I had to write this piece without knowing what the outcome of the most critical ninth day of the Cyprus conference in Crans-Montana would be. I wrote it with full awareness however, that, regardless of the outcome, this day would mark a defining moment in the 50+ years of efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.
It is indeed “the moment of truth” as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on his arrival to Crans-Montana yesterday for the second time in a week. We will either unite Cyprus now or let it drift into permanent division.
Over the last nine days, the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders have largely narrowed their differences on the essential elements of the problem – governance and power, sharing, property, territory, security and guarantees and the equivalent treatment of Turkish and Greece nationals. They have taken strong steps towards each other and have been able to take the discussions on a federal solution to the Cyprus problem to an unprecedented level. They know almost exactly how a final settlement will look like. All that is needed now is courage and will on the part of Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades to take that final step and make history.
A bi-zonal, bi-communal federation based on the political equality of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots may not be the ideal solution for many. But it is the only mutually acceptable solution for the two communities and therefore, the only way forward towards peace in Cyprus. A united, federal Cyprus, whereby democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms are safeguarded, will be stronger, safer and wealthier. The other choice is the continuation and worsening of the status quo, conditions of ceasefire, and increased uncertainty, instability and tensions.
“The important thing is to correctly assess what is possible and what is not possible under the given conditions,” wrote Professor Niyazi Kizilyurek earlier this week in a column that carried the title: “The Best Solution is the Most Possible Solution. “Rejecting ‘the most possible’ with the assertion of ‘rightfulness’ has resulted in many failures in the political arena,” he highlighted. “This is why political actors should take into account the given conditions and the balance of powers rather than chasing universal or ethical rightfulness… At the basis of the Cyprus disagreement lie the wrong and unrealistic calculations by political actors. A unity (federation) based on the equality of two communities is the most realistic possibility under the given conditions. Trying to water this down… or distorting it, is being unaware of the recent history of Cyprus or the current conditions.”
I hope that realism and reason will win over shortsighted political agendas or fears half a century on. I hope that we will seize this last opportunity to unite Cyprus, and embrace a united island with all its citizens. I hope that we will refuse to hold our future hostage to our past. And I hope we will give our children the chance to improve a united Cyprus in the future according to the conditions of their times, rather than burdening them with the division of generations long-gone.