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Furore over academic’s annexation-of-north speech

Greek academic Angelos Syrigos

Turkish threats to annex the north might not necessarily be negative for Greek Cypriots as this would mean dealing directly with Turkey, Greek academic Angelos Syrigos said on Sunday, in a controversial speech apparently endorsed by Diko leader Nicolas Papadopoulos.

He also said that putting a proposed solution to a new referendum must be avoided at all costs.

Syrigos was invited to speak at the eighth memorial service of former President Tassos Papadopoulos, where he drew several quotes from the late president’s famous TV address to the nation in April 2004, in which he made a highly emotional appeal for voters to reject the Annan plan.

“Let us assume that Turkey decides to go ahead with annexation,” Syrigos said.

“It will undoubtedly be a sad development, which will simply rubberstamp the reality we have lived on the island since 1974. Do we fool ourselves that we are talking with the Turkish Cypriots? Do the Turkish Cypriots occupy Cyprus? It is Turkey that is occupying it, and she is the real interlocutor of the Greek Cypriot side. An annexation would force us to face this reality dead on.”

Elsewhere in his speech, the international law professor at Athens’ Pantion university said the best way to “avert unfavourable developments” would be to avoid reaching the stage of a new referendum.

“In order to avert undesirable developments, even an annexation, it would be good to avoid coming to a new referendum at any cost,” Syrigos argued.

“Downvoting a plan for the second time, as most certainly will happen, will be heavy. We need to stop the procedure in advance.”

Later on Sunday, Diko leader – and the late president’s son – Nicolas Papadopoulos posted a link to Syrigos’ speech online, a move interpreted as an endorsement by some.

One of them, Disy leader Averof Neophytou, said that the view that perhaps Turkey’s annexation of the north could be an opportunity to bring Turkey to the negotiating table in place of Turkish Cypriots is “nationally dangerous”.

“Some have said that it might be better to have the occupied areas annexed to Turkey, because this might be our chance to talk with Turkey, instead of the Turkish Cypriots,” he said.

“It’s a shame that such views should be voiced in a country where we are trying to rid ourselves of Turkish occupation.”

On Monday, Diko hit back at Neophytou, claiming he is either “unable to comprehend or deliberately distorting” the speech.

“Or both,” the statement said.

“Averof Neophytou’s remarks from Sunday are worthy of no further comment.”

In turn, Disy replied that Neophytou understood full well what was being implied, which was precisely why he hastened to point it out.

“What is of the gravest concern is that Diko seems to adopt this approach and believe that if the occupied areas become Turkish soil we will somehow… benefit, as we will be able to converse directly with Turkey!” the party said.

“We insist that the idea of not only coming to terms with the occupation, but even viewing the permanent annexation of the occupied areas by Turkey as almost indifferent, is nationally dangerous.”

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