Economic troubles and the terrible earthquake disaster have been at the top of the agenda of the public in Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In this environment, the presidential elections in the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GASC), which are important for the future of the Cyprus problem, have not been on our radar.
As a very brief reminder, 14 candidates competed in the first round of the SCGA Presidential election held on February 5, 2022. Of these candidates, Independent Nikos Christodoulides, a former Foreign Minister supported by the Democratic Party (DIKO), the Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK) and the Democratic Unity and Solidarity Party (DIPA), received 32.04% of the total votes, while Independent Andreas Mavroyanis, supported by the People’s Progressive Party AKEL, received 29.59% of the votes and qualified for the second round. The center-right Democratic Mobilization (DISY) candidate Averof Neofytou came third with 26.11%.
In the February 12 run-off, Nikos Christodoulides finished ahead with 51.97% of the vote. Christodoulides will be sworn in on Tuesday, February 28, 2023 and will officially take office on Wednesday, March 1, following a handover ceremony.
In his election manifesto, Christodoulides had emphasized that he would strive for a solution to the Cyprus problem within the framework of an agreement between the two sides. To this end, he pledged to work for the Council of the European Union to adopt a resolution linking the settlement of the Cyprus problem with EU-Turkey relations and Turkish “aggression”, and for the appointment of a strong figure to deal with these issues. In other words, the settlement would involve the application of the EU acquis to the whole island, the Republic of Cyprus would remain intact with a constitutional amendment to include the rights of the island’s Turks, thus creating a “special status” Turkish Cypriot minority. The social rights of the Turks will be ignored and will be based on individual rights and freedoms. Again, according to these proposals, the settlers will be repatriated to Turkey. In addition, the guarantees would be completely abolished and Turkish troops would leave the island.
These promises of Christodoulides overlap with the Greek Cypriot position at the failed 2017 Crans Montana summit meeting between the then TRNC President Mustafa Akıncı and his Greek counterpart Nikos Anastasiadis, which he attended as the Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister. Christodoulides, who was one of the team that prevented the solution of the problem based on agreements by not accepting the parameters of the federal solution presented to them in Crans Montana, now has a chance to enter a positive process, which is to accept the de facto situation on the island and move towards a de jure solution.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the failure of 2017. TRNC President Tatar is now in favor of a two-state solution in Cyprus, not a federal solution. It seems that the Turkish side insists on a two-state solution with political equality. The current approach of the Greek Cypriot side will lead to the unsuccessful end of the decades-long struggle of the Turkish Cypriots through the “osmosis” method and will condemn the Turks on the island to a method in which they will melt away. In all likelihood, neither the Turkish Cypriots nor Turkey will agree to this.
The history of the negotiations is full of the Greek Cypriot side’s mistakes that prevented a solution. Examples of these mistakes can be seen in the statements of some Greek Cypriot officials, including former President Glafkos Kliridis and Foreign Minister Nikos Rolandis. Christodoulides has the opportunity to go down in history as a leader who achieved lasting peace, not as a leader who repeated the mistakes of the past and prevented a solution to the problem. The election of the young President (49) in favor of a settlement will have a positive impact not only on Cyprus but also on the relations and balances in the region, especially in Turkey and Greece.
However, years of experience have led us to worry that the realization of this wish may, unfortunately, be no more than a dream.