The Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD) organized a public launch event on Thursday 15th December 2016 entitled “Security Framework for a United Cyprus: Research and Dialogue Initiative” where preliminary research findings from Cyprus as well as best practices on security and lessons learned from different post-conflict contexts were presented.
During his opening address, Prof Dr. Ahmet Sozen, SeeD Co-Research Director said "the Security Dialogue Project aims to re-frame the security dossier by articulating the real needs of the people to feel secure by going beyond the positional bargaining that has been characteristic of traditional negotiating approaches". On the same note, Dr. Alexandros Lordos SeeD Co-Research Director highlighted that the Security Dialogue Project aims to achieve this by “analyzing the security threats perceived by the two communities, based on which solutions acceptable to both communities can be identified, paving the way to resolve this polarized dossier”. Prof Dr. Dr. Hans Joachim Giessmann, Executive Director of Berghof Foundation, expressed the hope that “more people can come up with fresh ideas, which would then provide input to the ongoing process”.
Over the past two months, the Security Dialogue Project has organized numerous focus group discussions and interviews with key stakeholders in Cyprus. The Project has also evaluated its findings with the contribution of international experts on matters of transitional security with the aim of collecting best practices on possible security remedies for the threat perceptions that have been identified in both communities. Based on findings so far, it appears that a majority of perceived threats and risks related to a transitional and post-transition period are shared by both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The most commonly raised shared concerns and fears include economic security, encompassing concerns about competitiveness and the cost of a solution (e.g. compensation), and concerns about communal bias in the police and court system, which might undermine access to justice and contribute to a culture of impunity.
Security needs and fears that are specific to the Turkish Cypriot respondents include far-right extremist tendencies, and concerns about representation and marginalization, such as decision-making mechanisms that closely relate to power sharing. On the other hand, the security needs and risks commonly voiced by Greek Cypriot respondents include fears about guarantees and the Turkish military contingents, as well as Turkey's interference into domestic affairs and politics. Numerous alternative security arrangement options were generated by the fieldwork participants to address these threats and risks. Some of these alternative options and formulas that warrant further investigation and consideration include:
a) Formulation of a Treaty of Implementation: This formula, that garnered significant interest, would include a pre-commitment by key actors to comply with the transitional timeframe and conditions, and to take implementation disputes to an international court, if they cannot be resolved among the parties. As such, a Treaty of Implementation would be a binding contract that establishes a strict commitment to the peace agreement.
b) Availability of mixed police units, island-wide, beyond the mandate of the federal police: Constituent state police forces should include officers from both communities who would respond to inter-communal incidents, in order to address language barriers and perceived communal bias.
c) The Immovable Property Commission should be organized in such a way that it prioritizes and executes economic activities. In other words, disputed properties that include industrial estates, manufacturing units, universities, companies, agricultural land, hotels and so forth, should be prioritized to avoid obstruction of economic growth and the undermining of economic activities and competitiveness.
d) Strong and effective institutional arrangements at both the constituent and federal level can help address concerns about communal bias, sense of justice and marginalization. Strong and effective institutions will foster confidence and trust in new state institutions and their functionality, boost Cypriots’ loyalty to the federal state, and reduce the communities’ dependence on more controversial military solutions.
In terms of best practices and learning from other post-conflict contexts, several research papers were presented:
• Prof. Dr. Nina Caspersen (University of York) discussed the case of Cyprus in the light of international experience from other conflicts that involve de facto states. In this regard, she highlighted the need to acknowledge sovereignty concerns and provide credible security guarantees; but also, recommended that more creative ways of doing so should be explored, such that will be simultaneously acceptable to both communities. Furthermore, she emphasized the need to address security concerns of local minorities that will end up residing within each constituent state. Such concerns, she argued, can be remedied through local power-sharing and robust human rights protections.
• Anna Koukkides-Procopiou (University of Nicosia) highlighted the importance of ensuring gender inclusivity both during the peace process and in the agreed parameters of a comprehensive settlement, arguing that “disrespect and maltreatment of women is perhaps the most important predictor of a future breakdown of security”.
• Dr. Stratis Efthymiou (Sussex Centre for Conflict and Security Research) argued that “any multi-communal security forces which would need to be established in Cyprus would face the challenge of shifting current military personnel towards the identity of the new force, a task which could be facilitated by, among others, jointly taking part in international peacekeeping missions”.
• Dr. Derya Dilara Akguner (Kadir Has University), who considered the topic of multi-cultural and secure urban areas, urged that “focusing on local and global social connectedness in creating and sharing urban public spaces, should be the main common goal that alleviates tensions and eradicates previous limitations to Cyprus’ internal and external growth."
• Dr. Zenonas Tziarras (University of Central Lancashire – Cyprus) and Dr. Emine Eminel Sülün (Near East University) noted that “external security challenges that a Federal Cyprus may face in conjunction to domestic dynamics and decision-making processes should be examined by looking at Cyprus' external security environment and how existing 'national' interests and preferences will inter-react within the framework of a Federal Cyprus."
Following the presentation of the Security Dialogue Project findings and research papers prepared by the experts, the event closed with a lively discussion on the findings, recommendations and suggestions. During the event, it was also announced that a large inter-communal public opinion poll will be conducted over the next few weeks, to test the acceptability of different security alternatives in both communities of Cyprus.
The presentation on preliminary findings of the Security Dialogue Project can be downloaded here.