By Christos P. Panayiotides
I HAVE identified a number of inherent contradictions in the positions taken by the Greek Cypriots in seeking a solution to the Cyprus problem. If we are ever going to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to the problem that has been hanging over our heads for over 70 years, we must address and resolve these contradictions and the sooner we do so, the better.
Contradiction #1: We are afraid of Turkey and we have reservations as to whether she will adhere to the terms of whatever agreement we will come to. Nevertheless, we engage in discussions with Turkey, which aim at an agreed solution to the Cyprus problem. The way out of this blind alley is to get people who are trusted by both sides to serve as guardians of whatever will be agreed between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.
I have the impression that the Turkish Cypriots would be happy to assign this role to the European Union but some extreme elements on both sides would object to such arrangements. However, these elements would object to any arrangements other than those which will result in the partition of Cyprus. It is not a coincidence that the extreme elements on both sides are striving for the partition of Cyprus. Happily, these elements may be very vocal but they constitute a very small portion of the population.
Contradiction #2: We do not want the Turkish Cypriots to interfere in the running of the Greek Cypriot constituent state but we do want to have a say on how the Turkish Cypriot constituent state is run. Clearly, the Turkish Cypriots will never accept such an arrangement. The way out of this blind alley is to agree that all the rules governing matters of importance to the well-being of the whole of island will be formulated jointly. The implementation of the rules will be delegated to the constituent states, with adequate provisions for resolving deadlock situations and for appealing against cases of misapplication of the rules. Also in this respect, the European Union could play a vital role in smoothly resolving conflict situations.
Contradiction #3: Understandably, we do not want the Turkish Cypriots to be politically and/or economically dependent on Turkey (and I have the impression that they themselves are also very much averse to the idea) but we are unwilling to give them the support they need to escape from Turkey’s stranglehold. Obviously, we cannot have the cake and eat it. The way out of this blind alley is to unconditionally accept the responsibility to support the development of all the segments of Cypriot society, in a way that would eliminate inequalities and the deprivation and hardship caused by factors that are beyond the reach of the regional authorities.
Contradiction #4: We want to be an independent country member of the United Nations and of the European Union but we use the national anthem of another country as our own national anthem. Understandably, the Turkish Cypriots object to this practice. All we need to do to resolve this contradiction is to make a clear distinction between the symbols which denote another independent state (such as the national anthem and the flag) and the symbols which denote cultural affinity (such as language, literature, religion, customs). I have argued on many occasions that there is absolutely nothing wrong in the two communities maintaining their cultural links with Greece and Turkey, respectively, but those countries should undertake a commitment not to use these links, as they have done in the past, as bridges affording them the opportunity to pierce their nose in the internal affairs of Cyprus.
I must admit, however, that resolving these contradictions is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for arriving at a workable solution of the Cyprus problem.
What is also needed is mutual trust and mutual respect between the two communities. The difficulty here is that you cannot get the mutual trust and respect without the extensive mixing of the two communities but if you have the extensive mixing then the mutual trust and respect will be already there. Here the leaders of the two communities have an important role to play. They must lead by example. They must trust and respect each other and they must make this trust and respect visible to all Cypriots.
Finally, I feel the need to point out that both communities should seek to isolate the extremist but very vocal elements within each community. Although a small minority, these people try to give the impression that they are in control and that they are in a position to dictate the decisions taken within their community. Isolated acts of vandalism or simply of impolite behaviour are blown out of all proportions and they attract unbelievable attention and publicity. The vast majorities of both communities are peace loving people who care a lot about other people but are systematically left in the shadows while the few who are making all the noise are in the limelight, on the centre of the stage.
Our Turkish Cypriot compatriots have legitimate complaints, which the Greek Cypriots must attend to. However, Turkish Cypriots must be careful not to be carried away and end-up having excessive demands and expectations, which will remain unfulfilled.
To move in the right direction and to avert catastrophe both communities need to have visionary leaders.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia