By Christos Panayiotides
As you know, Constantinople was captured by the Turkish army on May 29, 1453, marking the end of the Byzantine empire, which lasted over a thousand years. In the last two centuries of its life, Byzantium experienced political and religious conflicts, poor economic conditions, a “brain drain”, while corruption undermined the political infrastructure and led to an inability to convince the West to rally to its support in confronting the far superior Turkish military forces.
The combined effect of these adverse developments led to the fall of Constantinople. Do you know who ratified the fall of Constantinople with his signature? No one. Since then, more than 500 years have passed, and nothing has changed.
Given this precedent, it is truly surprising that many Greek Cypriots believe that their own signature is necessary to ratify the territorial partition of Cyprus that took place 50 years ago. Although there is no justification for their misconception, many Greek Cypriots have become complacent and remain passive observers of the “Turkification” of northern Cyprus, a fact that suits Turkey fine, because under these conditions, she can press on undisturbed with her long-term plans for Cyprus.
In this tragic course of events, the rejectionist leaders of the Greek Cypriot community are effectively the best allies of Turkey. By pretending that they are seeking a “better solution”, in reality they perpetuate the unacceptable situation imposed on the Cypriot people in 1974, with the military coup d’état that was staged on July 15 and the invasion that followed suit, on July 20.
The rejectionists in the upcoming presidential elections are Nikos Christodoulides, Christos Christou and Georgios Colocassides. The difference between the first candidate and the other two is the façade of BBF used by Mr Christodoulides (and two of the parties that support him) to avoid the “rejectionist” branding. In contrast, Edek and Mrs Eleni Theocharous unequivocally reject the federal structure. The line of the rejectionists is that they will renegotiate what has been agreed to abolish the rotating presidency and the one positive vote. They will insist on the withdrawal of all Turkish troops from the first day of the implementation of the agreed solution and will demand the free movement and the right of settlement of Greek Cypriots throughout Cyprus.
Of course, it is far from clear how the rejectionists will attain these goals and it is more likely than not that their stated goals will prove unattainable. It is quite possible that these goals are merely wishful thinking intended to induce a state of lethargy for the purposes of capturing Greek Cypriot votes in the presidential elections. The desire of the Christodoulides couple to rise to power is well known. A similar craving for power is the common characteristic of Messrs Papadopoulos, Garoyian and Sizopoulos and Mrs Theocharous, who are in charge of the rejectionist parties and jointly support Mr Christodoulides.
I am sure that they have not sounded out Turkey or the Turkish Cypriots on whether they would accept such conditions for settling the Cyprus problem. Their acceptance is necessary, in contrast to the Greek Cypriot acceptance of partition, which unfortunately is a fait accompli. It does not require ratification and cannot be undone without a war or the consent of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots. Nor, have I heard Mr Christodoulides referring to any sounding out of the EU and UN secretary-general on the possibility of renegotiating the elements of the Crans-Montana agreement, prior to the collapse of the process. Perhaps, this should have been carried out by Mr Christodoulides, so as not to lure voters into supporting a presidential candidate who intends to indulge in the realisation of a ‘midsummer night’s dream’?
Paraphrasing the great Alexandrian poet Constantine Cavafy, I could say:
Once you set out,
hope the road is a long one,
full of adventures.
Stop at trading stations
to acquire fine things,
pearls and corals, amber and ebony,
sensual perfumes of every kind,
as much sensual perfume as you can.
Regrettably, the Greek Cypriot leaders have confused the case of Cyprus’ liberation from the Turkish occupation with Ulysses’ return journey to Ithaca. The bitter truth is that, in the case of Cyprus, what counts is getting there. In fact, the longer the journey, the more painful is the experience and the higher the risk of never getting there. In the latter case, we will rightfully be branded as stupid jingoists, who have indulged and intend to carry on indulging ourselves, acquiring fine things, pearls and corals, amber and ebony and sensual perfumes of every kind!
Thus, do not let the sirens lure you into their trap. Vote for one of the presidential candidates, who is truly committed to the reunification of Cyprus, on a realistic and attainable basis, who is genuinely committed to combating corruption and collusion, whose primary objective is not grabbing political power.
You may say that it is not easy to identify the candidate who is genuinely committed to seeking the reunification, who is genuinely committed to combating corruption, who truly does not perceive his election as a goal in itself. Until the election date, each candidate still has ample time to present the evidence that will enable him to stand out as the person who can rightfully claim your vote. Of course, I am referring to convincing evidence, and not to frivolous words and promises that are completely empty of content.
There are clear indications that tremendous pressure will be exerted on the newly elected president to undermine the reunification of Cyprus and to perpetuate the ineffectiveness of the “pothen esches” (sources of wealth) legislation. The candidates who convince they have the power to resist this pressure deserve our vote.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia