriated to Turkey, such a move would leave a mere 44,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the North. An influx of some 50,000 or more Greek Cypriots to the North would obviously overwhelm the Turkish Cypriot population and be politically disastrous.
The Greek Cypriot side assume the premise that there are many so-called refugees who are yearning to live in the North. This is highly dubious. Most of the Greek Cypriots who fled from the North in 1974 will be either old or dead. In either case, they would prefer to stay in the South. The descendants of the 'refugees' may still wish to pursue claims to 'lost' property in the North, but they are likely to want financial compensation rather than an opportunity to start a new life in a 'foreign' land where they will not speak the national language.
There were of course lots of other issues that remain outstanding.
A It is genreally accepted that the 35,000 Turkish troops will be withdrawn from the island. However, the timing of this will be contentious.
B The idea of a rotating Presidency has been agreed in principle. However, his/her powers will need to be agreed.
C Regardless of how many 'refugees' return to the North, the issue of property restitution and/or compensation will remain an intractable problem. There is talk of an international agency funding any such dispensation.
While both sides are trying to minimise the negative outcome, the undecided issues remain substantial and far outweigh what, if anything of substance, has been agreed. The basic questions remain -
What will the Greek Cypriots demand as the price for reunification ?
What concessions can the Turkish Cypriots offer the Greek Cypriots ?
The last significant attempt for a resolution was the Annan Plan of 2004. The referendum on the plan was accepted by the Turkish Cypriot community but rejected by the Greek Cypriots. In that referendum, the Greek Cypriots would have received both Guzelyurt/ Morphou and the ghost town of Maras/Varosha in Famagusta. There was also a comprehensive framework for the solution of the property issue.
It would appear that the generous concessions made by the Turkish Cypriot side in 2004 may not have been repeated in 2016, although it is likely that the Turkish Cypriot side would have repeated the offer in the final stages of negotiations.
The new factor in 2016 is the enboldened and hostile attitude of Turkey towards both possible EU membership and the granting of further concessions to the Greek Cypriot side. Turkey has suggested that, if these talks fail, then the only alternative may be an annexation of North Cyprus.
Copyright - Leslie Hardy, 23 November 2016