The efforts to break a deadlock and find a solution to the 36-year division of Cyprus came to a focal point when Republic of Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu resumed direct talks at the United Nations on November 18. Together, they also met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Since 1974, a plethora of talented international diplomats have worked on the Cyprus issue in an attempt to find a solution under a UN framework. As U.S. Special Coordinator to Cyprus from 1997 to 1999, my personal experience has led me to believe that the Cyprus issue can be solved through serious and intense negotiations within the UN framework. At the time, I worked alongside Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who was President Bill Clinton's Presidential Emissary to Cyprus. Today, I maintain that a solution short of a bicommunal bizonal federation with a single sovereignty cannot be accepted within this framework. This is a notion that is accepted and supported in the international community, including by Great Britain, one of the guarantor powers of Cyprus.
This is why I was surprised to read the position for a Cyprus solution suggested by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, for who I have a great deal of respect, in a recent op-ed in the London Times. Secretary Straw called on Great Britain to "consider the formal partition of Cyprus" if the current negotiations fail. I understand it has been a long and arduous settlement process for Cyprus; however, my contention is that we should not forgo the position of a bicommunal bizonal federation with a single sovereignty that enjoys international support. Moreover, British Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs David Lidington reaffirmed the British government's position. According to Cyprus Weekly, during a House of Commons debate held November 16 about Cyprus, Lidington stated the British government does not support partition and is bound by the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee to prohibit it. He was content "to make it clear that the Government's position is to support a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality for a united Cyprus."
Another guarantor power of Cyprus, Turkey, is an important player in the region. In his address to Turkish Parliament in April 2009, President Barack Obama said, "Turkey has been a resolute ally and a responsible partner in transatlantic and European institutions." The United States supports Turkey's bid to join the European Union. In recent years, Turkey has demonstrated vibrancy toward European Union accession by making progress toward membership. Secretary Straw's position stems largely from a concern that Turkey will drift away from this European orientation because of a possible deadlock for a Cyprus solution. However, his concern should not direct attention away from finding a settlement within the existing framework.
When we worked on a Cyprus solution, we would try to identify a path toward a solution that all parties could agree upon -- a bi-zonal bi-communal federal solution. Historically, a federal solution, which in essence means a single sovereignty, was never up for negotiation. Let's not forget that the 2004 Annan Plan was based on a bi-zonal bi-communal federation with a single sovereignty. Furthermore, in my opinion, two sovereign states would be too small to compete on the world stage. The "north" would be isolated and presumably not in the European Union. Therefore, the citizens of a proposed "northern sovereign state" would be unable to enjoy current European Union measures created to bring Turkish Cypriots closer to Europe (for example, the "Green Line Regulation"), and under an eventual federal solution, the full benefits of EU membership. Instead, a proposed "northern sovereign state" would be devoid of any EU influence and completely dependent on Turkey, making it a burden to Turkey. Turkey does not need or could afford such a burden.
Therefore, the notion of two sovereignties or two countries is simply not an option. The path that is forged for a Cyprus solution will have twists and turns indicative of any negotiation process. However, at the end of that winding path one thing is clear -- Cyprus should be one country.