February 11th, 2016


Interesting Links for 11-02-2016


A People's Peace for Cyprus, by Alexander Lordos, Erol Kaymak and Nathalie Tocci

I got this from the authors (all three of whom are friends of mine) back in 2009 when it was published. At that stage there seemed to be an opportunity for a breakthrough in the Cyprus problem; the Turkish Cypriot president, Mehmet Ali Talat (full disclosure: I was advising him from 2007 to 2010) had been elected in 2005 on a platform of securing a solution, and the newly elected Greek Cypriot president, Demetris Christofias, was ostensibly committed to doing the same.

A People's Peace for Cyprus, published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (where I worked from 1999 to 2002), gives the results of extensive public opinion polling on both sides of the island about what might or might not be acceptable elements of a new peace agreement to reunify the island. It's actually quite an encouraging read; the gaps exist, of course, but even on difficult issues such as the constitutional arrangements for a power-sharing government, the arrangements for property owned by Greek Cypriots in Turkish Cypriot-controlled territory, and the future security guarantees and responsibilities of Greek, Turkey and the UK, a bridgeable gap could be envisaged. I suspect that opinion has not moved very far in the seven years since the research was done - iof anything there may have been a further drift towards finding accommodation.

I'm afraid there is one very silly idea in the book, which I pointed out at the time. It is that as part of the settlement, there should be agreement on a kind of playbook for what external interventions should be appropriate in case one or other side should block implementation of any part of the agreement. Quite apart from the Chekhov's gun point that agreeing in advance on what disagreements can be envisaged more or less guarantees that those disagreements will happen, the fact is that offering a new set of rules to play with to two sides who are already over-equipped with lawyers is simply asking for trouble. Much better to get a commitment to full implementation, and nothing else, up front, and for international mediators to be ready to come and bang heads together when sticking points are reached.

Apart from that, all of the rest of the findings are pretty sound, and indicated that there was (and I think still is) room to find agreement on a settlement plan for both sides on Cyprus.

The 2009 opening proved to be illusory. Talat, who is one of the nicest and best politicians I have ever worked with, appeared to be a lame duck after his party lost the 2009 parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus - though my own view is that he could have still sold an agreement to his own electorate, but that unfortunately Christofias had never been serious about negotiating with him. Christofias went on to preside over the disastrous July 2011 Mari explosion and the even more disastrous collapse of the economy, both of which happened directly because of decisions that he took (or rather didn't take). He was indolent and incompetent, and those of us (including me) who hoped in 2009 that he might negotiate a settlement as he had promised were engaging in wishful thinking.

Things have now, thank heavens, moved in a positive direction again. The two current Cypriot leaders, Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı, seem to have found a new dynamic - witness this charming video from December of them valiantly attempting to read seasonal greetings in each other's languages:

Apart from the encouraging dynamic between the leaders, I also want to point out that the two chief negotiators, Özdil Nami and Andrea Mavroyannis, are really seriously committed to finding a solution. The findings of the 2009 CEPS survey may soon become relevant once more.

This came to the top of my TBR pile as the shortest book of those I had bought in 2009 and not yet read. Next on that list - having polished off On The Way to Diplomacy - is A History of Anthropology by Thomas Hylland Eriksen.