Sweden’s former Ambassador to Cyprus said optimism the island will be reunified soon should be tempered by its history of diplomatic failures.
Ingemar Lindahl, who served in Nicosia from 2004-12, wrote in an opinion piece in the Cyprus Mail that there’s some reason for hope now that a moderate, Mustafa Akinci, was elected Turkish-Cypriot leader.
Akinci has already met Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who’s also eager to find a solution to the dilemma that has evaded a parade of politicians and international envoys since Turkey unlawfully invaded the island in 1974, splitting it.
But Lindahl noted that it’s Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who said he doesn’t recognize Cyprus – who gives Akinci his marching orders and that other constraints could damper expectations for a quick settlement.
“What lessons can be drawn from the half century-long history of UN-sponsored negotiations? Certainly, that it is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition that both communities are represented by pro-solution leaders,” Lindahl wrote.
He added that, “Moreover, that the two ‘Motherlands’, or more precisely, guarantor powers Greece and Turkey, must also have pro-solution governments – and not only governments who pay lip service to a solution but are ready to act as midwifes for it.”
He added that the prospects of oil and gas discoveries off the island are a catalyst that could pull the forces together, but that politics could interfere again.
“Akinci has the same ‘Red Lines’ as his predecessors, with the questions of territory and property which entails the displacement of people, as the most sensitive in the north,” he noted.
“Moreover, he will have to negotiate in close cooperation with Turkey, whose main focus is security. This means concretely that he has to reestablish a good working relationship with Erdogan with whom he has had some issues in the past,” Lindahl said.
He said that any compromise deal “will immediately (even before it is presented) be opposed by the non-solution parties on both sides and can only succeed in a referendum by strong leadership at the helm on both sides.
“Consequently, they must be prepared to bring their proposal at an early stage directly to the citizens and avoid becoming hostages of the non-solution political parties and opinion makers.”