Cyprus Mail
CM Regular Columnist Opinion

Red lines and red cards

By Christos P. Panayiotides

IN THE Cyprus talks, reference is often made to “red lines”.  The term denotes the ultimate acceptable point of retreat on the issue that is being discussed, in the course of seeking to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.

As one would expect, the “red lines” drawn by different individuals or groups differ not only because – regrettably – they are influenced by personal interests but also because they are a function of the assessments and predictions of those drawing the lines as to what is likely to happen if a mutually acceptable agreement is not struck.

For example, if somebody anticipates that the failure to reach a mutually-acceptable solution will result – sooner or later – in the annexation of northern Cyprus by Turkey and will ultimately lead to the total Turkification of the island, it is logical to expect that the “red lines” will be faint and easily movable.

By contrast, if somebody is convinced that time is working to our advantage (supporters of a “long-term struggle”), then the “red lines” must be numerous, steady and clearly visible.  Whether the public disclosure of the “red lines” drawn on every aspect of the problem by the designated representatives of the Greek Cypriot side is an appropriate negotiating tactic is an entirely different matter.  One could argue that such public disclosure undermines rather than reinforces our prospects of getting what we are after.

Beyond the vested personal interests come into play in formulating the political views of many of our compatriots and carry much more weight than the common national interest, the assessments and predictions of each one of us as to what is likely to happen in the event of the non-attainment of a mutually-acceptable solution, is a critical factor in the delimitation of the “red lines”.

Another factor which logically should influence the positioning of the “red lines” is the relative power of each side to impose its views on the other side or to prevent the other side from having its own way.

Finally, there is a sizeable segment of Greek Cypriots, who find it so painful to accept the heavy losses sustained – irrespective of who has provoked or who is responsible for these losses – that .

they choose to ignore reality.

They continue to pretend that nothing has happened and they hope that by means of a miracle, one day, the situation will be patched up, we will go back to 1950 and we will start all over again, without committing the tragic mistakes we have committed since then.

I suppose that this is the logic of the advocates of the “long-term struggle” approach that has been leading us from bad to worse.  I say “I suppose” because the advocates of the “long-term struggle” have never clarified what they realistically expect that the future will bring which the past has failed to achieve and the present is incapable of delivering.

The question, which remains unanswered – because the advocates of the “long-term struggle” stubbornly refuse to respond to it – is not what our target should be but how this target can be achieved.

This is, indeed, the difficulty because it is certain that the target will not be attained automatically and, therefore, it is not sufficient to have “patience and perseverance”. It is not sufficient to “keep our memories and hopes alive” and of course, we will not attain our objective by wishful that “all refuges will return to their homes” or by declaring our determination “to fight with all available means and with all our strength in claiming our rights”.

Have the advocates of the “long-term struggle” ever counted the beans?  Have they ever assessed the power (political and military) we have at our disposal and the support we can reasonably expect from our friends?

Unfortunately, our real power is very limited compared to that of Turkey while our friends and supporters have gradually dwindled to a few.  This is indirectly admitted by our political leaders, who constantly accuse the United Nations, the Anglo-Americans and the European Union of being biased against us.

It is a widely held view (which has been systematically cultivated) that all of them, in chorus, plot to undermine the interests of Cyprus.  Our old friends, the “non-aligned nations”, have degenerated and disappeared while we have never been able to secure from the “blond nation” anything beyond certain declarations which, if carefully examined, are found to be capable of multiple and often self-conflicting interpretations.

Any objective observer can easily see that the foremost objective of Russia has always been and continues to be the non-healing of the wound that Cyprus, unintentionally, inflicts on NATO.  The ease and the speed with which the bridge between Turkey and Russia has been reconstructed recently is truly amazing.  These developments underline the importance of self-interest in the international political arena.

Thus, without notable strengths and without allies willing to see their own self-interests being negatively affected as a result of supporting Cyprus, the prospects of our “long-term struggle” bearing fruit are, indeed, slim.

Equally naive is the position that the status quo can be maintained for an extended period of time.  The tangible proof of how naive this assumption is can be obtained through a one-day excursion trip to northern Cyprus, where the speed with which the Turkification is proceeding is readily evident.

I have come to the conclusion that the only permissible logical “red line” is the non-abandoning of the efforts that are directed towards reaching a mutually-acceptable solution within 2016, and any politician who chooses to overstep this red line should be given the red card and expelled from the pitch.

Christos P. Panayiotides is a Certified Public Accountant


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