An open letter to Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci
By Elias Pantelides
Gentlemen, is a viable solution possible? Gentlemen, are you the leaders for peace?
Ahmet Gazioglu’s 1990 book The Turks in Cyprus, A province of the Ottoman Empire (1571-1878), covers the history of the Turkish Cypriots, but his facts are not always very accurate. At one stage he writes that in 1572 about 1,689 families were sent to Cyprus from Central Anatolia, saying “every immigrant selected for resettlement to Cyprus underwent an investigation as to his good behaviour and character.” However, later he publishes a translation of the original firmani (decree) ordering the transportation of people to Cyprus (dated September 9, 1571). “The following people will be sent to the said island: people living in barren, rocky, steep places; people who are in need of more land; those who are known for their bad character and unlawful activities,” it says.
Whatever the truth of the type of Turkish settler who came to Cyprus, and despite the effects of the centuries since 1571 on Cyprus, I still find Alexander the Great’s quote as valid today as it was when he first uttered it in 324 BC: “It is my wish, now that wars are coming to an end, that you should all be happy in peace…. For me any good foreigner is a Greek and any bad Greek is worse than a barbarian.”
I stated the above to emphasise that I do not distinguish a human being according to the person’s declared ethnicity, gender, colour of the skin, religious or even football affiliations.
The historical timeline of Cyprus is long and will not be repeated here. Suffice to say the Greeks dominated for three thousand years. Phoenicians, Egyptians, Lusignans, Genoese, Venetians came and left and then the Turks came and stayed. The British came in 1878 and partly left in 1960, retaining two British bases. Time passes quickly and more than fifty years have passed since the first ‘intercommunal divisions’ begun. The years 1964 and 1974 are very important for many Cypriots, but 2015 should be the one to bring peace in Cyprus. I believe, Mr Anastasiades who tried his best in 2004 for a solution, still wants one and so does Mr Akinci.
On April 25, about 67,000 people eligible to vote in northern Cyprus voted for Akinci and about 44,000 for Eroglu. Around one third of the 176,980 persons eligible to vote preferred to stay at home. Mustafa Akıncı (born on December 28, 1947 in Limassol) will very soon be meeting President Nicos Anastasiades, (born September 27, 1946 at Pera Pedi of Limassol). Anastasiades was elected in February 2013 with about 236,000 valid ticks next to his name. Out of 545,000 eligible to vote, only 412,000 did.
Anastasiades and Akinci have to try and formulate a viable solution to the century old Cyprus problem. Before they sit down for serious talks it would be a good idea to be reminded of certain historical events.
Some of these events are:
October 16, 1915: Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary offered Cyprus to Greece, on condition that Greece joined their side in World War I. Greece was ‘neutral’ because Sofia, the wife of King Constantine of Greece, was the sister of the German Kaiser.
October 27, 1915: The Greek government refused the offer. The British offer to hand over Cyprus to Greece lapsed and was never repeated.
December 10-18, 1918: The Turkish Cypriots were alarmed due to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. The Greek Cypriot demand for enosis and their decision to send a delegation to the peace conference in Paris alarmed the Turks of Cyprus who held a national congress. On December 10, the congress held its first session and two resolutions were unanimously adopted. The first resolution said Turkish Cypriots strongly rejected enosis and demanded that when the future of the island was considered at the Paris Peace Conference, the Turkish Cypriots’ wish that Cyprus should be handed back to “its legal and real owner” should be considered. The second resolution appointed their religious leader or mufti as the sole delegate and representative of the Turkish Cypriots to present their case at the conference. The British authorities in Cyprus did not permit the mufti to leave Cyprus, thus preventing his contacts with the Turkish delegates in Paris.
These events were not very far, chronologically, to those of 1878 when the Bishop of Kitium Kyprianos addressed Sir Garnet Wolseley, upon his arrival in Larnaca, in a speech on July 22, 1878 saying “We (Greeks) accept the change of the government, because we believe that Great Britain will eventually help Cyprus, just like with the Ionian islands, unite Cyprus with mother Greece”.
Of course, no Cypriot born in 1878 is still alive and only a handful, if any, of those born in 1915. However, many younger Cypriots have their own personal, bitter memories, but it is time to lay them to rest and look to the future.
In the one hundred years since 1915 the Greek Cypriot dream of enosis has gone sour forever (so the Turks believe), likewise the Turkish Cypriot dream to return the island to Turkey, (or so the Greek Cypriots hope).
Gentlemen, Erdogan and Tsipras are watching you.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president of Turkey on August 10, 2014. He received more than 21 million votes out of over 55 million eligible to vote. Upon his election victory he stated “I will not be the president of only those who voted for me, I will be the president of 77 million.” It is not clear if the Turkish Cypriots are counted in this number.
In contrast, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, SYRIZA party leader, received 2,246,064 votes in this January’s election. The total electoral body was 9.911 million but more than 3.5 million people decided to be ‘‘idiots’’ and let the other citizens decide for them. Tsipras stated during his election victory speech: “Friends, the new Greek government will prove all the Cassandras of the world wrong. … We have a great opportunity for a new beginning.”
A solution to the Cyprus problem, over a century old now, must be viable. To be viable, it must be accepted by the majority of the Greeks of Cyprus, living on the island for thousands of years and who make up about 80 per cent of the population. To be viable, it must be accepted by the majority of the Turks of Cyprus, who came to the island after 1571.
A viable solution, even before the Turkish Cypriots begin to consider accepting it, must be accepted by the Turkish politicians in Ankara. To be viable it must not upset the strategic interests of the UK, who have the political muscle to torpedo anything that threatens their interests. Israel, Egypt and to a lesser extent Lebanon and Syria must be kept in mind, being our potential allies and/or economic partners across the blue sea that surrounds Cyprus. Finally, it would be nice if the solution was viewed positively by Athens.
Mr Anastasiades and Mr Akinci, please find a viable solution now before it is too late.
History repeats itself, when the citizens become idiots and refuse to vote. Without speaking out they let the politicians repeat the same mistakes over and over again, expecting a different result. You have a unique chance to be the leaders for peace.
Elias Pantelides is neither a historian nor a politician. He graduated from Yialousa Elementary school and the English School before spending two years in the army (1973-1975). He studied economics and accounting in London.