By Andrew Fenzel, Transatlantic Security Analyst
Recently, the latest round of UN-mediated negotiations over the future of Cyprus began. The Republic of Cyprus (RoC) is an internationally recognized state that enjoys the benefits of membership in the UN and the EU. On the other hand, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) remains isolated and is only recognized by Turkey. Reunification, based on the foundations of the Annan Plan, is the only way for Cyprus to become a stable and peaceful country. The two sides must continue to negotiate for full reunification based upon a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. This outcome can be achieved in four stages.
First, the US should act as a mediator and help resolve the impasse. While it has refused to get involved in the past, it can no longer remain on the sidelines. US negotiators should: push the EU to lift the ban on direct trade with the TRNC by starting direct flights to the north; call on Turkey to simultaneously open up their ports to the RoC; and support continued openings along the border. Opening these crossings would not only increase the flow of goods, but they would deepen integration through education and inter-communal activity. Many argue that the US should stay out of this conflict because it does not directly affect its interests. Yet Cyprus is an island with huge geopolitical importance. The US has a vested interest in the stability of this region and the future of NATO. If the Cyprus issue is not resolved, the rift could have a devastating effect on EU-NATO relations and could also increase tensions between the RoC, Greece, and Turkey.
Second, the UN should continue to monitor negotiations between the two sides. Alexander Downer, the UN Special Advisor, should make sure that all sides continue to meet. While Mr. Downer should remain a neutral observer, it is in the best interest of both sides to use the Annan Plan as a basis for moving forward. Mr. Annan’s recommendations, if implemented, would force the two sides to govern together. Some argue that partition is the answer and the TRNC should be recognized as an independent state. They point to the multiple failed attempts at negotiations and believe that there will never be a settlement no matter who is in power. However, by the same logic, the two communities used to get along and there is no reason why they would not get along again. The time is right, the basis of a plan is in place, and the political will is there.
Third, once terms have been agreed upon, the RoC and TRNC should hold a referendum. This step, however, should only occur if the parties consent to the terms of the agreement. Once a “mutual recognition of equality” is established through the plan, a date should be set and all of the players involved in the process should send teams to monitor the election in order to safeguard individual political freedom.
Finally, a transitional government headed by the leadership of both sides should be created. Such a government should be a dual-administration with dual-presidents for a period of at least one year, but no more than two years. This would allow the population to ease into reunification, work out any problems, and start the healing process. After two years, new elections should be held for the new country known as the Unified Republic of Cyprus. This is going to be a long and hard process, but one that will bring the conflict to an end and stability to the island.
Reunification through integration and democracy is the only way to bring about peace and stability in Cyprus. But the issues surrounding a settlement have yet to be fully resolved. The future of Cyprus and EU-NATO relations are on the line. While partition and independence have their benefits, overall, a reunified Cyprus would be stronger economically, socially, and politically.