By Takis Christodoulou
There is no doubt that a two-state Cyprus would have devastating consequences for the island and its citizens, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, for generations to come, with the reality of the whole of Cyprus becoming a province of Turkey, not only the north.
Life is full of risks, but without them one has no hope of progressing in an ever-changing world to adapt and move forward with the rest of the world. The risks one must take should be calculated and manageable. With Cyprus, one cannot start the dialogue without allowing the process to take place. Some sort of concessions need to be made to allow debate to take place, to permit it to progress and allow the building of trust to develop. There should be an opportunity for both sides to listen to each other’s concerns and to agree on how they can eliminate the mistrust that presently prevails from both sides.
When this happens there will be a mutual realisation of the concerns and fears from both sides. Some of them, resulting from openly debating with each other around the table and realising that their fears are similar, it will be easier for both sides to agree on a common process on how they will be addressed. These concerns and fears will be addressed in a new constitution which, through legislation, will be entrenched by law to protect the rights of all citizens.
The process of negotiations must start immediately allowing both sides to reap the benefits of the wealth and opportunities of the country. One must break the pre-existing barrier from decades ago, where each side wants the elimination of the other.
If this can be achieved by putting our emotions to one side and allowing each side to express their view and agree on a settlement for a united Cyprus, all citizens living in Cyprus will have equal opportunities irrespective of who they are. This would allow Cyprus to progress and develop into a world class country and to emerge with respectability internationally and most of all, in the EU and the UN.
A divided Cyprus will always run the risk of conflict, because of perceptions that have developed over decades and generations of mistrust, in the elimination of each other.
In my opinion, the process of dialogue should start, not only politically but also with NGOs and businesses. This will make both sides realise that both communities, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, are interdependent on each other.
One needs to look around the world, where there is conflict and no will for a solution – this leads to the destruction and deaths of people and countries whose infrastructures were developed over generations.
We need to start the process by accepting that Turkey is a major regional player, that we do not need to spend money on the East Med pipeline and that we have the facility through Turkey to deliver the gas to Europe. This makes more financial sense where cost estimates are approximately US $10 billion and our income will be spent on paying this cost with a long wait to receive positive dividends.
Cyprus is a small player internationally and needs to establish correct alliances and move away from potential conflicts which are detrimental to its future. Signing Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) will allow all neighbouring countries to work together and gain the benefit of trading with each other.
The fact that we are a member of the EU, the largest western international economic block, automatically also categorises us as one. There is no way that we can play a dangerous political game by playing the US against Russia. It can only be the US, otherwise we will risk once again, like times before in our history, where we lost the opportunity to find some acceptable solution.
Without a solution our young citizens will leave our shores for a better future elsewhere and Cyprus will lose the future brains of the country. There is still hope and the window of opportunity still exists, but only just. Let us not lose this last opportunity in finding a solution to unify Cyprus.
Worldwide there is more than 1 million Cypriots (Greek and Turkish) living abroad. After the elections the new president must entice them to repatriate to Cyprus – bringing with them knowledge, new ideas and capital which will be a major benefit to the Cypriot economy under a unified Cyprus. This would increase the Cypriot population in excess of 1.3 million citizens that a united Cyprus would have. Added to this is the potential of Cypriots internationally returning to the island.
As in my previous article, I have again assessed the three presidential candidates and in my opinion Averof Neophytou is the only one who has the political experience, will, commitment, acceptability internationally and among the Turkish Cypriots.
Use your vote to change Cyprus and allow it to reunify and to take its place as a country that not only has the will, but the foresight to unify all Cypriots under one flag, one anthem, one identity and where all, irrespective of who they are, are given the same opportunity.
Takis Christodoulou is a property developer and retired politician in South Africa. He is a member of the World Hellenic Interparliamentary Association