Special Report: Kıbrıs’ta Barış Engellenemez! by Nikos Christofis

10.5.15, on a very special report, invites five experts -actively conducting research on Cypriot politics- coming from diverse ethnic backgrounds to discuss in depth the island's next day on the aftermath of the recent political change in the Turkish Cypriot side.

5. Kıbrıs’ta Barış Engellenemez! by Nikos Christofis*

Mustafa Akıncı, a center-left politician and the former mayor of the northern part of divided Nicosia in the second half of the 1970s, managed in the run-off of the Turkish Cypriot elections on the 26th of April to achieve a landslide victory (60.5%) against the former president of the ‘TRNC’, Derviş Eroğlu (40.5%). Although it is too early to see the full picture of what may follow or chart the resulting positive climate that may lead to concrete results, there is no doubt that this turn of events signifies a new era of hope for not only Cyprus but for the entire Eastern Mediterranean region, as well as Greek-Turkish relations and the prospect of the accession of the northern part of Cyprus to the EU.

Turkish Cypriot journalists have rightly argued that when Mustafa Akıncı said ‘We suffered in ’63 [and] the Greek-Cypriots suffered in ’74… [I]t’s time for both of us to heal our wounds’, he was able to verbalize one of the greatest taboos of the common history of the two communities. In this way, he also presented himself as the leader of all the residents of the occupied part of the island, countering the Turkish propaganda expounded by his main opponent who claimed that second-generation Turkish Cypriots would be expelled if Akıncı won the election. His political agenda also capitalized on the discomfort felt by Turkish Cypriots regarding Turkey’s political vision and arrogance, which is based on descriptions of northern Cyprus as the ‘TRNC of the IMF’, and he adopted a cypro-centred agenda through which he claimed a ‘Cypriot’ identity for the people which is on equal terms with their Greek Cypriot counterparts.

Akıncı’s consistent vision for a united Cyprus also became evident when he underscored north Cyprus' desire not to be ‘Turkey's progeny, but its sibling’. Despite the immediate reaction of the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who stated that Turkey would continue to consider it as its ‘child’ because of the ‘sacrifices’ Turkey has made, Akıncı replied, ‘Does Turkey not want to see its child grow?’ This was a non-confrontational approach, but at the same time, it meant not surrendering autonomy to Ankara. Although it is too early to speculate, it seems that he will try to transform the relationship into one of reconciliation and dialogue in order to solve the existing problems and reach a sustainable solution. At the same time, he openly questioned Turkish hegemony over the Turkish Cypriot community and demonstrated in the best possible way the emancipation of the Turkish Cypriot community from Islamic-style colonial perceptions which attempted to promote the AKP in the northern part of Cyprus. Against that background, the support that Mustafa Akıncı has won carries with it the will of the majority of the Turkish Cypriot community and they have entrusted him with the task of claiming a common Cypriot space, which was nullified after the 1974 invasion, as defined both in political and economic terms. As such, Akıncı’s vision also carries a revolutionary dimension with it in the sense that it stakes a claim to the leading role, thus superseding Turkey, in negotiation talks with the Greek Cypriots.

These developments offer revived hope for a solution, even for those who may be more pessimistic, but as the saying goes, ‘it takes two to tango’. The ball now seems to be in the Greek Cypriot court, and they should not mistakenly attribute the present developments to their own policies or ignore the dynamics coming into being in the north, as was the case with the Annan Plan in 2004 (for this commentator, the Annan Plan, even though it had its problematic points, offered a viable means of solving the Cyprus Problem).

Mustafa Akıncı’s victory, achieved through his cypro-centric, anti-status quo, and pro-solution stance, has already brought about a climate of euphoria in both parts of Cyprus and it has created positive grounds for the new round of negotiation talks which will start in early May with UN Special Adviser Espen Barth Eide. There is no doubt that the most difficult steps in coming up with a solution are yet to come, but, as people have been shouting in unison, “Kıbrıs’ta Barış Engellenemez!” (Peace cannot be prevented in Cyprus).

*Nikos Christofis is a graduate from the Turkish Studies Department (now Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies), University of Cyprus (1999-2003), and holds a masters degree from Middle Eastern Studies Department, University of Manchester, United Kingdom (2004). He defended his doctoral dissertation at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands (February 3, 2015). He is one of the reviewers and members of the editorial board of the e-journal Athens Journal of History, the Politikon – International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS), and the chief-editor of Ottoman and Turkish Studies, Dissertation Reviews.