4 minute read

The intractability of the Cyprus conflict has turned into a research issue for analysts who have spent decades trying to provide a thorough justification for why the Problem hasn’t been solved. Few would contend that the so-called Cyprus conflict has a single explanatory component; assessments vary and frequently depend on the analysts’ ethnic background as well as their academic and theoretical preferences. Some people assume that there is political, and public will for a resolution, but they wonder why there hasn’t been one due to things like flimsy civil society actors, or the involvement of outside parties. More sociological perspectives concentrate on the causes of or elements that impact the formation and maintenance of perceptions that support opposing and “unbridgeable” points of view. As there is only “our truth” and “their propaganda,” all historical and contemporary concerns are seen through the prism of this identity conflict, which is marked by profound suspicion of the “other,” serious trust issues, and internalised and rigid positions. The use of historical events to “create” threats for the future, which once formed, perpetuate the status quo, is widely explored in attempts to explain the conflict in these terms, underlining at the same time the profundity of the two contradicting viewpoints. The refusal to reach a resolution is therefore seen in these studies as the result of socially constructed threats and long-standing beliefs that the perspectives of the two sides cannot be reconciled. Which is also why, unwillingness is only seen as a by-product of other variables rather than as a “stand alone factor” for the continuation of the dispute. In spite of being one of the longest-running disputes, the Cyprus issue also stands out because it lacks many of the traits common to other ethnic conflict situations. The lack of violence since 1974 (with some minor exceptions), coupled with the partial lifting of the restrictions in the freedom of movement in 2003 makes it difficult for an outsider not informed of the conflict to figure out if a conflict exists, in what form and what the impact is on the two societies. In other words, the fight has gotten very cosy, and neither side is substantially affected by the impasse. There are at least two major consequences of this arrangement for potential settlement. The first is that neither side is strongly motivated to take “bold steps” toward a conclusion. Since such acts necessitate sacrifices that are invariably associated with significant political cost, the political and other elite are unwilling to offer new proposals that could potentially result in a breakthrough. The second, which is connected to the first in a direct way, is that a large part of the population is also unwilling to take the risks associated with the settlement, embracing the status quo as a desirable and comfortable option. The political, economic, and sociological risks associated with a potential settlement that might threaten the status quo can be analysed on three levels. On a political level, the risks revolve on questions of governance and the perception of security that comes with the mono-ethnic way that internal and external affairs are now managed. On a societal level, the referent object in danger is identity. Hazards in situations of protracted conflict should and should also be considered more loosely, namely in terms of levels of anxiety as well as potential political, economic, or military costs. So, maintaining the conflict might be a way for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to maintain their sense of identity, and any disruption of the conflict’s fundamental routines might be seen, consciously or unconsciously, as a danger to their identities. So, Cypriots may be keen on maintaining habits that fuel conflict since this is the choice they perceive to bear the least risk, but also because doing so assists in maintaining the identities they have. When conflict routines become more internalised in society, they have a bigger impact. The more internalised they become, the tougher it is to disrupt them because doing so involves a high cost. The length of the conflicts and how “central” (vital) they are to a society determine their level of internalisation. Given that the conflict in Cyprus is one of the longest running in the world and since it is non-violent despite holding a significant place in the society, it has become hugely internalised. As a result, the cost of disruption is particularly high, and the fact that the conflict is comfortable raises the potential cost and inevitably reduces the willingness to engage in actions that would alter the status quo. This leads to an endless cycle where the constant routines keep the conflict’s “centrality” and the need to continue the routines is highlighted by the conflict’s importance. Involuntary or not, the established routines in conflict continuation as well as the impasse’s relative non-hurting condition will continue to foster behaviour that does not inspire much hope for a way out of the problem. Small groups that are successful in deviating from the “normal behaviour” will probably continue their efforts, but it is unlikely that they will have an impact unless there is a change in the general mentality of the population. But, if there is no shift in the local political discourses that reinforce threats and internalised conceptions of enemy-others, mentalities cannot change. Leaders’ provocative comments, particularly those coming from leaders in Ankara, simply further reinforce the internalised fears of Greek Cypriots and justify the necessity to maintain a defensive posture, which is effectively expressed through preference for the status quo.