THE DISCOURSE surrounding the Cyprus problem has never been characterised for its rationality and intellectual rigour. Quite the contrary it is superficial, based on nice-sounding but meaningless slogans and embarrassingly hollow promises. Our politicians always deal in sentiment, wishful thinking and airy-fairy ideas rather than hard logic rooted in reality. Their perspective, with a few notable exceptions, has never been pragmatic.
It was always like this, but things took a turn for the worse in 2004 when Tassos Papadopoulos and his entourage triggered mass hysteria against the Annan plan and made people believe that the rejection of the settlement was a major Greek Cypriot triumph as we had defied the international community and supposedly stood up for our principles. It was astonishing that people were celebrating, because we had rejected the return of large chunks of territory including Morphou and Famagusta, the gradual withdrawal of the occupation army and the end of immigration from Turkey.
Nobody dared to mention the obvious. If Turkey’s objective was the partition of Cyprus and eventual annexation of the north, as our politicians had always claimed, with our no-vote we were helping its realisation. Turkey had more reason to celebrate the outcome of the referendum as it had moved much closer to achieving its long-term objective. All we had were the empty promises of the politicians, that as a full member of the EU we would secure a much more favourable settlement than the one offered.
We did not, but neither do we seem to have learnt anything in the 12 years since the referendum. The opposition parties, apart from AKEL, have become even more extreme in their positions and their obsession with procedure is paranoid, while their rhetoric has gone from irrational to insane. Tassos Papadopoulos’ glorification of negativity of 2004 is reaching heights we never knew existed.
We have come to the stage at which preventing the ‘upgrading’ (an imaginary danger) of Mustafa Akinci has become an end in itself. Parties were demanding that President Anastasiades turned down an invitation to a meeting with the UN Secretary General in Davos that would have been attended by the Turkish Cypriot leader because this would have led to his ‘upgrading’. In Davos such a meeting would lead to an upgrading but in Nicosia, New York or Geneva it does not.
Akinci, a reasonable politician fully committed to settlement, is reviled when he tries to defend the interests of his community, labelled a puppet of Ankara. To prove his goodwill to our politicians and newspapers he would have to embrace all Greek Cypriot positions on a settlement – forget the guaranteed majority in north, agree to the return of all refugees and withdrawal of all settlers, support the preservation of the Cyprus Republic – otherwise he is just another intransigent Turk. If there ever is a Turkish Cypriot leader that our politicians approved of there would be no need for negotiations.
On Friday the DIKO chief Nicolas Papadopoulos demonstrated the new irrationality telling a radio host that all refugees should return to their homes so there would be no need to compensate property owners. Unlike the ECHR he does not recognise any rights of users, presumably not even of Larnaca International Airport which is built on Turkish Cypriot land. And he wanted all Turkish settlers to leave. His father had agreed to 50,000 remaining but the new irrationality dictates no compromise on anything.
The only person who publicly challenges the upgrading of irrationality is DISY leader Averof Neophytou. The government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides has a policy of never challenging or exposing the opposition’s nonsense – perhaps these are his instructions – leaving the task of confronting the lunatic fringe to Neophytou. It was left to him to deconstruct the idiotic claim that a settlement would lead to Turkey taking over all of Cyprus. With a settlement that would rid us of the Turkish troops and Turkish guarantees there would be such a danger but with the continued presence of 40,000 troops and the preservation of Turkish guarantees there would be no such danger? Neophytou asked.
That we need to have this argument is an illustration of the complete absence of rationality in political debate. The government also needs to start taking stand instead of leaving Neophytou to do its work for it. This hideous, new irrationality must be challenged – even laughed at – at all times because experience has shown that people are very susceptible to myths that have no basis in reality.