chapter  8
23 Pages

What is to be done? Bicommunalism, federation and confederation in Cyprus


Since 1974 the island of Cyprus has been divided into two territories between the Greek Cypriots in the south and the Turkish Cypriots in the north. This is a de facto reality. I wish to take this practical reality as the point of departure for my argument in this chapter simply because it is tantamount to an insurance policy that enables me to avoid disputes about history, purported legalities and illegalities and the concomitant blame culture that almost always accompanies this approach and has the combined effect of obstructing dispassionate analysis, enlightened discussion and open debate. In this particular respect, the Cyprus conflict is rather like that in Northern Ireland where the interpretation and the teaching of history have become weapons of competing partisan loyalties that have legitimised communal identities and rival views of partition. In other words, history itself has become part of the problem. It, too, is a prisoner of the past. Consequently we must distinguish scholarly historical analysis from the political uses of history. As Francis H. Hinsley remarked, ‘people often study history less for what they might learn than for what they want to prove’.2 Just as it seems impossible today to liberate Irish history from what is a particularly sterile and suffocating form of imprisonment, so it is instructive for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to avoid carrying this kind of ideological baggage with them into the seminar room and to the negotiating table. And, for what it is worth, the Irish Question (which is really a British Question) has recently demonstrated that a new modus operandi can be made to work if a new political will, incorporating the spirit of mutuality and reciprocity, can be forged from changing circumstances.