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Cyprus

We should focus on reforging trust and a sense of security

The Turkish Cypriots’ sense of security was shattered in the years 1963-74

THE PREVAILING view is that the biggest obstacle to achieving a settlement is Turkey’s insistence on maintaining intervention rights and troops on the island. In the ongoing discussions of this difficult issue, the insecurity that would be felt by the overwhelming majority of the Turkish Cypriots – 90 per cent according to opinion polls – in a regime of zero guarantees and zero troops has been ignored.

This is an issue of major importance, considering that even if Turkey agreed to give up intervention rights and withdraw all troops, the desired settlement would not have happened because the Turkish Cypriots would never have voted ‘yes’ in a referendum a settlement that did not provide Turkish guarantees, at least for a time. And they would also set the condition that this would be re-examined only if peace had been maintained in this period.

Only then, would they have been prepared to discuss the principle of the sunset clause – the complete withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Cyprus – or at least the idea of the review clause which involved the re-examination of the guarantees. Consequently, by downgrading or ignoring this factor we offer third parties dealing with the Cyprus problem the chance to accuse us of thoughtlessness, poor judgement and ignorance.

From the time the island was taken over by homo sapiens, the Cypriot people experienced waves of successive upheaval, raids and catastrophes that caused fear and insecurity. Under Ottoman rule, however, the healthy co-existence of Christians and Muslims did away with such fear and insecurity. The stability and harmony was down to two factors: the Ottoman empire was a big power which no other country or group of raiders dared attack, and, second, the archbishop was a Nenekos or collaborator with the occupier. In effect the head of the Orthodox Church was a finance minister: he imposed and collected taxes on behalf of the Ottomans.

The main reason brotherly relations between Muslims and Christians deteriorated was because the Ethnarchy decided to start an armed struggle for enosis in the 1950s, without any consultations with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, who embraced Turkey for their survival. The chain of consequences from the struggle for enosis devastated the trust and sense of security in both communities but today mainly affect the Turkish Cypriot community.

Despite securing our independence, although limited, the objective of enosis was not abandoned. How could we not be considered untrustworthy when, after independence:

Ministers and deputies were making fiery speeches about enosis at national memorial services, schools and public events?

We were plotting the extermination of Turkish Cypriots with the Akritas plan?

Our deputies unanimously backed a resolution (on 26/6/1967) calling for union with the mother country, despite pledging to respect and comply with the constitution of the Cyprus Republic? I reckon there is no more startling example of perjury in world history.

The Turkish Cypriots’ sense of security was shattered in the 1963-74 period. Everyone knows that in this period more than 500 Turkish Cypriots were killed – euphemistically referred to as missing – without a single Greek Cypriot being charged, let alone sentenced, for these murders. When Turkey invaded Eoka B men killed in cold blood 87 Turkish Cypriot prisoners in Tochni and 126 women and children in the villages of Maratha, Aloa and Salantari. The Cyprus Republic did not make any effort to arrest and send to trial the criminals who were known to the police because their leader served for years as a teacher of religious instruction. The fact that the Turks and Turkish Cypriots committed equally heinous crimes (nobody doubts this) does not spare our government the responsibility of punishing the criminals. Tolerance of crime is tantamount to guilt; it is complicity to a national crime.

It appears the Greek Cypriot people, generations of whom are brought up with Greek-Christian ideals, do not have the conscience of a citizen and this explains why rule of law has not flourished here even in the 21st century. Do I need to remind anyone about the attack on Turkish Cypriot students at the English School by Greek Cypriot students during a lesson? Being naïve we expected the immediate and exemplary punishment of those who perpetrated this despicable attack, but what a disappointment it was to find out that the attorney-general decided not to bring any charges against the thugs, issuing a nolle prosequi.

Do I need to remind anyone that on November 15, 2015 a group of secondary school students attacked Turkish Cypriots in their cars, injuring them lightly and damaging their cars? So far their trial has been postponed three times. In such a clear-cut case, the court should already have imposed harsh sentences. The general feeling is that in the end, something will be thought up so that the students are not sentenced. As usual…

Bearing this in mind, the colossal effort to establish what was actually said in Crans-Montana causes amusement when we are not at all bothered about how to regain the trust of the Turkish Cypriots, the most important sine qua non of a settlement. Only then would the sweet-sounding word, ‘re-unification’ gain real meaning.

George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist

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