By: Michail Kyriakos
The idea of “frozen conflicts”, came in the spotlight after the end of Cold War and the subsequent interventions and secession movements from areas of USSR, such as Gagauzia, Nagorny Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transnistria  in the late 1990’s. Frozen conflicts, however,do not necessarily stay like that (inactive conflicts) but based on political developments they could reignite . Following the Crimean referendum  and its annexation by the Russian Federation in 2014 , Crimea remains a frozen conflict. Frozen conflicts, are not uncommon but exists even in regions without direct Russian influence, such as North Cyprus. However, most of the cases are former Soviet Union areas with large Russian populations or politico-economic connection with Moscow. The lack of active conflict in these areas, coupled with an absence of a finite peaceful resolution, holds them in a frozen and underdeveloped state due to limited sovereignty and recognition . Alas being in a frozen conflict, means for an area to be in a state of limbo without free access to the global market, no legal entity and no formal recognition by the United Nations and always in dependency with the parent/guardian state. As time goes by and these disputed areas remain unrecognized legal entities, they face structural, politico-economic problems that puts their fate in jeopardy.
These entities, de facto states for the most part, face many internal issues and challenges. For instance, despite the fact that they have created their own governmental institutions, they lack of economic and political independence, especially since they are not universally recognized as states by the international community . Due to the fact that most of these “states” are being controlled or are largely dependent upon their parent states, they are often subjected to playing the role of puppet states. For example, Crimea survives politically and economically under the shadow of Russia while North Cyprus is still dependent upon Turkey’s economic and military support. It is clear that these areas are in dire need of development in order to progress and gain sovereignty within the area. Subsequently, sustaining the status quo without formal recognition or resolving the conflict, results in these states remaining in a vicious cycle of instability and dependence.
The status quo of these “states” has become unbearable for the local population, resulting in demonstrations and clashes with the authorities in many circumstances. In many cases there does not seem to be a clear path that these “states” could pursue in order gain recognition and independence. Often, parent countries clamp down on secession movements, as they fear the possibility of a domino effect and the legitimization of these independence processes. In many of these cases, such secessionist movements aim to remove ethnic minorities from a bicommunal or multinational state, either to form a homogenous and self-ruled country or to reunite with their parent state. However, in almost all cases this seems to have backfired.
For instance, in the aftermath of the 1974 Turkish invasion, under the pretext of acting as a guarantor power, the demographic character of Cyprus changed when Turkey illegally brought some 40,000 settlers . This in turn, created extreme financial dependence, and until today Turkey contributes a significant amount to the budget of North Cyprus. North Cyprus also needs Turkey to act as its gateway to the global market, in order to export its goods to the world. Penetration of the local economy by the parent state is also evident in the case of Nagorny Karabakh and Russia. However, in this case, the demographics changed when the majority of the population – the Azerbaijanis- started fleeing to nearby Azerbaijan due to continuous conflict. In 150 years’ time, the Armenians became the absolute majority in the area . Nagorny Karabakh also heavily relies on the financial support of the Armenian diaspora .
The Northern part of Cyprus, which is being administered by the Turkish-Cypriots under the name Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, has been in talks for many years with the Republic of Cyprus, which is largely administered by the Greek-Cypriots, to resolve its status. Attempts for a bi-zonal, bicommunal federation under the auspices of the Special Envoy of the United Nations, have been futile for the past 42 years. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Turkish-Cypriots are left without any other viable options. Several factors, such as the exerted control by Turkey, the arrival of settlers, and lack of recognition from the international community has pushed them repeatedly to resume negotiations in order to be reintegrated into the international system.
The case of North Cyprus is a strong example of what these “states” could face after many years of isolation and one-sided attachment with their parent states. It is also an example of what is possibly their only rational choice, which is pursuing talks through the United Nations or regional organizations such as the European Union, in order to achieve reintegration, stability, and to normalize their relations with the rest of the world. Nevertheless, in order for this to happen, it is necessary for these “states” to detach themselves from their parent states and accept many concessions in the aforementioned negotiations and peace talks. The intensified negotiations in Cyprus have a great chance of success and the local and international factor remain optimistic for a final solution after 42 years of frozen conflict. If negotiations do succeed, then perhaps we could see a positive outcome and a good example that should be followed for the rest areas aforementioned that are currently entrapped within frozen conflicts and subsequent economic stagnation.
Kyriakos Michail is a postgraduate student pursuing an MA in Intelligence and International Security. He earned a BA in Political Sciences from the University of Cyprus. Kyriakos’ research interests include EU politics, conflict resolution, radicalization and Middle-Eastern politics. He previously worked as an intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus and with local NGOs, such as the Cypriot Puzzle in research projects that are relevant to the Cyprus’ problem, such as the demographic changes on the island of Cyprus.
 John O’Loughlin, Vladimir Kolossov & Gerard Toal (2014) Inside the post-Soviet de facto states: a comparison of attitudes in Abkhazia, Nagorny Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Transnistria, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 55:5, p. 423
 BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26606097
 Russian Government Announcement http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20603
 Morar, Filor (2010) The Myth of ‘Frozen Conflicts’: Transcending Illusive Dilemmas, per Concordiam Journal of European Security and Defense Issues, Domestic Security Vol. 1, Number 2, p. 11
 Ibid, p. 15
 Costas M. Constantinou & Mete Hatay (2010) Cyprus, ethnic conflict and conflicted heritage, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33:9, p. 1602.
 Heinz Kramer (1997) The Cyprus problem and European security, Survival, 39:3, p. 20
 Öner Günçavdi & Suat Küçükç[idot]fç[idot] (2009) Economic Growth Under Embargoes in North Cyprus: An Input‐Output Analysis, Turkish Studies, 10:3, p. 365
 Laurence Broers (2015) From “frozen conflict” to enduring rivalry: reassessing the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, Nationalities Papers, 43:4, p. 563
 See UN’s Resolution 649 (1990)
Image credit: http://www.thetravelingadvisor.com/2012/09/24/contested-space-2/the-green-line-2/
Kyriakos Michail is pursuing his MA in Intelligence and International Security at King's College London. Kyriakos’ research interests include EU politics, conflict resolution, radicalization and Middle-Eastern politics. He previously worked as an intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus and with local NGOs the Cypriot Puzzle.