Interview with Toumazos Tsielepis on Cyprus Problem recent developments
Interview with Toumazos Tsielepis, Member of the Political Bureau of the C.C. of AKEL, Head of the Cyprus Problem Bureau of AKEL and International Law expert
Sunday 28th July 2019 “Politis” daily newspaper
- The President must give a clear reply to Cavusoglou
- It is clear that the alternative to federation is partition, whether in an agreed way or by permitting things to evolve in that direction
- We must finally realize that today the past discussions about the need to abandon Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation with the goal of seeking a unitary state have proved to be a false hope
- Federation is openly being questioned by the Turkish Cypriot Right, while similar voices are also being heard on the Greek Cypriot side
TT: There is always the possibility of a negative outcome. The question is when you get to a meaningful negotiation that you have some guarantees that the chances of arriving at a positive result are more than the chances of a negative outcome. To reach that point, we first have to go through three other steps.
The first is the face-to-face Anastasiades-Akinci meeting. Whether the next step will be taken or not will depend on the outcome of this meeting. If the meeting of the two or/and their face to face meeting with UN Secretary General Mr. Guterres ends in failure, the next step won’t be taken. The Secretary General will not take the risk of convening an informal Crans Montana-type conference if both leaders don’t agree on a common ground. Mr. Guterres is insisting on what he had requested after the break down at Crans Montana and the bitter experience he had gained there. He wants the sides first to agree on a common ground on what they are seeking and with what procedure things are going to proceed. This will be the subject of the Anastasiades- Akinci meeting.
On what does the success or failure of the meeting depend on? What are the burning issues?
TT: Things will be very simple if the two leaders accept in practice what Antonio Guterres has requested. After a long period of reflection stretching two years, the two leaders must come to an understanding between them so that we can proceed to a Crans Montana-type procedure, continuing from where it had remained by following the philosophy that there are six key points as defined in the Guterres Framework and that there should be agreement on all of them. If the leaders do accept them, I have no doubt that they will convince the UN Secretary General and that the meeting will be successful, subsequently paving the way for the next phase.
If, however, a discussion is resumed on the terms of reference with the so-called “new ideas”, which had been going on for a long time and didn’t conclude anywhere, then things will be difficult. If this is attempted, then everything will probably end there.
Some forces and circles are expressing the view that the conference is doomed to fail and that such a development will legitimize the Turkish side to raise the issue of changing the form of solution. Do you agree?
TT: The first thing those who put forward this argument must answer is what they themselves actually propose. Do they want to continue with the situation as it is, without talks because there of the fear that they will fail?
For two years now we haven’t had any negotiation procedure and we have reached the point where Turkey is drilling in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). New fait accompli in Famagusta are being attempted and the situation is getting worse day by day. We cannot avoid talks because of a fear of failure. The Turkish side will be assisted in raising the issue of a change in the form of the solution by precisely such phobic approaches.
But is there a possibility of a change in the form of the solution after a failure?
TT: There are two ways to change the form of solution. The first is by the two leaders seeking and agreeing to it. The second is to let the current situation continue, not to have talks and for new fait accompli to be consolidated until we reach the point of no return. The need for talks aiming at liberation and reunification is pressing.
We must at long last realize that today the discussions of the past about abandoning the solution of Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation with the goal of seeking a unitary state have proved to be a false hope. Federation is now being questioned openly by the Turkish Cypriot Right-wing, while similar voices are also being heard on the Greek Cypriot side.
Today it is clearly being demonstrated that the alternative to the solution of federation is partition, regardless of what it is called, whether it’s two states or confederation. Namely, partition whether in an agreed way or by permitting things to evolve in that direction.
We categorically disagree with both of these approaches.
The Turkish Foreign Minister, however, is claiming that they are finished with federation. Is this a negotiating trick?
TT: What Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglou is claiming is that a two-state solution or confederation has been proposed by the Greek Cypriot side. He even calls on the Greek Cypriot side to choose what solution it wants – federation, two states or confederation.
President Anastasiades has a very good opportunity to go to the meeting with Akinci and clarify that we want a Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation with political equality as set out by the UN Security Council resolutions, including the most recent one approved. Akinci will not reject it, while by doing so we also give a reply to Cavusoglou, who will no longer feel comfortable saying that the Greek Cypriot side wants to discuss a two-state solution. He will therefore have a problem if he does so.
There are voices on the Turkish Cypriot side saying that two options must be put in a referendum. Namely, the choice of either Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation or something else. Do you agree with this position?
TT: Certainly not. The only question which must be put in a possible referendum is whether we accept the specific form of Bizonal, Bicommunal Federation that will be put for approval or not. If we put other questions then we’ll arrive to situations that in reality will refer to an indirect recognition of the illegal entity. In such a case, we won’t be talking about a referendum that will concern internal issues of the Cypriot people. It will be a referendum that can even lead to two separate states. It is extremely dangerous, because regardless of the outcome of such a referendum, the Turkish Cypriot side will take note that we have recognized them as a separate subject of self-determination. It is one thing to talk about a referendum, a terminology that refers to internal issues, and it’s another thing to put forth different choices without excluding two states, then we go to a plebiscite that directly refers to a separate right of self-determination.
“Under no circumstances will the Turkish Cypriots be getting a bigger percentage than their population”
At what point of the procedure is the issue of Natural Gas put on the table?
TT: Natural gas, as such, has never been on the table. The Greek Cypriot side is right and it is a correct position. The relative convergences haven’t been achieved because we discussed natural gas at the negotiating table. For a federal solution to exist, there must be a discussion on federal competences. For that reason, we went into a procedure of discussing about the competency on issues relating to the EEZ, natural resources, the sharing of revenues, how and in what proportions will the sharing be done. We also discussed the issue of international treaties, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
If you see all of these issues as one whole, you have the solution of the Natural Gas issue simultaneously with the solution for the Cyprus problem.
The President, however, proposed strengthening the convergence on the revenues from the natural gas for the Turkish Cypriot side. Will we see the issue being opened in the negotiation?
TT: The basic framework regarding the issue of Natural Gas is resolved if the existing convergences are respected. There was a disagreement when we were discussing back then. On the issue of sharing the revenues from natural gas, the Turkish Cypriot side wanted this to be done based on the population ratio. We were saying that it should be done based on what each one contributes to the National Income.
We agreed a compromise which provided that for a transitional period of 10 or 13 years, or until the Turkish Cypriot component state’s GDP would reach 85% of our GDP, the sharing would be done according to a formula combining population ratio and the contribution to national income. After the transition period, we agreed that there would be a sharing/allocation according to each side’s contribution.
What was pending was to agree on what percentage would be done according to population ratio and what percentage according to the contribution made. A discussion can take place on such a level. It emerges very clearly, however, that the Turkish Cypriot side will not under any circumstances be taking a percentage more than their population.
What are our strengths in view of a resumption of negotiations?
TT: We must make use of the acquis of the talks, the convergences that were recorded from 2008 up to Crans Montana, the Guterres framework, but also the informal document on the mechanism for the implementation of the solution, which I consider to be extremely important, because it alleviates the concerns that the mechanism would be a substitute for the Treaty of Guarantee.
We must also continue from the point where we had remained (at Crans Montana) and not seek negotiations from scratch. You shouldn’t forget that with regards the chapter of Security-Guarantees we had reached the point where the UN, the EU and Britain were insisting that the Treaty of Guarantee must be abolished from day one, as well as the intervention rights.
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