RUMOUR has it that the primary reason for the collapse of the negotiation process for the resolution of the Cyprus problem was that we were too near to an agreement. If there is any truth in this allegation – the available evidence is suggesting that there is – then this must be the moment of truth.
In practical terms, the real options we have are: (a) the partition of Cyprus and (b) a federated structure the northern part of which will be under the control of Turkish Cypriots. It is abundantly clear that we do not have a third option and arguing on the basis that we do is mere wishful thinking, which is gradually and painfully leading to the Turkification of the whole of the island, at the expense of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Both options have risks, which we should seek to assess and evaluate, in a cool and objective manner. In this evaluation process, we should allow for the fact that there are short-sighted interests which influence the ticking of the balance in one or the other direction.
For example, we have seen numerous examples of civil servants on both sides of the fence who favour partition on the basis that a federated structure would adversely affect their perceived prospects of reaching top positions within the civil service, given that the top positions would have to be shared with members of the other community.
We have also seen examples of business people, who have dealings with the state, worrying that in a federated structure their ability to “pull the right strings” would be adversely affected or that they would be confronted with more competition. On the other side of the equation, there are those who are so keen to avert partition that they might be willing to take excessive risks.
The time has come to explain to the people of Cyprus, in clear, unambiguous and honest terms, what are the options they have and get them to make their choice and accept the responsibility for the consequences of their decision.
It should not be a “yes” or “no” decision; it should be “a partition” or “a federation” decision. The burden of explaining the available options will inevitably fall on the shoulders of our politicians but journalists will also have a very important role to play in this process – possibly a more important one than that of the politicians. Journalists should recognise and accept their share of the responsibility in assisting the people of Cyprus to make this historic election; they should act without prejudice or fear.
The election, which the Cypriots will be called upon to make, will determine the future of Cyprus. Our responsibility towards the past and the future generations is immeasurable. We should all be encouraged to think in terms of the next 500 or 1,000 years and not in terms of who will be elected as president, in a year’s time.
It follows that Nicos Anastasiades should not seek his re-election; instead, he should serve as a real statesman by ensuring that the debate, which must precede the decision on “partition or “federation” is carried out in a fair and objective manner.
By the way, working on the basis that we will be able to reach an agreement with the other side, the fair implementation of which will be secured by absolute guarantees, is a fallacy. The only real guarantee will be the commitment of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to make it work. There is a very evident risk that such an undertaking will be undermined by the “mother countries” interfering with the running of the federation in a manner that would serve the perceived short-term interests of Greece or Turkey.
It follows that the thrust of the emphasis must be placed on protectively isolating Cyprus from the political in contrast to the cultural influence of Greece and Turkey. If this could be somehow achieved, we should not hesitate to go for the federation.
Otherwise, the future of Cyprus is grim. Whatever view one takes, the truth of the matter is that we are running out of time and our patience is being exhausted. We will never be able to reach a better deal. Whoever says the opposite is taking the people of Cyprus for a ride. It is a long ride that has been going on for almost 50 years. We have had enough.I was 16 when the late Archbishop triumphantly declared “victory”. Now, I am 72. It’s now or never!
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist writing in the Cyprus Mail and in Alithia