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Seminar on “The Course of the Cyprus Problem and the Probabilities of a Solution”
Published Date: Monday, 3 February 2020
Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) Cyprus Policy Center (KPM) President and EMU Political Science and International Relations Department Head, Prof. Dr. Ahmet Sözen gave a seminar to groups attending from Stanford University and from the Berlin Marine Research Center. The seminar, which deals with the issue of “The Course of the Cyprus Problem and the probabilities of a solution" was held on Monday, February 3, 2020, at EMU.
Prof. Dr. Sözen started his speech by presenting an up-to-date overview of how the Cyprus issue got to the point it has today, and pointed out that although the two communities have a desire for a solution; their beliefs of it being realized are low. Prof. Dr. Sözen pointed out the subject that the communities give great importance to is for an agreement to be established, where they will feel safe, and where the executive elites give importance to detailed issues such as the sharing of power. Stating that the inter-communal talks that started in 1968 could not provide a solution to the problem and that the Cyprus problem continues on an ongoing basis, Prof. Dr. Sözen pointed out that this is due to the fact that the official diplomacy conducted is disconnected from the rest of the society, as well as the fact that there is a lack of a reconciliation culture and experience in the communities, and a lack of trust.
Prof. Dr. Sözen went on to point out that there are three important difficulties in reaching a solution; first of all, a solution should be designed that both the two community leaders would sign, as well as the guarantor states, and should this be achieved, then the solution should be subjected to a simultaneous and separate referendum, and eventually a federation should be established that is operatable and sustainable. Also touching on the developments after the hydrocarbon discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean, Prof. Dr. Sözen pointed out that the treaty that Turkey made with Libya has raised concerns with actors such as Israel, Egypt and the Greek Cypriots. In an effort to isolate Turkey, they have cooperated in signing the EastMed Natural Gas Pipeline Agreement together. This in turn has resulted in the tensions rising in the region, with Turkish warships preventing international companies from digging in this controversial economic area in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Instead of creating an environment for reconciliation, the discovery of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean has created a very limited and sovereign-oriented competitive environment between the two communities. Prof. Dr. Sözen stated that the Greek Cypriot administration as the only recognised government in Cyprus, claimed that they were the dominant decision-maker and thus, do not need to consult the Turkish Cypriots in this matter. With this understanding, they immediately rejected the proposal from the TRNC President Mustafa Akıncı, to establish a joint committee in deciding who would authorize the exploration and drilling works.
Upon questions received by the participants, Prof. Dr. Sözen stated that the recent developments are not leading to armed conflict and that the parties involved wish to act with common sense by sitting at a diplomatic table to solve the issues in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey is the largest country in the region, witholding the longest coastline, and therefore excluding one of the biggest actors in the arithmetics has meant that no compromise has been reached, and that exclusions have been made. Turkey claims they have a right in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and although there is a presence of Turkey's naval boats that has been named the “gun boats" power demonstration, Turkey in fact does not want to engage in a war, and would actually prefer to sit down for negotiations with the parties involved and resolve the matter via diplomatic means.