Cyprus Mail

20 years since the Annan plan referendum

Former president Tassos Papadopoulos

Wednesday marked exactly 20 years since a referendum was held on whether to reunite Cyprus under the Annan plan on April 24, 2004.

While the majority – 65 per cent – of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the plan, an even larger majority – 76 per cent – of Greek Cypriots voted against it, and thus the plan was never implemented, and Cyprus remains divided to this day.

Reaction to the referendum’s failure was mixed at time, with then-President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash both having agreed that its rejection was in their interests.

Papadopoulos insisted at the time that the Greek Cypriot electorate “are not turning their backs on their Turkish Cypriot compatriots”, but had “simply rejected this particular solution on offer”.

Denktash resisted calls for his immediate resignation, but announced in May 2004 that he would not be standing for re-election in the following year’s Turkish Cypriot leadership elections.

Guarantor powers the United Kingdom and Turkey both expressed their disappointment at the result, while the Greek government said efforts to reunite the island “should not be halted”.

The United Nations were less than impressed at the referendum result, with then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after whom the plan was named, saying “a unique and historic chance to resolve the Cyprus problem has been missed.”

Special envoy in Cyprus Alvaro de Soto said, “this evening, I’m biting my tongue.”

Then European Commissioner for enlargement Gunter Verheugen went further, saying, “I feel cheated by the Greek Cypriot government … There is a shadow now over the accession of Cyprus.” The Greek Cypriots still entered the EU on May 1, 2004.

Incumbent President Nikos Christodoulides has made no statement to mark the referendum’s anniversary, but incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said “not a single promise” given to the Turkish Cypriots in the aftermath of the referendum has been fulfilled.

“The Turkish Cypriot people are still being punished with cruel, unfair, and inhumane embargoes,” he said, adding that the current status quo “encourages the Greek Cypriot side’s uncompromising attitude.”

Tassos Papadopoulos’ son and current Diko leader Nicholas Papadopoulos said the Annan plan’s implementation would have led to Cyprus becoming a “protectorate”, but that “fortunately, our people overwhelmingly rejected it … defending, justice, dignity, and our history”.


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