Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Numbers don’t back up talk of refugee sell-out

By Loucas Charalambous

PRESIDENT Anastasiades and his associates are committing a very big mistake in their handling of the Cyprus talks. They have even made this issue a prisoner of their tactical manoeuvring.

Tactical manoeuvring, in the Cyprus context, is a form of political behaviour that is characterised by the use of a tactic to achieve a specific, often trivial, goal which is an end in itself rather than part of a broader political plan.

Instead of directing all their efforts to achieving the basic target of an agreement as soon as possible, they are dilly-dallying, focusing a big part of these efforts on advertising some supposed successes on isolated issues. As a result they allow the rejectionist politicians, who have as their objective the thwarting of any agreement, to rant and rave relentlessly against specific details. Their clear objective is to create strong public opposition to a settlement like the one that prevailed in 2004.

Here is an example. A couple of weeks ago, Anastasiades rushed, for no apparent reason, to advertise as a big success the Turkish side’s acceptance of the idea that the right to property would be respected and that owners of property in the statelet of the other community would have three choices: return of property, compensation or exchange. There was no reason to mention all this, which was a tactical manoeuvre.

What was achieved? The opportunity was given to the rejectionist front (politicians and media) to launch a propaganda campaign against a settlement on the grounds that the president had accepted the rights of the ‘usurpers’ – current users of properties – that he was selling out the refugees, ignoring their rights and other such claims. And given that there is not yet any comprehensive settlement plan before us, so that this propaganda could be countered by citing the actual provisions of the agreement, the rejectionist claims go unanswered.

The truth is that this demagoguery is based on assumptions that have no relation to reality. They talk about the sell-out of the refugees’ right of return, but they are just fooling people. About which refugees and what return are they talking about? Since 1974, 41 years have elapsed. Most of the refugees that were above 35 at the time have passed away. How will they return?

Those that were under 20 at the time are now aged between 41 to 61 years old, have got families and jobs in the south. The last thing they would want would be to move back to the villages of their parents, under Turkish Cypriot administration, so they can have their property returned. As for those that were between 21 and 35 in 1974, they are today between 62 and 76 years of age. The same applies to them as the previous age-group, and more so because they are at an age that demands they live close to their offspring for support.

From the 160,000 refugees of 1974 (including babies) some 85,000 have died. Two thirds of those still alive would have their homes returned, and if they wanted could move into them, under Greek Cypriot administration. That leaves 25,000 people. Let me repeat that this number includes those that were babies in 1974 and have no connection to their homes in the north. So even if all these people decided to live under Turkish Cypriot administration in the property of their parents (what would they do there?), the Turkish side would have no problem accepting them.

Consequently, all this noise about the right to return and restitution of the refugee is nothing more than a scare story on which political demagoguery is built.

To deal with this situation Anastasiades and his people should leave aside the tactical manoeuvres and engage in an intensive effort aimed at producing an agreement as soon as possible (a couple of months should be enough). When this agreement is presented in its entirety it would deprive the political demagogues, who have already gone wild, of the time, pretexts and opportunities to create another poisonous climate which would kill the effort for a solution.

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