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Settling the Cyprus Conflict: Its Regional Context and International Significance

About this speech:
This is the full text of prepared remarks delivered at the International Congress “The Cyprus Problem in the New World Order,” Hellenic Society of International Law and International Relations, held at Panteion University, Athens, 2–4 October 1992. The idea proposed here, to rebuild and renovate the facilities of Varosha–Famagusta and to give them special status, was carried to the international negotiations by a member of the Nicosia government in attendance at the Athens Congress, whence it was integrated as a confidence-building measure into the Secretary General's proposals to the parties for resolving the conflict.

The conflict on Cyprus is not only a confrontation between the Greek and Turkish civilizations but also a meeting of these civilizations. Cyprus itself lies not just at the boundary of their intersection but also at the boundary between the southeast European regional system and the southwest Asian regional system; and moreover at the boundary between the Balkan region of southeast Europe and the Asia Minor region of southwest Asia. The situation on Cyprus has other special characteristics as well. The fact that it is an island means that it is not organically linked to other territorial disputes, for example those in the Balkans. Further, Cyprus is a state representing not a nation but a citizenship, and the two nation-states represented on Cyprus by ethnic communities —Greece and Turkey—are not fighting to have a national identity as are for example the Serbs and Croats and Kurds. The Greeks and Turks are secure in their national identities, as paradoxical or contradictory as some of those identities may be. This fundamentally distinguishes the situation on Cyprus from the situation in the former Yugoslavia and from that in the former Soviet Transcaucasus.

From the second half of the 1980s both Greece and Turkey accentuated the European orientation of their foreign policies. However, I believe that at least some circles in Greece understand that Turkey's growing significance in the Asian region makes it no longer possible to diminish the objective significance of Turkey not only for the U.S. but also for the European Community, which is increasingly taking on a foreign policy coordinating role. Turkey is in an entirely new position today. For the first time in nearly three hundred years, there is a situation where there is a strong Turkey getting stronger and a weak Russia getting perhaps weaker. Recall that in the eighteenth century there was both a strong Russia and a strong Turkey; in the nineteenth century, a strong Russia and a weak Turkey; in the first half of the twentieth century, a weak Russia and a weak Turkey; and in the second half of the twentieth century, a strong Russia (up until a few years ago) and a moderately strong Turkey. The present situation of a strong Turkey and a weak Russia is new at least since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

If we admit an emerging tripolarity of trading blocs, where North and South America fall under U.S. tutelage, where Central and Eastern Europe falls under EC tutelage, and where East Asia falls under Japan's tutelage, then we are left with Africa, Central Eurasia, and southwest Asia including Asia Minor and the Near East. This division of the globe threatens to add the North-South economic conflict to the Judæo-Christian/Muslim conflict in the region. Cyprus is further unique in that the conflict there, although one side is Christian and the other Muslim, does not have a fundamentally religious but rather a national character. Religion has little significance as an actual source of conflict. It is no exaggeration then to say that the situation on Cyprus is unique, that this may enhance possibilities for its resolution, and that if it is successfully resolved then it may send out ripples to pacify the churning waters in the surrounding regions.

Certainly one of the most significant developments since the end of the 1980s, indeed in the last few years or even months, has been the role of the EC in attempting to settle conflicts in the Balkan peninsula. It is conceivable that the EC's dynamism may be harnessed towards the settlement of the Cyprus conflict. Specifically, it is worth noting that the people in Brussels involved in the peace making in the former Yugoslavia originally were not the ones who are in the new departments created to deal with Central and Eastern Europe. Rather, because of the EC Commission's experience over many years with Yugoslavia, these officials from Brussels originally had their background in the Community's Mediterranean affairs. Consequently, they are also familiar with the issues surrounding Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. But what are the instrumentalities that the EC has permitting it to play a role in settling the Cyprus problem? If the UNFICYP is not going to continue its role past 1992, it is always possible that the EC may coordinate a force under the aegis of the West European Union. But this force, if it is desirable and one may debate whether it is desirable, can only be one part of a larger design within the realization of the UN Secretary General's “Set of Ideas.” Is it unreasonable for example to suppose that a federal Cyprus, as a member of the EC, may be integrated into the EC's Mediterranean Programs as encouragement to, stabilizer of, and reward for peaceful political civil development? Here I wish to mention that the role the EC can play is not limited to the establishment of a customs union. According to Article 238 of the Rome Treaty, the content of Association Agreements is not restricted. Indeed, the so-called European Agreements negotiated with Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary are only a special kind of Association Agreement; and the authority to negotiate them explicitly came from Article 238. Therefore the EC is not limited under its own law with respect to its possible role in Cyprus.

It is necessary in taking account of the situation to recognize faits accomplis as distasteful as these are. I am speaking not only of the migration of 40,000 Anatolian peasants to north Cyprus. As you know for the first time this year the Turkish government economic program provides explicitly for investment in north Cyprus. The subjectivity of Turkish Cypriots who do not wish to be overwhelmed, as they see it, by Greek Cypriot capital, is a political fact that must be dealt with. From this point of view, Turkish capital investment in north Cyprus can play a balancing role in the psychological part of the political equation. Indeed, since Cyprus seeks to be an EC member, the flow of Turkish capital into Cyprus falls into the framework of the freedom of flow of capital, labor, etc. Indeed, there is no reason to restrict this capital to Turkish capital within the broader framework. It can also include Greek capital: and indeed provisions may be made for joint ventures between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot entrepreneurs, if not between Greek and Turkish industrialists. While President Vasiliou's strategy appears to be to promote the cooperation of Greek and Turkish Cypriot entrepreneurs, in order to encourage the leader of Turkish Cypriots to come to a settlement, it must be recognized that the Turkish government has also been creating the conditions to make it possible for the leader of the Turkish Cypriots to reach such a settlement.

Certainly the EC has something to offer to Turkey in this regard also: markets. It is possible to construct a legal framework where the economic products of Turkish capital on Cyprus may through a Special Economic Zone be permitted easier entry into EC markets; and this may encourage the Turks to encourage the Turkish Cypriots to conclude the negotiations within a framework that gives this advantage to Turkish national interest. Indeed, within this general framework it would be entirely logical to rebuild and renovate the facilities of Varosha-Famagusta and to give them perhaps a special status if desired, either on the model of Trieste or that of Danzig, not excluding the establishment of an international fund for reconstruction and development for this purpose. The specialists in international law, of whom I am not one, should easily be able to create such a framework for this.

My concluding remarks have to do with the nature of pan-Turanism. It is worthwhile to recall the magisterial study by the German−American historian Hans Kohn of pan-Turanism, pan-Slavism, pan- Germanism, and other “pan”-isms. He distinguished three generic types: the first being one which seeks to create links among all members of cultural-linguistic area, creating a cultural-linguistic identity; the second of which seeks to include within a political-cultural unity all members of a more restrictive ethnic identity; and the third of which seeks to exclude from a narrowly defined ethnic-political community all those who are not members of that ethnic community. It is fair to say that the Turkish objective in former Soviet Central Asia is neither the second nor the third of these, that the stabilizing role of Turkey in that region is objectively positive, and that Turkey tends to enhance more than to threaten stability in that region from the geostrategic standpoint. This being so, perhaps there will not be so deep a crisis of the Turkish identity as would otherwise be the case.

What could be the general nature, then, of EC relations with Turkey in the near term, if these do not go so far as to include Turkish membership during, let us say, the next twenty-five years? Jacques Delors, on his recent trip to Moscow, proposed to Boris Yeltsin the notion of a “partnership” between the EC and Russia: partnership being a relationship between equals that excludes from the beginning any consideration of membership by Russia in the EC. Such a relationship of partnership between the EC and Turkey is perhaps not out of the question. This would encourage the Turks to assume a stabilizing role in the region generally and in Cyprus. It would encourage the necessary constitutional formula to be found for a settlement of the Cyprus problem. If we run in reverse the film of the disintegration of Czechoslovakia, or if we look at the situation in Belgium, then we may find some suggestions, though not direct analogies, for procedural methods of promoting a constitutional restructuring of the Republic of Cyprus, which would not be the creation of a new state but rather the renovation of the constitution of the existing state.

Further: if such a common understanding could be developed, all of this falling within the parameters of the appropriate resolutions of the UN and the Secretary General’s Set of Ideas, and with the EC playing the role of specifying and applying some of these solutions (a role it is already playing in the former Yugoslavia), then a significant case will have been established in conflict resolution and peace making under the aegis of the international organizations; and despite the singular and unique character of the Cyprus problem, this would furnish much food for thought for the theory and practice of conflict resolution. Indeed, its significance is not limited to the Balkans or Asia Minor or southwest Asia. At the appropriate time and in the appropriate forums, representatives of the newly independent states of Central Asia may be invited as observers to gain experience in the evolving international law of international organizations with respect to multilateral conflict resolution and peace making. They would attend in their capacity of representatives of member states of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (since all the Soviet successor states are CSCE members). Turkey could help to transfer this experience to the Central Asian states through for example the Islamic Conference, which might in turn work with the Commonwealth of Independent States or where appropriate with Kazakhstan in particular (which may play a crucial role as coordinator and facilitator of conflict resolution because of its special relationship with Russia) or Kyrgyzstan because of its evolving relationship with Germany.

Although the institutional and organizational mechanisms of the EC are not shared by many regional organizations, one exception is the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose members could through the GCC provide the financial means necessary to promote the conflict resolving and peace making activities of Islamic international organizations. These last comments have been somewhat speculative, but I believe they serve only to underline the real and potential significance of the unexpected nature of the combinations of the very fluid world politics today, pointing toward the true international significance of the resolution of the Cyprus conflict.


Dr. Robert M. Cutlerwebsiteemail ] was educated at MIT and The University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in Political Science, and has specialized and consulted in the international affairs of Europe, Russia, and Eurasia since the late 1970s. He has held research and teaching positions at major universities in the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Russia, and contributed to leading policy reviews and academic journals as well as the print and electronic mass media in three languages.

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