Security and guarantees — two thorniest issues in Cyprus talks

 22 Aug 2016 - 6:26


By Soyalp Tamcelik

The Cyprus conundrum is seen as an issue of conflicting security perceptions by the parties involved in the problem. Therefore, the issue of security and guarantees are among the main sticking points the parties are challenged by regarding the new state system desired to be established in Cyprus.
The security-related policies of both communities and homelands in Cyprus are based mainly on the notion of ‘threat’. For example, there is a different security policy involved in the event the Greeks feel threatened by Turkey than in the event of such a threat coming from Turkish Cypriots. The same situation applies to Turkish Cypriots and the guarantor states.
Accordingly, Cyprus is very important for Turkey in that it is located on Turkey’s route opening to the Mediterranean Sea and also impacts on eastern Mediterranean geopolitics. The importance the island has for Greece is particularly noteworthy for the realisation of political and economic rationality. As for what it means to the United Kingdom, it pertains to the organisation of her regional interests and the protection of her sovereign military bases on the island.
This issue has come to the current point after a three-stage process followed by the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation. The first stage emerged on the basis of Perez de Cuellar’s ‘Guiding Principles’ in 1986 and the drafted proposal in 1989, the second stage was built on Boutros Ghali’s ‘Set of Ideas’ in 1992 while the third stage was organized according to the ‘Overall Framework Agreement’, proposed by Kofi Annan in 2004.
Accordingly, after all proposals made regarding guarantees were evaluated, it was understood that the proposals had been altered in line with the principle of “mutatis mutandis” (the necessary changes having been made) and that it was then decided that these agreements be abolished altogether. The issue of guarantees is played down by some of the changes in Ghali’s Set of Ideas, while the Annan plan’s “mutatis mutandis” principle restricts and narrows down its scope.
At the current stage of the negotiations, there is a demand being made according to the proposals of UN officials for treating the Treaty of Guarantee and Alliance as two separate treaties with the parties involved being asked to abandon either one. The proposal the Greek Cypriot/Greek side is preparing to put forward, however, envisages a complete removal of this system.
The Turkish side continues to insist, in principle, that its active and actual guarantorship continues according to the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. But, in order not to be the party disrupting the negotiations, Turkey is at the same time giving the impression that the treaty may be revised in accordance with the changing circumstances. In this regard, it is considered that Turkey has been carefully deliberating what course of action to take in accordance with the two goals that it wants to achieve about the issue of “Security and Guarantees” in Cyprus.
The first goal is to ensure the survival and security of the Turkish Cypriot community, and the second is the prevention of any threat that may come to Turkey from the island as well as the protection of Turkey’s rights and interests in the eastern Mediterranean region.
According to the Annan Plan rejected by the Greek Cypriots, it is stated that the balance established by the new treaty should be respected; a treaty expected to go into effect with the Treaties of Guarantee and Alliance, and by which the Treaties of Establishment, Guarantee and Alliance, previously signed in Cyprus, remain in effect, and the “mutatis mutandis” principle is applied according to the new order. Additionally, a structure is desired in which the independence, territorial integrity, security, and constitutional order of the “United Cypriot Republic” that will be founded are protected as well as those of the constituent states.
As for the Treaty of Alliance, it was decided that the island should be demilitarised and disarmed through the Additional Protocol. However, although it was demanded that an equal number of soldiers be kept on the island, the Tripartite Headquarters system, a part of the 1960 treaty, was abolished. Therefore, it is considered that the principle of mutatis mutandis was implemented in the provisions of the Treaty of Alliance according to the Annan Plan. In this regard, the treaty tried to partially satisfy the Greek Cypriot side regarding the guarantees while it tried to appease the Turkish side with the perpetuation of the 1960 regime. The same situation applies to the Treaty of Alliance.
Since the guarantee system wanted to be established in Cyprus cannot be possibly built unilaterally, it is necessary that the parties unite around a general understanding on the issue of security. However, as the subjective security system currently in use in Cyprus increases the risk of conflict, one that optimally accommodates the current needs — an original system — should be established.
Regional powers and global actors oppose the existence of “foreign powers” on the island because of regional balances and geopolitical sensitivities, and they thus want to render the Turkish thesis ineffectual and isolate it in time. Owing to a number of reasons, such as the potential of the hydrocarbon deposits in the vicinity of the island, the formation of new power balances in the Middle East, global actors now becoming part of the power-grab conflict etc., the presence of fully equipped Turkish soldiers on the island is regarded as a serious threat. Therefore, regional and global actors desire to see no Turkish military presence on the island, and if this will not be possible, they want to restrict the right and authority of the Turkish army in the north. Since the Greek Cypriot side has been acting in the same direction, they want this right to be either completely revoked or rendered dysfunctional, by referring the Treaties of Guarantee and Alliance to the UN Security Council.
The Turkish thesis regarding security and guarantees remains a strong one in terms of international law. All of the aforementioned treaties are effective, retaining their validity. These agreements are not subject to unilateral changes as they have an international quality. However, since any decision to be reached on this matter will be political because of the political nature of the Cyprus issue, we believe that it is not right to interpret the problems in question from a purely security-related angle. Since, additionally, it does not seem possible for a political agreement deprived of a sound security plan to survive, it appears that the Turkish side’s margin of concessions regarding the security and guarantee aspects of a political agreement wanted to be signed on Cyprus is not very wide.
The latest opinion presented by the UN during the inter-communal negotiations pushes this margin’s limits in a way. The first phase of the two-optional plan envisages the establishment of a system according to which the Treaty of Alliance will remain in effect and an agreed number of soldiers can remain on the island. According to this option, however, the Treaty of Guarantees is being abolished, thereby causing the loss of the right to unilateral intervention, disrupting also the principle of “effective guarantees.” To compensate for this loss, it may take the Turkish side to drive a harder bargain for a bigger number of soldiers and more military equipment.
The second option involves the end of the Treaty of Alliance and the Turkish troops’ leaving the island. However, the Treaty of Guarantees remains effective, and there is a desire to form, as part of the current system, a group of guarantors that will include international actors, such as the NATO and the EU. Under these circumstances, the guarantee system is giving way to a presence of international guarantees. According to this option, when the Turkish troops are withdrawn from the island, it will be the actual eradication of the Turkish thesis, and when the Treaty of Guarantees turns into international guarantees, it will mean the end of the possibility of an effective intervention by the Turkish side.