The whirlwinds of the Cyprus problem
Focusing on the internal dimension of the Cyprus problem, it could be considered a relatively simple one. From this perspective, and compared to other complex international problems, a settlement of the Cyprus problem could be reached easily, depending on Greek Cypriots’ and Turkish Cypriots’ willingness, on the one hand, to construct a common vision for their coexistence within their common country, and, on the other hand, to find ways to overcome the risks and complexities of a diarchical system of governance.
The United Nations-led talks, which resumed last May, aim to resolve the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation agreed upon by the two communities. However, the more we move from the internal dimension of the Cyprus problem toward its external dimension the more we expose the prospects of its settlement to the turbulence of the Middle East and great powers’ conflicting interests in the region.
The external dimensions of the Cyprus problem consist of a number of quite complex dependent parameters:
First, Turkey aspires for a settlement of the Cyprus problem that would not upset the prospects of keeping the island under its sphere of influence for security reasons, while also enhancing its geopolitical and geo-economic position in the Eastern Mediterranean region and internationally.
Second, the power game in the Eastern Mediterranean region brings Israel’s security agenda and Turkey’s interests in Cyprus into conflict.
Third, Ankara’s political and military game against Cyprus has met with US tolerance due to Turkey’s geostrategic importance and interdependence of interests forged by the US-led NATO alliance.
Fourth, the deployment of the US’s energy strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean region and its goal for the expansion of American businesses in the same region needs political stability, part of which depends on the prospect of a settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Fifth, the asymmetry of power between Greece and Turkey determines Athens’s interest in releasing Cyprus from Ankara’s political and military control, and turning the island into a “neutral” security zone.
Sixth, an important actor in the Middle East though with limited power since the end of the World War II, the United Kingdom aspires to maintain its military bases in Cyprus in order to use them as a springboard for its presence and involvement in the region.
Seventh, an overall and multilevel US-Russian antagonism in the Eastern Mediterranean region has resulted in Moscow’s warning that it will not endorse a settlement of the Cyprus problem, which will serve NATO’s security interests in the region.
Eighth, considering the EU’s foreign policy deficiencies, it is no surprise that the European Union would prefer to be rid of the responsibility for an unmanageable international problem such as the Cyprus problem.
However, these dependent parameters of the external dimension of the Cyprus problem also refer to the innumerable uncertainties that are produced by the ongoing developments in the region and beyond, and which impact on the real prospects of a Cyprus settlement. For instance, what will be the outcome of the Syrian civil war? What will be the consequences from Russia’s military involvement in Syria, and how will the United States react? Will Turkey redefine its foreign policy goals after its foreign policy failures, and toward what direction as regards Cyprus?
In conclusion, the prospects for resolving the Cyprus problem will depend on the extent to which those negotiating Cyprus’s future will allow the interference of foreign interests.
* Melanie Antoniou is a political correspondent for Kathimerini’s Cyprus edition.