By Christos P. Panayiotides
“President Nicos Anastasiades is and always has been ready to continue discussions leading to a solution of the Cyprus problem,” Government Spokesman Kyriacos Koushios said on Monday. He clarified “we are ready to continue the negotiations from where we left them at Crans Montana but, unfortunately, the Turkish intransigence is blocking any further progress”. In the last few days, Nicosia has expressed its disappointment over “the lack of courage on the part of European Union to show a real intention to punish a highly provocative Turkey”. Last week Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides pointed out to his European colleagues that since July 2019 he has stressed that the lukewarm reaction of the EU would not work in the case of Turkey. The same message was repeated by the government spokesman who referred to the lack of courage on the part of the EU to apply dissuasive policies, adding that “the road to claiming the rights of the Republic of Cyprus will be long and difficult”.
Indeed, there is a serious contradiction here in the positions held by the Greek Cypriot leadership. While they are acknowledging the effective refusal of the EU to apply “dissuasive policies” against Turkey and although they admit this lack of commitment was evident for a whole year, the Greek Cypriot leadership, nonetheless, chose to follow a path that, according to their assessment, had no prospect of leading anywhere.
The climax of this contradiction was summarised by the government spokesman: “Through our diplomatic efforts and the policies we follow, we believed and we still believe that both the international community as well as the EU will come to realise that Turkey’s offending tactics and her illegal acts are not acceptable”. Not acceptable to whom? Presumably, they are not acceptable to the Greek Cypriot leadership. The fact is that all these years the delinquent behaviour of Turkey and her illegal actions were the subject matter of strong condemnations on the part of the Republic of Cyprus. What have we achieved by continuously branding Turkey as an irresponsible, trouble generating player? Absolutely nothing.
The government spokesman’s statements concerning the anticipated opening of Varosha under the Turkish Cypriot administration, were on the same wavelength. “You are aware of the fact that on the 10th of August the President dispatched a letter to the General Secretary of the United Nations, the five permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations and to the European Union, concerning Famagusta. This is an issue which will play a significant role in Turkey’s accession process”. He added “the President of the Republic has made it clear that the possible implementation of the plan to open up the occupied part of Famagusta will be an important inhibiting factor in the efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem as well as an obstacle of substance in Turkey’s accession process to the EU”.
My decoding of these statements is:
- The Greek Cypriot leadership acknowledges its miscalculations concerning the support of the international community and, more specifically, the EU in confronting Turkey.
- The Greek Cypriot leadership claims they are ready to continue negotiations for resolving the Cyprus problem but refuse to accept any compromise that would secure the immediate reunification of Cyprus.
- These have led the Greek Cypriot leadership to conclude the struggle will be “a long and difficult one”.
I find it difficult to hide my disappointment because I consider this stand (assuming that my decoding of the situation is correct) as equivalent to committing suicide. This is the maximalistic approach, which has been followed consistently since 1960 (with very few exceptions) and has led nowhere.
The difference today is that the elements of fatigue and exhaustion have crept into the feelings of Greek Cypriots (as well as those of the Turkish Cypriots). They do not have the nerve and the patience to wait for much longer. Many of those who experienced the events of the 60s and the 70s have abandoned planet earth for good. Many others are emigrating, while this option is still on offer. The more this departing trend grows, the more difficult it will become to seek the re-unification of Cyprus.
And it is not sufficient for the Greek Cypriot leadership to acknowledge its failure to re-unite Cyprus. It has an obligation to formulate and fully substantiate a new strategy and to convince the Greek Cypriot people that this new strategy has a reasonable chance of success.
Given the position we are in, today, there is no room for ‘cowboy’ behaviour. It is certain that a maximalistic approach will lead to disaster. Only one road lies ahead: The termination of the suffocating political and economic embrace of northern Cyprus by Turkey and the creation of a good and mutually beneficial relationship with the Turkish Cypriots. Those who oppose such an approach form a small minority of brainless extremists (on both sides of the dividing line), who, as a rule, operate under the cover of pseudonyms because they do not have the courage of their convictions. These few pseudo-patriots, who have caused immense damage to our homeland, must, at last, be isolated and neutralised.
But closing on a note of optimism, the Mitsotakis government is on the right track to counteract Turkey’s aggressiveness, striking the right balance between assertiveness and submissiveness that is likely to lead to an honourable compromise. This approach, which has been welcome by the international community, should also be adopted by the Greek Cypriot leadership.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia