Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Here’s a solution to the property wrangling

By Loucas Charalambous

I HAVE already expressed the fear that, in the end, the ongoing peace effort would probably result in failure because the tactic being followed, mainly by President Anastasiades and his team, is the worst possible. What is taking place is a strange type of public negotiation.

The tactic of publicising and advertising some of our ‘successes’, supposedly at the expense of the other side, has given the opportunity to the rejectionists on both sides of the dividing line, to embark on an irrational, daily war of words against the two leaders – a development that has already caused serious problems.

Instead of leaving debate and confrontation to be held if and when there is a comprehensive settlement, the handling and tactical manoeuvring being seen had sparked a paroxysm of rejectionism ruled by unrelenting demagoguery that will attain new heights daily, especially in view of the parliamentary elections. In this swamp of demagoguery, the whole procedure would be degenerate and eventually collapse.

In the last weeks the rhetoric centred on the property issue and particularly the notorious question of who would have the first say on properties in the areas that would constitute the territory of the two federal entities – the owner or the current user? All this unnecessary fuss started with a pointless statement by Anastasiades.

In practice, this is a non-existent issue which, with the rhetoric that has developed, apart from undermining the talks’ procedure, could turn into a catastrophic boomerang for our side. It is our side that should have sought restrictions to the movement/re-settlement of people, from one federal state to the other. An agreement that set no restrictions to the return of properties, as is being demanded by Papadopoulos, Sizopoulos, Lillikas etc, would have the following astonishing result:

It is almost certain that very few of the Greek Cypriots would choose to return and settle in the properties they had before 1974 and would stay in the Greek Cypriot-controlled area. In contrast the big majority of the Turkish Cypriots would happily relocate to their properties in the south which, as is well known, are found primarily in the seaside areas of Larnaca and Polis and today have a much greater value than the properties of Greek Cypriots in which they are living in the north.

I do not expect our political showmen are in a position to comprehend where such a development would lead. The Greek Cypriots who have taken Turkish Cypriot properties in the south, not only do not want to leave and return to the north, but they might be prepared to commit murder to avoid giving up these properties.

After all, this was one of the main reasons for the ‘resounding’ no of 2004. Almost everyone who had been using Turkish Cypriot properties in the south had voted against a settlement because they did not want to give them up and return to the north. I do not blame them. It is perfectly reasonable for them not to want another upheaval. And what would they do if they returned to the villages in which they or their parents had been living? Grow wheat?

As the problem has been now created, I have a suggestion that would solve it and end all this fuss about the owners and users. All Greek Cypriots with property in the north should be invited to answer the following simple question:

“If your property in the north stays within the Turkish Cypriot federal state, do you wish to return to it or to be compensated, surrendering any Turkish Cypriot property you hold in the south to its owner?”

Of course their statement would be binding. It should be made clear to them that if they change their mind after a settlement and do not return to the north, they would still lose the Turkish Cypriot-owned property they hold. I bet there would not be 200 Greek Cypriots that would choose to relocate to the north.

In this way the dispute would be settled and the miserable demagogues would shut their mouth.

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