By Loucas Charalambous
IN JUNE 2003, then president Tassos Papadopoulos, in an interview he gave Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand, underlined that “if a solution is not found before Cyprus’ accession to the European Union there is a danger that its partition will become permanent.”
I dedicate this statement to all his incorrigible admirers who, even today, dismiss the argument that partition will stay if there is no solution as “blackmail of the people”.
In March 2003 in The Hague, a few months before this unexpected admission, Papadopoulos had accepted the Annan plan which Rauf Denktash had turned down. Later, in December 2003, he asked the UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan to call a new round of talks so the Cyprus problem could be solved before May 2004, when Cyprus was to join the EU. Annan called the two sides to New York in February 2004 for this purpose.
In New York, Denktash made an unexpected about-turn, accepting Annan’s proposal for a new round of talks that would include UN arbitration on issues that had not been agreed, at the end of the procedure. Papadopoulos also accepted the proposal, boasting afterwards that his handling of the matter “brought the Turkish Cypriot side to the negotiating table with the Annan plan, which until yesterday it had called ‘dead and buried’, as the basis.” (This statement I dedicate to his son Nicholas)
These events are mentioned by Kostas Hadjicostis (founder and boss of the Dias media group) in his recently published book Six Presidential Portraits, in which he profiles the first six presidents of the Republic. When Papadopoulos returned from New York in February, he met Hadjicostis, who wrote the following about their meeting: “His reaction that evening was indicative of the way he governed and was swayed into making mistakes: he did not admit the mistakes and praised them as successes.”
But at a subsequent meeting, Hadjicostis wrote, Papadopoulos had realised that his decision (to agree to talks and arbitration) was not a success and blamed the pressure applied by European leaders, the Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his government partner Demetris Christofias.
As this claim seemed peculiar to Hadjicostis, he decided to ask Christofias, who expressed his surprise. Christofias told Hadjicostis that Papadopoulos would never dare repeat this claim in his presence.
“At our first meeting after New York, Papadopoulos was still under the illusion that he had achieved a success and did not want anyone else to be credited with it. When he realised the mistake he wanted to put the blame on others,” Hadjicostis concluded.
It is worth noting that the above was written by a fanatical supporter and friend of Papadopoulos and his most important ally – according to Hadjicostis – in Papadopoulos’ greatest ‘success’, the rejection of the Annan plan. I mention this here because it shows who the man, who in 2004 shaped the future of Cyprus for a period that nobody could estimate the duration of, actually was.
Twelve years have already passed, and, taking into account everything that has happened in our region during this time, it is not difficult for any rational person to understand how Cyprus would have been today if we had a settlement. Its scuppering, by an unpredictable – as his behaviour proved – politician like Papadopoulos and his then allies, was an act of political insanity with far-reaching consequences on the lives of all people on the island.
The true dimensions of the consequences are impossible for the human mind to conceive and measure.