Interview with Toumazos Tsielepis “A federal solution or partition”
Interview with Toumazos Tsielepis, member of the Political Bureau of AKEL, Head of the Cyprus Problem Bureau of AKEL and International Law expert
Sunday, 31st May 2020, ‘Politis’ newspaper
You say, “We should be getting fully prepared for negotiations.” What do you mean?
TT: The time frame from now up to October must be used so that the Greek Cypriot side is ready for substantive talks. It should know what it wants and what it is seeking. If we behave in a serious manner, we will not under any circumstances be the ones to lose because if Turkey continues the policy it has been pursuing since Crans Montana and onwards, then the UN Secretary-General will not be able to record in his Report that Ankara is not responsible for the non-solution of the Cyprus problem. There is also a view expressed arguing “and so what?” However, who is to blame is directly related to what will follow.
How do you think we should use the period until October when the Turkish Cypriot “elections” will be held?
TT: We can make use of this short period of time over the next few months in two directions: First, we need to make moves that create a favourable climate for substantive negotiations. That is to say, the appeal repeatedly issued by the Secretary General of the UN that the two leaders should address citizens and explain the advantages and content of the solution must be heeded, and not the opposite. As for the second thing we have to do, I’ve already said it. We must get prepared for substantive negotiations. I am convinced that we only have to win and not lose by pursuing such flexible and prudent tactics in a negotiation procedure.
It shouldn’t however be considered an interference in the internal affairs of the Turkish Cypriots, because they are in the midst of a pre-election period. President Anastasiades said that involvement in the internal affairs of the Turkish Cypriot community is the best recipe for Mr. Akinci to lose the “elections”.
Yes, we certainly cannot and must not intervene, because we can indeed cause damage. There is however another side to the coin. Have our actions perhaps over the last three years favored the forces in the occupied territories who want partition? Let’s ask ourselves this question honestly because it’s one thing to say we’re not going to come out in support of Akinci because we would be damaging him, and it’s quite another thing – perhaps unintentionally – that certain other forces are favoured by our stance.
Words – deeds
From which point will the negotiations resume after the “election” of the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community? Will it be from where the negotiations had remained at Crans Montana?
TT: This is at least the position of the United Nations and this is the position that our side also expresses through its contradictions and regressions. What is demanded right now, however, is that this should be done in practice. You can’t on the one hand be declaring that you are ready to continue negotiations from where they had remained, and on the other hand, submit ideas outside the framework of the UN Secretary General; ideas which in fact have no realistic chance of being accepted by the other side. Words must go hand in hand with deeds.
However, since then, Turkey has taken many illegal actions in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – and continues to do so. Don’t these developments change Crans Montana’s discussions?
TT: Of course, the given situation change and, yes, Turkey will continue these actions, taking advantage of the prolonged absence of negotiations, combined with the fact that the UN Secretary General in the Report he submitted after the collapse at the Crans Montana talks noted that the occupying power had cooperated for a solution. For us to be able to address this situation, we must be ready to resume substantive negotiations. That is where Turkey will really be tested because, whatever it does and says now, the moment of truth will come only at the negotiating table and not through provocative statements and actions outside the negotiation procedure.
What did Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu want to say in his recent statement that if there is an agreement between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on natural gas, Ankara will reconsider the licensing agreement with the pseudo-state? He also went on to say that Turkey would continue drilling southwest of Cyprus.
TT: What I have at least understood from Çavuşoğlu’s statement is that it has two aspects. He initially said that the two communities in Cyprus should reach an agreement between them and then Turkey would stop its pirate activities within the part of the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, which it considers to be the EEZ of the illegal regime. It is a huge maritime area that is not limited just to the EEZ of the occupied territories, but passes south and reaches the outskirts of the district of Paphos. This is a very provocative stance.
As you know, Turkey has two types of assertions. Turkey asserts on its own behalf and it also asserts on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots. But all these assertions regarding the so-called EEZ of the illegal regime, and this is what Mr. Çavuşoğlu has actually said, will end if the two communities reach an agreement between them. Of course, as far as the second part is concerned, the Turkish Foreign Minister has said that they will continue their actions there. However, Turkey too will have a problem. If the two communities reach an agreement, Turkey’s turn will come.
The procedures provided by the UN Law of the Sea should be followed, not only the contractual one, which Turkey has not signed, but also the customary law. That is to say, an effort must be made to reach an agreement, and if we do not succeed in doing so within a reasonable period of time, as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, we must jointly turn to an international judicial body.
“A federal solution or partition”
Asked what would happen if a new initiative will not emerge on the Cyprus problem after the “elections” in the occupied areas) or if it does emerge but ends a new deadlock, Toumazos Tsielepis replied that today “we are at a critical point”, adding at the same time that “the United Nations and the international community in general have had enough for so many years dealing with the Cyprus problem without an outcome.” We have reached near the source many times, but we did not drink water, he added. “Everyone is saying that the status quo is not acceptable and must change. If, therefore, the international community concludes – and we are not too far from it – that the status quo cannot change in the direction of the agreed framework of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, then it is likely that it will change in another direction, which in our case at least we won’t like it at all.
That’s precisely why we all need to consider the following: There are political forces that have always supported a solution other than bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, perhaps considering that the solution of a unitary state is possible. Certain forces and circles even go so far as to say that we must go back to the Republic of Cyprus, not of 1960 but of 1964, that is to say, to be the absolute masters of the island and let the Turkish Cypriots be here as a minority. It however has now been proved what we, namely the forces supporting a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, have been saying for so many years. That is to say that the alternative to a federal solution is partition.
“Today, this is not just an opinion, it is confirmed in practice”, he pointed out. Now, he continued, that discussions have begun about finding another solution besides that of the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, even amongst higher echelons of power, no one is talking about a unitary state. “Everyone is talking about a form of partition. Whether this is called a confederation or two separate states or I don’t know what. This is precisely the point that we are all called upon to declare what we ultimately choose: a federal solution or partition?” concluded Mr. Tsielepis.
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