February 25, 2008
Congratulations President Christofias! The easy part is over. Now you have to face the difficult, very difficult, part. A huge weight rests on your shoulders as another failure to settle the inter-communal dispute will surely be the end of the reunification story.
“The Annan Plan is dead: Long Live the Annan Plan”. The Plan is probably as dead as the EU Constitutional Treaty is: the main elements will survive but no longer be referred to as part of the Annan Plan. But the rejection of Papadopoulos does not change the GC opposition to the Annan Plan.
The role of external parties will be crucial. They should keep out of the negotiations unless asked. The EU has lost credibility with the TCs for failing to achieve direct trade from Northern Cyprus. The UK is discredited in the south and Greece and Turkey are complicating factors.
Were I a non-political Cypriot (there are still some left!), I would be concerned about three things:
- The Turkish army’s continuing presence
- The guarantors of the settlement
- The Turkish settlers
Let’s come back to this later.
I am one of very few non-Cypriots who remembers Cyprus in 1963 before the December inter-communal strife. And from 1965 when we could still enjoy the unspoilt beauty of Kyrenia, Bel Paise, Paphos and Ayia Napa. Turkish Cypriots (TC) and Greek Cypriots(GC) still managed to live together. Fast forward 40 years to opening of Green Line in 2005, when tens of thousands of Cypriots crossed without incident.
A few broad pieces of advice:
- Remember that the tragedy of the island is not its people but its politicians
- The starting point is that TCs have never trusted GC’s and GC’s have never trusted Turks. And the inter-community trust is at it’s lowest since 1963. This is a sad, but understandable truth must be taken into account.
- It takes at least two to quarrel. TCs and GCs mustaccept that they have both been wrong to a greater or lesser extent
- In all settlement discussions, ban the use of the past tense.
Coming back to the three GC concerns:
- Why must the Turkish army remain on the island, even at a reducing level? This is in practice unnecessary. Turks and Greeks should all leave and be replaced by a NATO or an EU or UN peacekeeping force.
- Guarantors – all three guarantor powers failed the island in 1963: why trust any of them now? They should be replace by NATO or the EU or the UN
- The facts on the number of Turkish settlers are facts unclear and an independent census is urgently needed. Financial support is needed to encourage settlers to return to the motherland. Perhaps, settlers should be allowed to stay, provided that they adopt Cypriot nationality. The land problem is a ticking time-bomb, independently of the settlers.
- These questions need to be addressed and the TC view also taken into account.