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Cyprus: The Way Ahead: Famagusta: 7 May

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Cyprus: The Way Ahead: Famagusta: 7 May
It is almost exactly three years since the peoples of Cyprus took their two contradictory but clear-cut decisions on the version of the Annan Plan which was put before them in a referendum. They have been dispiriting years for all those, like the present speaker, who believed, and still believe, that a compreshensive solution to the Cyprus Problem is both achievable and in the best interests of all who live on this island. If anything that period has been one of regression, and certainly not of progress; regression to the blame game of previous years, regression to the entrenched, zero sum mentality which counts any step made to the benefit of one side as necessarily to the detriment of the other, regression to the tectical manoeuvring around well known but largely meaningless mantras, which are often a substitute for rather than a step towards a solution. And, in the second half of last year, we saw the collapse of yet another of those well-meant but unavailing attempts to agree some interim measures of benefit to both sides, a warning if one was needed after earlier experiences of the same kind, that such interim measures are only too likely to lead to frustration and to a diversion of effort away from the objective of negotiating an overall solution.
Nor has this period brought benefits to either side, neither to those who voted “yes” in 2004, nor to those who voted “no”. No adjustment of territory to the benefit of the Greek Cypriots has taken place; neither Greek nor Turkish cypriots have regained their property; the security of each has continued only to be gained at the price of the insecurity of the other. The improvements in trade and aid to the North, promised by the European Union in the aftermath of the referendums, have yet to be delivered; altough the aid budget has been committed and the Commission is working on the ground to implement it and the desire of Turkish Cypriots to be fully part of the European Union has been frustrated. This is not a scorecard of which anyone can be particularly proud or satisfied. Of course mistakes have been made by all over the recent years – not just by those on the island, but by the wider circle of those who play a role in efforts to resolve the Cyprus Problem. There is no point in trying to tot them up; to do so would just be to enter into yet another and even more self-defeating version of the blame game. But it is important to learn from those mistakes and to apply the lessons the next time – and I do believe there should and will be a next time – a serious effort is made to settle the matter with a comprehensive solution. Those mistakes should serve also as a reminder of how for the status quo falls short of what could be achieved at the negotiating table, and in some cases, particularly property issues, is actually damaging.
What then needs to be done if the present futile deadlock is to be left behind and genuine progress made towards a negotiated solution? Last Summer a process whas agreed with the UN for discussing the whole range of issues, both short and longer term, at working level. But so far that process has not been engaged, as each side manoeuvres for advantage. It is surely time now to put an end to this prevarication, and to get down to a serious discussion of the points of greatest importance to each side. The UN remains, in my view, the essential facilitator in any resumed negotiation, but it cannot hope to help the search for common ground if no discussions are taking place. Moreover engaging this process would do something to restore credibility to the negotiating track which is suffering from a rather general feeling that it has little to offer. The proposal to like this at working level does seem to me to make good sense. It would be wise to hasten slowly towards any formal negotiations between the principals, while seeking to build up the component parts of that bi-zonal, bi-communal federation which was first agreed now thirty years ago. This could be the last opportunity to achieve a comprehensive solution and it is crucial therefore to move forwards in a cautious and measured way. None in Cyprus should court or contemplate another failure if they really do want to see the island reunited and living in peace and prosperity within the European Union.
Now, I am afraid I am going to disappoint you by declining to set out a check-list of possible changes to previous solutions canvassed in earlier negotiations. To do so would not only ensure that any such ideas were dead on arrival, with a label “made in Britain” attached to them; but, more importantly, it would be to ignore an essential pre-condition for any successful, resumed negotiation, that any changes must emerge from a negotiating process between Cypriots themselves and must have the wholehearted support of the negotiators before being put to approval by each side in a referendum. For too long Cypriots have sought refuge in the belief – sometimes justified, sometimes less so – that their fate would ultimately be settled by others, outside this island.Too often in the past Cypriots have found it easy to blame others for their ......rather than address realistically their own responsibilities. Next time there needs to be no justification for that but what I will do is to set out one or two very tentative guidelines or principles drawn from my own seven years of experience which might possibly be of some use to future negotiators:

  • first it really is essential, as I mentioned earlier, to move away from purely zero-sum calculations of advantage and disadvantage. In any negotiation of this sort there are overall benefits for all concerned which only emerge after a settlement has been reached and after its terms have been put into effect. The whole history of the foundation of the European Union and of its successive enlargements bears testimony to this. The case of Cyprus will be no different, indeed the benefits of healing this last remaining wound in twenty-first century Europe could be even greater, and felt throughout the region. This is not an argument for simply ignoring the calculation of costs and benefits. No negotiator can afford to do that. But it is a plea to situate such calculations in an overall balance and to consider them in a dynamic rather than a static framework; the combined economic and political influnce of a re-united Cyprus would be for greater that that of its two constituent parts in continued seperation and confrontation.

  • secondly it might be wise to adjust somewhat the balance between the provisions in any settlement which are transitional and those which are permanent. Transitional arrangements linked to Turkey’s own accession to the European Union could be particularly appropriate since so much will change then in the relationship between all the main actorys in this drama. I have felt meyself that an end-date for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island of the date of Turkey’s EU accession, such as was proposed in the initial version of the Annan Plan, might well make sense;

  • Then, thirdly, a serious attempt should be made to look for changes which benefit one side without inflicting any dis-benefit on the other. It could well be that some of the financial provisions of a settlement, which were throught by Greek Cypriots to be excessively onerous, could be adjusted, and that Cypriots could look to the European Union itself to take a larger share of the financial burden, at least for an initial period, until the positive effects of a settlement could be fully felt.

So far I have addressed the problem of Cyprus largely in isolation, as if it stood entirely on its own. And, as I have said, I really do think it is essential to create more space for Cypriots themselves, from both sides, in any future negotiation than has sometimes been the case in the past. But that is not the whole story. It is not only that the links between Cyprus and the motherlands of its two peoples are too important to ignore; and that both the United Nations and the European Union are directly implicated in the success or failure of any resumed negotiation. It is also that, without a concerted effort by all those concerned, of a sort which was not always forthcoming in the past, a solution is not likely to be found. Too often Cold War rivalries and tension in Greek-Turkish relations stood in the way of such a concerted effort. But those factors no longer weigh on the Cyprus problem to the extent that they did.

That brings me to a new external dimension which very much does exist – which is in fact the six hundred pound gorilla in this particular room – the fate of Turkey’s candidature to the European Union. I find no one who contradicts the proposition that before Turkey joins the European Union there will have to be a settlement to the Cyprus problem. This is not a matter of legalities; it is simply a politiccal judgement. It is really not possible to envisage a situation where Turkey joins the European Union but the north of Cyprus remains in the sort of limbo in which it finds itself at the moment. But I also find no one who contradicts the proposition that, if Turkey’s EU candidature is rejected or blocked, then a solution of the Cyprus problem will not prove to be negotiable. Once again this is not a matter of legalities, but of the political realities. If those two propositions are valid, then one can draw certain conclusions. The principal one is that it should be in the interest of onyone who wants to achieve a solution to the Cyprus Problem, to ensure that Turkey’s EU accession negotiations move ahead steadily and without undue or politically motivated delays. In theat context I have been puzzled by the many obstacles in those negotiations which have been put forward by the government of Cyprus. Every member state has the right to raise technical concerns under each chapter of the negotiation. But Cyprus’ interest would surely be advanced if Turkey’s negotiations moved more rapidly not more slowly; and if the support of Turkish public opinion for Turkey’s candidature were not being weakened, as it is at the moment by all the political objections that have been raised. It is no secret that there are member states who remain uncertain or even hostile to Turkey’s candidature; but it can hardly be sensible for anyone who wants to see the Cyprus problem settled to find themselves being used as a stalking-horse for those doubts.
Having spoken very frankly about one side of the equation, I should add that I do not see any purpose being served by the continued dispute between Turkey and the EU over the application to Cypriot vessels and aircraft of the Ankara Protocol to Turkey’s customs union with the EU. It is pretty clear now that is not exercising any effective leverage over the vexed issue of exports from North Cyprus to the European Union which needs to be resolved on its own merits and to which a positive response from the European union is long overdue. Both these issues may take a little more time to be resolved; but what needs to be avoided is allowing either of them any longer to create obstacles to the solution of two far more important issues, a solution to the Cyprus problem and Turkey’s entry into the European Union.
I am sure that some of the things I have said will not have pleased one party or another. I have spoken as one who no longer has any official function in these matters and who does not speak on behalf of anyone who does. But I do retain a strong desire to see the peoples of Cyprus achieving that security and prosperity which I believe only a settlement can bring. In that context no one with such views can afford to ignore the voices raised rather more frequently now than in the past questioning whether a settlement is either attainable or even desirable; Suggesting that the international community should simply abandon efforts to find a solution I sometimes wonder whether those who express such views. have really thought through the consequences of that attitude of mind. Is it seriously supposed that Greek Cypriots will accept the existence of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus within its existing territorial limits and with its existing security arrangements? I rather doubt that. Is it seriously supposed that Turkish Cypriots will achieve the recognition and status which has eluded them for so long in the face of Greek Cypriot opposition, takled by so many statements of policy and Security Council Resolutions. Again I rather doubt that. But in that case one is considering no more than something resembling the status que, which satisfies no one in all its respects.
I will conclude by declining to try to answer the usual question as to whather I am optimistic or pessimistic about a solution being found to the cyprus Problem. That has never seemed to me a very meaningful assessment or one that can be made anywhere other that at the negotiationg table. What is needed, once the present period of elections in various countries is past, is for all concerned to apply themselves with purposeful determination to the negotiating track. And meanwhile for the UN process, on which agreement was reache last year to be put to good use, preparing the building blocks without which such a negotiation is unlikely to succeed.

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