PRESIDENT Anastasiades’ speech at the anti-occupation gathering organised by Famagusta municipality on Thursday night, highlighted the problem our leadership has always had with regard to the Cyprus problem. Like all his predecessors, Anastasiades feels duty-bound to take a tough stance on Turkey’s often unacceptable actions, which earns applause from his audience but achieves nothing of practical benefit for the Greek Cypriots.
In Thursday night’s speech, he said “the determination to engage in a new negotiating process in order to achieve what the whole Cypriot people expect, does not negate the fact that Turkey, first and foremost, end its expansionist policy in violation of the UN Charter and the International Law of the Sea.” On Thursday he set another condition for engaging in a new negotiating process – “every threat of the settlement of Famagusta must be given up”.
Perfectly reasonable conditions, in theory, but in practice they would prevent attaining what the “whole Cypriot people expect”. We are assuming that what the Cypriot people expect is the withdrawal of the occupation troops, the return of some territory, including the fenced area of Famagusta to the Greek Cypriots and the reunification of the island. How will this be achieved without engaging in a negotiating process?
In the case of the fenced area of Famagusta, logically speaking the only way of preventing its opening and settlement by the Turks is the negotiation of an agreement that we will not pursue, unless our condition is met. It is the same in the case of Turkey’s violations of our EEZ. We will not enter negotiations unless Turkey ends its illegalities. What is the result of Anastasiades not engaging in a negotiating process?
Turkey keeps all the territory it is occupying. It opens Famagusta for settlement and continues to make incursions into the Cypriot EEZ, claiming it is protecting the rights of the Turkish Cypriots. These illegal actions that foster instability could also deter oil companies from carrying out drilling in blocks they have licensed from the Republic. Who loses from such a state of affairs? The Greek Cypriots who end up with nothing, just as they did by rejecting the Annan plan in 2004. Turkey keeps everything it took in 1974 while we get nothing – not even a sense of security – except the satisfaction that we took a stand on principle.
Perhaps, after 46 years, we should re-examine our policy of principled stands on the Cyprus problem which has brought zero practical benefit to our side. We may realise that the only way to salvage something – like the return of Famagusta – is by engaging in the negotiating process. We will be doing ourselves a favour, not Turkey, by engaging in talks that could salvage something.