Many in Nicosia, Athens, Brussels and Washington are confident – and some concerned – that the Cyprus issue may be resolved by the end of the year. In the US, especially, top officials are eager for this to happen by the end of 2016, as every US government likes to wrap up as many international affairs as possible before their term ends so as to boost its legacy. US Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry are the key players pushing for a solution in this case.
I do not share their conviction that this will happen for a number of reasons, foremost of which is that it is a particularly complex affair. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan feels no particular pressure regarding Cyprus and will not make any major concessions, it seems, and strict red lines have been drawn on both sides. Greek-Cypriot public opinion could back a solution if financial incentives regarding property and assets were put on the table. Every now and then there is talk of large sums of money coming from the EU and the US, but no official document proves this. The financial crisis has had an effect and it is doubtful whether or not the lure of a few billion euros would secure the approval of a new formula.
Another important factor is that certain powerful world players are not eager for a resolution. Russia, for instance, a country that has traditionally played a role in Cyprus, is not keen for a solution based on a Western plan. History has proved that it could torpedo a solution, in its own way. There is also another, unexpected, factor. In the last few years Israel has developed close strategic ties with Nicosia. Top officials in Tel Aviv prefer a solid Greek-Cypriot state, as opposed to a bizonal state with which they could not work without referring to Ankara first. Given the importance of the Cypriot-Israeli axis, these factors should not be ignored.
Lastly, the Greek-Cypriot lobby in the US will not accept a solution along the lines of the Annan Plan. No Democratic administration would be willing to displease this small, yet highly active and productive lobby. What’s the alternative? The situation has reached a critical stage. There will either be a velvet divorce or today’s situation will linger forever. In the first case the Greek-Cypriot side could receive a few possible territorial exchanges and offer some form of recognition to the pseudo-state in return. In the latter, nothing will change. A solution would be financially beneficial and a positive development for the broader region. It would also help improve Greek-Turkish ties.
However, given the current situation, older diplomacy editors were probably right when they assured their successors that the Cyprus issue would not be resolved before they retired.