Skip to main content

by Roger L. Jennings

Currently the Greek and Turkish Cypriots are negotiating a unification of the two populations on the island of Cyprus.

The Turkish Cypriots are very optimistic an agreement will be reached, but Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades counsels caution.

When the world understands the history of Cyprus, the Greeks and the Turks, then people will understand why the negotiations as they are currently being conducted will fail. Ultimately, Turkey and its client the Turkish Cypriots will lose patience with the Greek Cypriot method of negotiation, and north Cyprus will become a province of the Republic of Turkey. The Greek Cypriots will not like a large influx of Turks to this new Turkish province.

A successful conclusion to the negotiations is within the control of the Turkish Cypriots, but their leaders do not comprehend their potential and are not interested in advice. The current political administration of north Cyprus is following the same course as the failed prior political administrations.

Cyprus became a sovereign country in 1960. Greece, Turkey and the U.K. guaranteed the sovereignty of all citizens of Cyprus. Greek Cypriots outnumber Turkish Cypriots by almost 3:1. The first President was Archbishop Makarios. Initially he spoke in favor of “Enosis” which means union with Greece. The Turkish minority did not want to become Greeks. The Turkish Cypriots wanted equal rights and representation.

Years earlier ethnic Greeks forced the ethnic Turks to leave Crete. Then Crete joined with Greece to become part of Greece. This was a realization of the Megali Idea. The Megali Idea is a proposal that all ethnic Greeks would be unified in one Greek state with its capital in Constantinople.

​In 1974 units of the Greek military joined with the Greek Cypriot military. Their combined forces then attempted to force the Turkish Cypriots to leave the island of Cyprus. Archbishop Makarios barely escaped with his life by going to the British enclave on the island. Several days later the Archbishop delivered a scathing speech at the U.N. that was critical of Greece and the combined force in Cyprus.

The entry into Cyprus by Greek military for the purpose of Enosis was a violation of Cypriot sovereignty. The U.K. took no action to protect the Cypriots from military action and to protect innocent people from being killed. When people were being killed, the Republic of Turkey exercised its right as a guarantor of the sovereignty of all Cypriots by landing a large military force on Cyprus. The Turkish military defeated the combined Greek and Greek Cypriot forces. The Turks then forced the Greek Cypriots to move to the southern end of the island and the Turkish Cypriots to the northern end. The border, reminiscent of the Berlin Wall, is supervised by military units of the U.N. to this day. A large contingent of Turkish military remains in north Cyprus.

South Cyprus is recognized by the world as the sole representative of Cyprus. South Cyprus belongs to the E.U. and has diplomatic and trading relations with many countries. The Greek Cypriot people have benefited with higher income per capita than the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots are not recognized any country, except the Republic of Turkey. The E.U. made a huge mistake by not recognizing human life in north Cyprus.

Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan worked very hard to achieve a unification in Cyprus. In fact, the Greek and Turkish Cypriot Governments agreed with the Annan Plan. The Turkish Cypriots voted for the Plan, but 76% of the Greek Cypriots voted against the Plan. The current negotiations are focused on achieving an agreement between the two Governments, but no real effort is being made to change public opinion among the 76% of Greek Cypriots. Repeated public polling, including recently, shows that 76% of Greek Cypriots are opposed to unification.

The Turkish Cypriot governments have spent considerable resources pleading with anyone in the world who will listen that the Turkish Cypriot cause is just. This approach, even if very successful, addresses people who are not part of the 76%. These people do not live in Cyprus and will never have a chance to vote in Cyprus. Further, the world, and in particular, Europe does not diplomatically recognize or trade with north Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots are humanity whose existence is not recognized by the world. That fact is encouragement to the 76% of Greek Cypriots. So the world, without thinking, is supporting the stalemate in Cyprus.

Any understanding of the future of Cyprus requires an understanding of Greek and Turkish history. The Ottoman Turks, an imperial military and political organization, oppressed the Greek people for nearly 400 years. Hatred of Turks is in the Greek DNA. The fact that modern Turks are very different from Ottoman Turks is not recognized by Greeks. Turkey has never educated the world in the change to the Turkish persona. Many changes were implemented in Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later named Ataturk. He is called “Father of the Turks,” but should be called “Father of Modern Turks.”

The Turks do retain the characteristic that has made them great soldiers. They move in one direction – forward. They are unyielding. They are not creative. It is as though every issue is another defense of Gallipoli.

The Greeks, by contrast, survived those 400 years by being skilled negotiators. The penchant for circuitous negotiation methods is in the Greek DNA, and can be traced back to the days of the Byzantines. The leader of the Greek Cypriots, President Anastasiades, is a lawyer who is very experienced in the gambits of negotiation. His counterpart, President Akinci of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is an architect by training and experience.

The Turkish Cypriot approach to the negotiations is straight forward. This could be called the diplomatic defense of Gallipoli. The Turkish Cypriots have listed the negotiation issues, and seek agreement or compromise on each issue. The Turkish Cypriots are proceeding as though the 76% of Greek Cypriots will support the agreement their leaders made. Of course, there is great dissension between the various Greek Cypriot political leaders. One Turkish Cypriot leader in the prior President Eroglu administration said there would be an agreement when the (majority) Greek Cypriots agree to all the terms of the (minority) Turkish Cypriots.

​President Anastasiades voted in favor of the Annan Plan, but when an agreement is subject to vote, he will follow the will of the Greek Cypriot voters. He has not taken meaningful action to change the 60% vote.

​The Turkish Cypriot approach to negotiate a list of issues is premature. The Turkish Cypriots have not recognized and have not taken action to address preconditions before starting a negotiation. The Greek Cypriot economy is suffering from foolish investments by Greek Cypriot banks in Greek sovereign debt. Greek Cypriot unemployment is high. The Turkish Cypriots are poor by comparison to the Greek Cypriots, and the Turkish Cypriot Government requires a financial gift from Turkey each year to survive. Under these circumstances, the Greek Cypriots have no incentive to accept financial responsibility for the Turkish Cypriots.

​The Greek Cypriots are the majority. Why should they cede any authority to the Turkish Cypriots? The Greek Cypriots control the relationship with the world. That was the E.U. mistake that is impeding progress today. Why should the Greek Cypriots give any of this to the Turkish Cypriots? The Greek Cypriots, as a matter of vengeance, have the Turkish Cypriots just where they want them. There is no incentive for the 60% to change their position. Many of the Greek Cypriots just want the Turkish Cypriots to move off the island, but that will not happen.

​What can the Turkish Cypriots do to achieve a federal state government? First, the Turkish Cypriots must address the Greek Cypriot attitude towards all Turks. There is one person all Greek Cypriots respect and will listen to, and that is the Archbishop. Archbishop Chrysostomos opposed the Annan Plan, but there have been suggestions he might support a federal union.

​The Archbishop is very concerned about unemployment among Greek Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots, with the financial support of the Republic of Turkey, should propose that the Archbishop and other Greek Cypriot church leaders select Christian sites in north Cyprus damaged in the 1974 war for repair by unemployed Greek Cypriots. All work should be supervised by church leaders so the Turks cannot be blamed for inferior work. The Turks should pay for all materials. Turkish government personnel should pay the Greek Cypriot workers so the Greek Cypriot workers know it is the Turks who are funding the repairs. This would show that modern Turks are not like Ottoman Turks. The public relations effect is obvious. North Cyprus will benefit by the increase in tourism.

​Second, the Apostolos Andreas Monastery in north Cyprus has been restored as an historical building in the eyes of the Turkish Cypriots. However, this is a significant religious site to the Greek Cypriots, and particularly to the Archbishop. This is a sacred site that has more meaning to Greeks than to Turks. Ownership, and responsibility for the maintenance, should be given to the Archbishop. The Turks should ask the Archbishop to operate the Monastery as an active facility, and should allow people to visit the Monastery.

​Third, the St. Nicholas Cathedral was converted to the Lela Mustafa Pasha Mosque by the Ottoman Turks. The modern day Turks should demonstrate the difference between Ottoman and modern day Turks by turning the ownership over to the Archbishop with the request the Church operates​St. Nicholas like all other churches.

​Turks are not known for being generous or giving back what they have conquered. The Archbishop and Greek Cypriots would be shocked by these three Turkish commitments. Attitudes would start to change.

​All of these properties would remain in north Cyprus. So, in reality, the Turks have not given away anything. In fact, tourism would increase. Tourism is the principal source of income in Cyprus. This is the creative intellectual ability Turks lack. The Greek Cypriot Government which has opposed Turkish entry into the E.U. would start to have a change of heart. The relationship between Greece and Turkey would start to improve.

​There are many more ways to improve relations within Cyprus as outlined in my book Waking the Lion that Amazon sells.

​The Turkish Cypriots still need to address hard issues like the disposition of natural gas off the coast of Cyprus and the economic inferiority of the Turkish Cypriot people.

​The Greek Cypriots say the gas belongs to them, and not to the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots want equality. Both Greek and Turkish negotiators have agreed the gas will be sold outside of Cyprus. That is one of the dumbest ideas imaginable, but neither government will listen to advice.

​If gas is sold, there could be a war over the revenue. Remember, Turks do not back down, and that gas is in the vital national interest of Turkey which has no gas of its own. Here is where the diplomats of the world, including the U.N., have failed. Even if the Greek and Turkish Cypriots could agree, they would face Russia and Iran in the open market. Both have vast quantities of gas that they will sell at the lowest prices. Do Cypriots want to sell their precious natural resource at the lowest prices?

​Gas is a feed stock for many products like synthetics (polyester, rayon and nylon), fertilizer, ammonia, paint, cosmetics and more. If the Turkish Cypriots converted the gas to other products, they would create higher value products than a commodity gas. They would create high value jobs for both Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Unemployment would decline, and a fraternal spirit would develop. The Turkish Cypriots should build the gas conversion facilities now, and use imported gas until their own gas becomes available. As the Turkish Cypriots employ Greek Cypriots, the argument for using the gas rather than competing with Russia and Iran will become stronger.

In fact, there is so much gas off the coast of Cyprus that the Cypriot people could not perform all the value added work. So, for example, synthetics would have to be exported to Greece and Turkey to be dyed, cut and sewn. Even if Cypriot gas costs more to produce than Russian and Iranian gas, the additional work with gas will insulate the higher cost Cypriot gas.

Cypriots would be working together, and the potential for war would be taken off the table. The diplomats of the world and U.N. are mentally comatose on how to prevent war over gas.

There still is the issue of the Turkish Cypriot economy and dependence on the Republic of Turkey’s annual financial subsidy. The Turkish Cypriots, a sovereign country because of the Turkish military, are not recognized by any country, except Turkey. If you mail a letter to the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), it must be addressed to a post office in Mersin, Turkey. As a result, the Turkish Cypriots do not even owe a courtesy to any country, except Turkey. Again, the diplomats of the world have failed to engage human life in the human family.

The TRNC should declare itself to be the new Switzerland. An investment bank, or banks, should be formed to receive foreign deposits that are paid superior returns. The TRNC must promise that the names and earnings of depositors will not be provided to any foreign government as an incentive for depositors to transfer funds to the TRNC. Since the TRNC is not recognized, there is no obligation to provide such information to any country.

The TRNC has a large university population looking for high paying jobs upon graduation. Currently most cannot find jobs in Cyprus and must leave. Another resource is being lost. The universities could provide trained staff to the investment banks. Banking would strengthen the Cypriot economy.

The development of tourism, gas and investment banking would make the TRNC the envy of the Greek Cypriots. The Greek Cypriot economy would benefit. Positive relationships between people would be created rather than engaging in divisive arguments.

The “Berlin Wall” of Cyprus could be turned over to a joint Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot police force with a commander’s position that is filled on a rotating basis by both Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Then the Turkish military could return to Turkey. If violence breaks out again, the Turkish military could cross the 60 miles of water between Turkey and Cyprus to once again quickly restore order.

If negotiations resume in an environment where Turkish Cypriots retain their own sovereignty, the negotiations could be finalized quickly and with the support of the Greek Cypriot people. Cyprus will be stronger with a unified people where the rights and sovereignty of all are recognized.

The beneficiaries under these circumstances would be both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, plus Turkey and Greece. This is the common sense of current negotiations that has eluded the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders.bluestar


American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.


Author Roger Jennings grew up in a family immersed in Middle Eastern affairs. He started accompanying his Father to Europe, Greece, Turkey and other countries in the 1950s. He had the opportunity to meet the people of these countries to understand their histories and cultures. His Grandmother, widow of Asa K. Jennings, gave Roger Asa K.’s archives. One Turkish author Rifat Bali who went through these records and reported in his book The Saga of a Friendship Asa Kent Jennings and The American Friends of Turkey that he made 2500 photocopies. Roger wrote Waking the Lion which is sold by Amazon from these records and other family knowledge to tell the true story of what happened in Smyrna in 1922.


Comments are closed.