Open letter from Kyriacos Jacovides in response to United Nations envoy Maria Angela Holguin

Your Excellency,

I have read your open letter to the Cypriots and I am surprised by the fact that you have not made any reference to the United Nations resolutions on Cyprus, to the principles and values of the international organisation and international law. Cyprus, Mrs Holguin, has been invaded by a foreign country, Turkey, which still occupies almost 40 per cent of its territory. Turkey has colonised the northern part of our country by transferring tens of thousands of settlers, to whom it has distributed our property. Settlement of a country by another country, as you well know, is contrary to international law, the principles of the UN and a war crime.

Turkey maintains thousands of troops in the occupied part of Cyprus and is upgrading its military presence on the island by establishing an air and naval base. Nevertheless, you ask all Cypriots “to encourage and pressure their leaders to work for a better and secure future”.

In your open letter you did not make any reference to Turkey, which, as it admitted to the European Court of Human Rights, is responsible for what is happening in the northern part, the occupied part of Cyprus. Turkey, as many Turkish officials have repeatedly said, is not interested in Cyprus because of the presence of Turkish Cypriots, but for its own strategic interests. After all, as former Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated in his book Strategic Depth, “even if there was not a single Turkish Cypriot in Cyprus, we should have found one.”

You should also be aware, Mrs Holguin, that with the transfer of Cyprus to England in 1878, Turkey gave up all its rights to the island. However, in 1956, the Turkish government adopted the plan prepared for the then Turkish prime minister Menderes and foreign minister Zorlu by diplomat (and later prime minister) Nihat Erim for the “reconquest” of Cyprus, in six stages over a period of time. The five stages have been implemented. These are some key things you should be aware of and take into account in your efforts for the resumption of the negotiations.

However, I could not agree more with your point that “It is important to move away from solutions that in the past have created expectations that were not met and led to greater disagreements and frustrations. Now, we must think differently, remaining convinced that a common future would bring great opportunities to all Cypriots”.

What kind of solutions did we have in the past?

The 1960 Constitution was nothing other than what I call a “bicommunal confederation”, which led to major differences, disagreements, crises and gave the excuse to Turkey to attempt its first military intervention on the island.  Based on the 1960 Constitution, we basically have had two parallel governments that both had to agree on most political and governance issues. Proof of what I am arguing is that there was a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice-president, but when the president was absent, he was not replaced by the vice-president, but by the Speaker of the Parliament, who was also a Greek Cypriot. At the same time, on most issues, a separate majority in the cabinet was required, where two Turkish Cypriot ministers could block the decision of seven Greek Cypriots and one Turkish Cypriot. 

A separate majority was also required in the Parliament, where eight Turkish Cypriot MPs could overturn the decision of 35 Greek Cypriot and seven Turkish Cypriot MPs. 

Based on the above, it turns out that we should avoid any system involving bicommunalism. After all, countries with a federal system based on ethnic communities have fallen apart, such as the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, while Lebanon, where power was shared on the basis of religious criteria, was driven to civil war within a few years.

Therefore, Mrs Holguin, I fully agree with you that we should move away from such solutions and go to simple democratic systems of governance, one man one vote, equal rights and responsibilities of all citizens (the Greek Cypriots should have the same rights and responsibilities the Turkish Cypriots would have and vice-versa), while the sharing of power should not be decided on the basis of ethnic, religious or linguistic criteria. It is as simple as that. This way, political parties will be forced to work together on the basis of political and ideological criteria and the majority, whatever it may be, will govern with respect for the minority.   

Kyriacos Jacovides is a political scientist/journalist