Cypriot Federalism: A Nonstarter in the Shadow of Erdogan’s Turkey – Professor Habib Malik, Lebanese American University, 16 March, 2017

by on March 30, 2017

Cypriot Federalism: A Nonstarter in the Shadow of Erdogan’s Turkey
Habib Malik
Associate Professor of History
Lebanese American University
16 March 2017

Despite all the problems it has gone through in the last decades, Lebanon can be described as the freest society in the Arab world. Common belief is that this has been achieved by the particular political formula based on a power-sharing arrangement between the major confessional communities that exist in Lebanon. This does not seem to be entirely true. The relatively peaceful coexistence between various religious groups can also be attributed to the fact that the Lebanese Christians, unlike elsewhere in the region, have managed to preserve their freedoms, and their way of life has become infectious to the other communities. Nevertheless, Lebanon is a country whose functioning depends on constant compromises, often leading to a long-lasting political paralysis. While the Christians, due to various factors, are gradually losing their political influence, the other two major religious denominations, the Sunnis and the Shias, enjoy support of two powerful regional actors, Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively, reflected in their interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs. Meanwhile, Cyprus is negotiating a settlement along the lines of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Lebanon’s case can serve as a warning of possible risks associated with such an arrangement. Cyprus must take into account that its powerful neighbor to the north, Turkey, obviously favours one side of the prospective federal arrangement. Under the current leadership of Recep Erdogan, Turkey might not have the best interest of the united country on its mind. It also demonstrated in the past that it is willing to take radical steps in order to safeguard its own interests on the island. Right now the Greek Cypriots are in the position of controlling their own destiny on the piece of territory that is theirs exclusively. Given these circumstances, is pursuing federalism at any cost truly the wisest choice?