Dear candidates and would-be presidents,
You are asking us to trust you and give you our vote to govern us for the next five years. So, tell us clearly and specifically how you plan to prevent the annexation of our occupied land by Erdogan which is likely to be the first crisis you will face as president of this country.
Maybe with condemnations and admonitions, with appeals for sanctions, and UN resolutions? Or perhaps with renegotiation after 50 years of negotiations? Or perhaps by appointing a representative of the Secretary General of the UN as special envoy for the Cyprus problem, or a designation of a high-ranking official of the European Union to move the stagnant waters? Or with an unyielding and long struggle from our armchairs, like the one we fought for the past 50 years?
The omens and messages are coming from everywhere and they are disturbing. We were given half a century to salvage what could be salvaged after our back-to-back self-goals, and we didn’t manage. Now we are running out of time, unless some people think we can hold talks for another half a century or longer.
We want to know! The messages coming from the UN, the European Union and the international community are not encouraging at all. Maybe, we’ll get one more chance, the last one, in the next few months, or maybe not. Is there anyone who doubts that our side’s position has gone from bad to worse and that the chances we missed will never be seen again?
In order to ensure his re-election, Erdogan is working on scenarios to excite nationalism in Turkey, including the annexation of the occupied territories, and he does not hide it. My sources in Ankara insist convincingly that annexation is high on Erdogan’s agenda. What are we doing? Are we waiting for annexation to happen and then try to see what actions we can take?
Dear candidates and would-be presidents,
Are you ready, without evasions and generalisations, to state clearly and unequivocally: a) your readiness to resume the talks for a solution from where they were left off at Crans Montana and within a specific schedule, and b) to tie ourselves to the bandwagon of the West immediately and, without hesitation calling on France and the USA to arm the island as they did for Greece and the Greek islands. The USA showed us the way with the lifting of the American arms embargo and the joint exercises with the National Guard.
An attack on Sweden and Finland by Russia is much more unlikely than the annexation of the occupied part of Cyprus by Turkey. But these two peaceful and traditionally neutral countries rushed to apply for Nato membership even though they knew that Turkey would veto it. This did not prevent them from seizing the opportunity and, in this way, they have exposed Turkey to the eyes of the international community, more than we have been able to do with our dubious efforts over so many years.
Perhaps now, is our chance to become the third country, whose accession to Nato Turkey opposes, at a time the West is finally learning what Turkey, under Erdogan, is really about. It would be the best legacy for President Anastasiades if, in the last days of his presidency, he submitted an application for Cyprus to join Nato. This would be international news of great significance that would expose Turkey with yet another objection, but it would also create a more positive treatment of us from the West and make it more difficult for Erdogan to go ahead with his plans. Do we dare? “Freedom needs virtue and courage” poet Andreas Kalvos characteristically wrote in 1824, in his poem ‘In Samos’. If he were alive today, perhaps he would repeat it in a poem entitled ‘In Cyprus’.
Mr President Anastasiades,
With such a move, you would break a 63-year tradition that wants Cyprus “to be balancing on two and sometimes three boats at the same time” with the disastrous consequences that we all know and live with today. At the same time, you would be giving the best gift to your successor, the new President of the Republic, who would no longer be facing the tough decision, whether he should apply to join or not and is so when. If you submit the application now, before the new president takes over, he would not dare withdraw it. The message of your action would have already passed to its intended recipients and we would enjoy a more favourable treatment, not of course from Turkey, but from those we expect to defend us, in line with their own interests, of course.
This will be one great legacy for you, Mr President! Days before your departure from the presidency of the country, you beat Erdogan in the planned annexation, with an application to join Nato. Let him veto it! Turkey is exposed again, while we gain, if nothing else, international attention and a more positive treatment from the West.
Dr Theodore Panayotou, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize contributor, is a professor of economics and ethics and director of the Cyprus International Institute of Management (CIIM). He taught economics for 25 years at Harvard University