Only one road lies ahead in the talks: to state our positions decently, honestly, openly and responsibly
Lately, I’ve heard the proponents of partition raising their voices and arguing that we should not go to Geneva on April 27, because there is a risk of being trapped by the Turks into accepting arrangements that would be unacceptable to the Greek Cypriots. I must confess that when I hear these voices, I’m rendered speechless, for the very simple reason that our position is fair and crystal clear. Our position must be heard by the international community.
No doubt, our leaders have committed serious mistakes. Makarios made a serious mistake when he attempted in 1963 to unilaterally amend the constitution, which he himself had signed in 1959. In 1971, Grivas made a serious mistake in founding Eoka B. In 1974, Greek dictator Ioannides made a serious mistake when he staged the coup that brought about the Turkish invasion. Kyprianou made a serious mistake when he adopted the idea of a “long-term” struggle. In 2004, Papadopoulos made a serious mistake by not seeking to secure adequate safeguards for the proper implementation of the Annan Plan, which led to its rejection by the Greek Cypriots. Anastasiades made a serious mistake when, in 2017, he abandoned Crans-Montana at the stage when, according to the Greek Cypriot negotiator, the solution of the Cyprus problem was well within reach.
Certainly, these were tactical mistakes, reflecting incorrect political assessments on the part of our clumsy and inexperienced leaders. Nevertheless, the crux of the Cyprus problem was and continues to be the fact that a large and powerful state – Turkey – capitalising on its military and economic superiority over small Cyprus, invaded Cyprus and placed under its control 36+ per cent of its territory, while displacing by the force of arm, 150 thousand Cypriots (over one quarter of the total population of Cyprus and one third of Greek Cypriots), who became refugees in their own country.
A year later, some 60 thousand Turkish Cypriots were forcibly moved from the free southern regions to the northern occupied areas (although admittedly the Turkish Cypriots had a sense of being protected by the presence of the Turkish army). Beyond the human losses and the psychopathic impact of the war, the economic consequences of the Turkish invasion were enormous and literally led many people to live on the streets for a while. This is the modern history of Cyprus.
The stand of the vast majority of Cypriots (both Greek and Turkish Cypriots) on the basis of a solution is one that is within the framework of a bicommunal, bizonal federation, with political equality and effective participation of the two communities, as stipulated by the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the Guterres Framework with its six parameters. These positions are very logical and reasonable and – to a large extent – have already been agreed by the two Cyprus communities. It is a framework that is supported by the European Union and by the international community in general.
It is natural that Turkey would have an eye on the whole of Cyprus. This is an idea which whets her appetite. This is, indeed, the reason which lies behind her arguments in favour of a two-state arrangement, provided that it would allow southern as well as northern Cyprus to be a part of the European Union.
Under these circumstances, we are the ones who must be keen to confront Turkey at the negotiation table. There, we stand a chance of being vindicated, given that right is on our side. But, instead of standing up opposite Turkey and claiming the vindication we deserve, the suggestion of the super-patriots is to find excuses that would allow us to run away from the negotiations – a course of action that will inevitably consolidate the fait accompli to the delight and joy of Turkey.
The fearful amongst the Greek Cypriots hide their timidity by making Turkey’s submission a condition for agreeing to sit around a negotiation table. The Greek Cypriot side has never been able to make this approach work, ever since the struggle for the liberation of Cyprus was launched. What is it that makes these people believe that we stand a better chance of forcing our terms on Turkey now? Instead, if Turkey is looking for excuses to run away from the negotiating table and continue “cementing” their full control over the northern part of Cyprus, are these guys merely obliging what they claim is their enemy?
This leads me to the bottom line. We have right on our side. We have the UN secretary-general and the European Union on our side. Only one road lies ahead. To state our positions decently, honestly, openly and responsibly, in a manner that will leave no room for doubt that we are fully aligned with UN resolutions and the Guterres Framework, without any asterisks or footnotes, without risky acrobatics, without any intent to deceive anybody. We should make it clear that our sole aim is to ensure that we will be fairly treated.
On the question of the decentralised federation, the government must, at last, explain to the people what is meant by the term “decentralised”. The time has come to set aside the legalistic approaches. I am a citizen of this land. I do not care how the mandarins of the foreign ministry will be accommodated. What matters for me is to be able to establish myself and to work in any part of my country, without feeling insecure and without being discriminated against. In other words, I want to be able to compete on equal terms and conditions that would be applicable throughout the federation.
If there is going to be an adequate justice system to ensure that acts of state mismanagement (on the part of any of the constituent states) in applying the jointly set rules, will not be tolerated, I would not be concerned. Indeed, personally, I would not object to an arrangement under which the person responsible for the proper application of the rules of the game is Mustafa Akinci. Quite the contrary!
What is of paramount importance is for the Cypriots to be in command in the north as well as in the south. This objective will be met only if the formulation of the rules of the game is done jointly, through the system of the one positive vote and the – hopefully unnecessary – conflict resolution mechanism. All Cypriots (Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots) must be informed in a responsible and transparent manner. The behind-closed-doors diplomacy is bankrupt. We have had enough in terms of ‘creative ideas’. Enough is enough!
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia