Is Cyprus ready for reunification?

The status quo in Cyprus does not provide the needed atmosphere for reuniting the island.

Tochni, Cyprus 311  (photo credit: (Roni Sofer))
Tochni, Cyprus 311
(photo credit: (Roni Sofer))
After decades of partition, Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are set to meet once again at Greentree Estate in Long Island, New York, under United Nations auspices. So, one must ask, after decades-long negotiations, why should we expect a different outcome after the two-day talks beginning on January 23? The answer, we probably should not.
As many experts on conflict resolution will say, the most appropriate atmosphere for resolution is that both sides are a party to a mutually hurting stalemate (MHS) – a condition in which neither side feels that it can gain from the current situation. Looking at the disparity that exists between Greek and Turkish Cyprus, it is clear that the status quo is more viable for Greek Cypriots over their Turkish counterparts.
Despite the decades-long separation, Greek Cypriots have seen very few motivating factors that would lead them to desire the resolution of the conflict as quickly as possible. In the last decade alone, Greek Cyprus has joined the European Union, ascended to controlling defense issues for the regional alliance and is slated to assume its presidency this coming July. Furthermore, the island-nation has discovered natural gas deposits of its southern coast and has plans to exploit them with regional neighbors Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and Greece, thus providing de facto international acceptance of those activities.
The only deterrent for Greek Cyprus is the continuing rhetoric of a cantankerous Turkey. The Turkish government under Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has been quite vocal in its disapproval of Greek Cypriot exploits that in recent history it has gone so far to threaten cutting relations with the European Union and attacking Greek-Cypriot drilling sties in the Mediterranean Sea. However, such a deterrent has not proven to be sufficient, as Greek Cyprus has continued on its course, unabated.
The situation of Turkish Cyprus, however, is quite dissimilar. The Turkish Cypriots’ situation persists as an unrecognized breakaway territory in the view of the international community, with the exception of Turkey - the only country that maintains diplomatic relations, while sustaining a military presence there as well. Such a situation has provided the Turkish Cypriots with only limitations and restrictions on much needed international aid, trade and travel. The effects of such limitations have afforded the breakaway territory with a crumbling infrastructure and an increasingly disgruntled citizenry. Just this week, attempts to privatize the electrical and telecommunication industries of the islands led to strikes, which literally shrouded half of Turkish Cyprus in darkness.
With such a situation, one would think that Turkish Cypriots would be quite motivated to reunify with their Greek brethren, and they very well might be. However, the fact that Turkey is so deeply entrenched in Turkish-Cypriot polity, the ability for Turkish Cypriots to express true will is likely reduced. Furthermore, the Cyprus issue is a matter of national pride for Turkey, as it exists as a proxy battle with their longtime adversaries in Greece. As Turkey continues to assert its influence throughout the region, it is unlikely they will cede their position in this area.
Meanwhile, Greek Cyprus forges ahead. It does so under the original Cypriot constitution, which provides for shared rule with Turkish Cypriots. This setting has manifested in vacant seats and positions within the Cypriot government that are reserved for Turkish citizens of the island.
Such vacancies can be viewed as a message to the Turkish Cypriots. The message: Greek Cyprus is stable and successful; you may join us when you are ready, and your seats at the table are awaiting you.
For all that has been said herein, the condition is likely not ripe for a Cyprus reunification. Simply stated, Greek Cyprus does not have the needed incentive to make the wide-ranging concessions that would foster a resolution. The next question should be, will the situation within Turkish Cyprus become so untenable that it will be forced into resolution, rather than coming from a position of equal strength? This may be the fact as the semblance of disparity is far too great to see how reunification is plausible at this time.
The writer is an intelligence manager at Max Security Solutions, a geo-political risk consulting firm based in the Middle East.