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Our View: Anastasiades should avoid giving fodder to the rejectionists

President Anastasiades

FOR YEARS Cyprus governments and politicians had been campaigning against the colonisation of the occupied north by Turkey and influx of Turkish settlers, which they claimed was a war crime. Some of our more zealous politicians still use this war crime claim even though nobody outside Cyprus takes it seriously. However, the Turkish settlers have always been included in the charge sheet against Turkey that our politicians, journalists and diplomats repeat at every opportunity and are an integral part of the Cyprus problem narrative.

The opposition parties regularly demand the withdrawal of all the settlers as part of a solution, but even they know this is nothing more than a slogan, another argument – though not a very compelling one – against the peace efforts. The funny thing is that despite going on about the settlers, the Greek Cypriots have never defined the term. Back in the ‘80s the politicians were talking about tens of thousands of Anatolian peasants that had been brought here forcibly by Turkey in order to change the island’s demographics. The Turkish Cypriots spoke about guest workers from Turkey.

Now, so-called settlers may be academics or students at the plethora of universities in the north, owners of small businesses, wealthy casino proprietors, hoteliers or bankers. Are opposition politicians demanding that all these people should be kicked out in the event of a settlement? Or are we going to kick out Turkish workers who have lived here for decades? This would be a violation of the EU rules we are always citing.

President Anastasiades ill-advised attempt to give a breakdown of the number of mainland Turks that would remain in the north after a settlement gave an opportunity to the rejectionists to make a big fuss. This continued even after Anastasiades tried to put things right the next day by giving the correct numbers. There was no way he could have silenced the rejectionists by giving numbers of how many would stay.

All the president needs to do when this non-issue comes up again is cite the very good agreement he made with Akinci about citizenship. They agreed on a population ratio of 4:1that would remain fixed. The north would decide its allocated 220,000 registered citizens and the south its 800,000 citizens. It is a very sensible arrangement that Anastasiades should not be afraid to defend. And he should remind people that this agreement placed a limit on the number of Turkish nationals that could settle here in the future. If there was no settlement the population of the north, in 10 or 20 years, could exceed that of the south.

Is this what the uncompromising rejectionists want?

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