Speakers from either side of Cyprus took part in a debate on the island’s reunification efforts organised by the Centre for Turkey Studies played host on 8 February.
The Turkish Cypriot participant at the event was Dr Erol Kaymak, who chairs the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Eastern Mediterranean University, while former University of Nicosia rector Dr Michalis Attalides was the Greek Cypriot speaker.
The event was hosted and chaired by Lord Hannay.
Dr Attalides began by emphasising the long-term failure to find a solution to the Cyprus problem and why this was the case. He argued that though the problem had not started in 1974, the invasion had greatly complicated the problem by increasing mutual fear and suspicion between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Natural gas deposits ‘a motivation’
He noted however that the leadership of both sides were making strong efforts to solve the problem as both had long expressed openness to co-operation while also trying to overcome the pre-existing suspicion and mistrust between either sides.
He added that geopolitical changes including the natural gas deposits off the coast of the island having added new motivations on either side to work together, as had the instability in the region surrounding the area having renewed interest in Cyprus.
Dr Kaymak agreed with Dr Attilades that the leaders of either side were aiming for a yes:yes outcome in both potential referendums, previous attempts at which such as in 2004 had failed. He added that the UN has presently not been playing a top-down role as before, but rather a facilitating one, making the process Cypriot-led and Cypriot-owned.
Proposed presidency is problematic
He added however, that the Geneva talks on the issue had failed in being unable to establish a plan, but that the conference was planning to re-convene in March. Dr Kaymak, stated however that the compromises are unlikely to be made in the next three weeks before the re-convention.
He was also critical of the presently proposed directly elected presidency with a great deal of centralised authority, he argued that this missed the point, and that the priority ought not to be “getting things done” in the business of government, but rather “getting along” which would be better preserved by stronger checks and balances on the executive.