Recently, the promised details on the Cyprus problem of Nikos Christodoulides’ election manifesto were made public with great fanfare. I have carefully read the relevant text of some 2,000 words three or four times, to conclude that it says absolutely nothing.
I must admit that I was annoyed, not because I found something with which I disagreed, but because I have concluded that on the Cyprus problem Mr Christodoulides is taking us for a ride. The gap between what he appears to be saying and what he does say is so enormous that it cannot be concealed, despite his concerted efforts in this direction.
Let me explain: I believe that – in theory – there are two ways of liberating and reuniting Cyprus. The first is by going into a war with Turkey and the second is by finding a consensual solution to the problem. There is no third option and all the presidential candidates, including Nikos Christodoulides, agree on this. In his recently revised election manifesto, he states: “It is inconceivable to accept the current state of affairs as the solution to the problem. The continuation of the unacceptable status quo aggravates the situation and provokes new adverse developments, thus making it increasingly more difficult to resolve the Cyprus problem.”
In my opinion, the risk of Turkey provoking a new war in Cyprus is next to zero. Turkey is the winner of the 1974 war and has no reason to upset the equilibrium that was attained at the end of that war. Turkey will go to war, only if it is provoked by the Greek side. In such a case, it will understandably seek to increase “the spoils” it managed to secure in 1974.
Anyone who claims that, in such a new confrontation, Turkey is certain to be the loser is either ignorant or naïve or both. In addition to Turkey’s superiority, in terms of human resources as well as military equipment, the very short distance between Cyprus and the Dodecanese islands from mainland Turkey (literally a stone’s throw from the coast of Asia Minor) can easily make them the spoils of a new war. These are the facts that forced, admittedly under different circumstances, the then newly appointed Greek government to succumb to the Turkish blackmail of 1974. Against this background, only an absolute certainty that the occupied territories of northern Cyprus will be regained could justify the provocation of a new war by the Greek side. Unfortunately, such a certainty does not exist. It follows that the only other available option is to reach a mutually acceptable compromise.
This is what Nikos Christodoulides appears to be proposing in his revised election manifesto. But he is doing it in a manner that fails to convince intelligent people. He starts off by emphasising the fact that he “will spare no effort or sacrifice to achieve a solution … with no occupation troops, or foreign guarantees and invasive rights, a solution that will restore the unity of our homeland, its territory, its people and its institutions, into a normal democratic state, within the EU, where human rights and the security of its citizens will be guaranteed and fully respected”. However, as soon as the hoi polloi thunderously proclaim “you-are-the-one-and-only”, he rushes to bring us down to earth, by stressing that “the Turkish maximalistic thinking and intransigence is what has prevented the resolution of the Cyprus problem over time”.
He then concludes: “The culmination of the collapse of the last phase of the negotiations at Crans-Montana was caused by the elusive tactics of Turkey and her insistence, among other things, on preserving Turkish intervention rights and on maintaining a permanent military presence in Cyprus. The talks at Crans-Montana collapsed because of the Turkish attitude towards the Guterres Framework.”
Regrettably, the conclusion of the author of the framework was not the same as your version of events, Mr Christodoulides. In his formal report, the UN secretary-general blamed the impasse at Crans-Montana on the lack of the necessary political will on the part of the leaders of the two Cypriot communities. Unfortunately, the entire leadership of the European Union was there, witnessing these tragic developments; witnessing our own irresponsible behaviour for which you personally carry huge responsibility, having chosen to sacrifice your homeland in order to save ‘your political capital’, as has been publicly revealed.
You carry on: “Within this framework, we will intensify our efforts at an international level to frustrate the Turkish plans.” This position of yours inevitably leads to a pressing question: given that for the past 10 years you have held key positions (first, as government spokesman and then as foreign minister), while your wife had the general command at the foreign ministry, why did you not do what you are now evangelising you will do, once you are elected in the position of the president of the Republic, with the support of a patchwork of parties, the leaders of which boldly proclaim that their primary goal is seizure of power? Can we assume that you are not answering this question, because you have nothing to say?
In terms of substance, what are you proposing? Your answer is clear. Use the European Union as a tool to circumvent Turkish intransigence! You are seeking “the appointment of a strong personality (presumably of your choice) by the European Council, with specific terms of reference (presumably those specified in your election manifesto). These, Mr Christodoulides, are unattainable fantasies.
And you conclude by informing us that you are now studying “existing systems of governance and constitutional arrangements, with the aim of generating ideas and alternative proposals for bridging diverging positions and opinions on the solution of the Cyprus problem”. In other words, contrary to what you initially proclaim, your proposal is to start from scratch, form our own framework of a solution and, then, force everyone else (including Turkey) to accept it!
Last but not least, you give an important piece of advice to the hapless Cypriot people. You ask that the solution of the Cyprus problem should not be the subject of discussion among the Greek Cypriots, arguing that “historically, this tendency has often led to counter-productive debates, interminable conflicts and exhaustive confrontations. In particular, at this juncture … such approaches and confrontations within the Greek Cypriot community are counter-productive and dangerous.” In other words, Mr Christodoulides, you are asking for a blank cheque, denying the inalienable right of the Cypriot people to know what they are voting for. I suppose this is how one can explain your flat refusal to say anything of substance about what you intend to do in relation to the Cyprus problem.
With these thoughts in mind, I remain undecided as to whom I will vote for in the upcoming presidential elections, but I am certain now that I will not vote for you, because I am convinced, beyond any reasonable doubt, that by voting for you I will ratify the partition of Cyprus.
I wish all the readers of the Cyprus Mail Merry Christmas.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia