While the international community advocates a one-state solution, some experts believe that it might not be feasible in the island of Cyprus anymore.
Cyprus, a large island in the eastern Mediterranean, has been a disputed territory between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots since the 1960s after the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus, a state that was meant to represent both ethnic groups in 1960.
Greek Cypriots, which kept the presidential seat and the majority at the parliament, used the state authority against Turkish Cypriots, turning the beautiful island into a living hell for them between 1963 and 1974.
Türkiye, one of the three guarantor states for the security of Cyprus and its people alongside Greece and the UK, intervened in the conflict in 1974. The intervention was prompted by a Greek-led coup in the island seeking the unification of the island with Athens, which was also led by a military dictatorship at the time.
Since 1974, the island has been divided into two political entities: one led by Greek Cypriots in the south and another led by Turkish Cypriots in the north, which became the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) in 1983, recognised only by Ankara.
Sir Michael Graydon, a retired air chief marshal in the UK’s Royal Air Force, who was stationed in Cyprus as a station commander in the 1970s, sees a lot of unfairness in the refusal of the international community to recognise the TRNC as an independent state.
“I think the denial of human rights for a people [Turkish Cypriots] who meet all the requirements for democratic statehood, who were victims of ethnic cleansing for many years, who voted for the United Nations solution to the Cyprus Problem, the fact that they have had sanctions imposed for 37 years is a disgrace and it is time to end it,” Graydon told Embargoed, a Turkish Cypriot human rights group.
Graydon refers to the Annan Plan initiated by late Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, to facilitate the entry of a united Cyprus into the EU in 2004.
Despite being strongly supported by Türkiye, the initiative failed due to Greek Cypriot opposition. While Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly voted for the plan, a large majority of Greek Cypriots rejected it.
Graydon still has strong connections to the British expat community in North Cyprus as well as having close ties to the Girne branch of the Royal British Legion.
The UK, a former colonial state in Cyprus, had ruled the island between 1878 and 1960.
Graydon also strongly criticises the Greek Cypriot stubbornness over various international proposals to bring back the island under one state, giving a fair amount of authority to Turkish Cypriots.
“In terms of a bargaining position, which is what it is, then there’s absolutely no reason for the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot negotiators to give anything up until they see some response, some benefit coming to them, from the Greek Cypriots. And frankly, since 2004, there’s been no progress,” he observed.
Four years ago, the UK’s former top diplomat Jack Straw, also spoke about the deadlocked Cyprus issue, seeing the one-state solution as an impossible political scenario.
“Earlier this summer [of 2017] the 11th international effort to strike a deal between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots was rejected by the Greek Cypriot government, as every previous one had been,” Straw wrote.
“It is time to end the charade that a negotiated agreement to unite the island with a bizonal bicommunal government will ever be possible. The solution is to partition the island and give international recognition to the Turkish Cypriot state in the North,” the former UK foreign secretary added.
Most recently, Türkiye has also increased its international efforts to promote a two-state solution for Cyprus. “We will make every possible effort to ensure recognition of the Turkish Cypriot state as soon as possible,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in July this year after a visit to the island.
“All other offers and proposals are not valid anymore,” Erdogan emphasised. “No one should expect the Turkish Cypriots to give up their equal status and sovereignty, and to accept to live as a minority as per the will of the Greek Cypriots,” he added.
Türkiye has long backed an international solution over the political status of the island, but it has also firmly stated that Ankara, one of the protector states of Cyprus, will not allow any situation, which could bring back the horrific days of the 1960s and 1970s.
Ethnic cleansing over Turkish Cypriots
Graydon was on the island as a commissioned officer when Greek Cypriots were launching attacks against Turkish Cypriots prior to the Turkish intervention.
“We didn’t call it ethnic cleansing in those days, I’m not quite sure what we did call it, but ethnic cleansing became a word much later, and that was exactly what was happening,” he said.
“I’ve never forgotten the first time that I drove from Nicosia [Lefkosa] to Kyrenia through the Turkish sector there, because you went from the bright lights of Nicosia, to, really, mud huts with virtually no electric light,” he said. “These people were basically imprisoned and held there.”
Between 1963 and 1974, Turkish Cypriots were subjected to live literally in an invisible enclave in Cyprus island under the former far-right general George Grivas, who was the leader of EOKA terrorist organisation, defending the unification of the island with Greece called Enosis in Greek. Enosis is a far-right political ideology and Grivas was the leader of the Greek Cypriot ethnic cleansing campaign.
“Grivas had a full intent of removing Turkish Cypriots from Cyprus, there was little doubt about it at all. And I saw this happening throughout the 1960s, and when my wife and I lived there between 1967-69, we were able to see firsthand what was going on,” the former British air force general said.
While Greece and Greek Cypriots have continued to complain about the Turkish military presence in Cyprus, there were both political and historical reasons for that.
“In 1967, the Kofinou (Gecitkale) situation occurred, and although I personally did not see what had happened, friends of mine did, and the stories that they had to tell of the murder of women and children by Grivas and his thugs was ethnic cleansing of a magnitude which I had simply not come across before,” Graydon said.
“And to hear it from people who saw it, which was scarred in their memories, was shocking,” he added. “I think Türkiye, as a guarantor of security, had no alternative, because if it had not intervened, then, there probably wouldn’t be any Turkish Cypriots left on the island today.”
With the Turkish intervention, not only the right-wing Greek Cypriot coup attempt led by Nikos Sampson was prevented but also it brought the end of the military dictatorship in Greece, where the Turkish military’s successful Cyprus campaign struck the political prestige of Dimitrios Ioannidis, the junta leader in Athens.
But Greek Cypriots continue to teach their kids in their schools “the so-called 1974 invasion as the beginning of the whole situation, not, of course, the culmination of what had been going on for so many years before,” according to Graydon.
“So, unless the international community puts pressure on the Greek Cypriots to do better in that field, I don’t think anything’s going to happen.”