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CYPRUS: WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

 

1. The Cyprus issue has been on the agenda of the UN Security Council for over 40 years, and since 1968 the two sides have been negotiating, on and off, in order to reach a settlement. Consequently for over four decades the Turkish Cypriots awaited a just and viable solution which would put an end to their unjust isolation and inhuman embargoes on their economic, social, cultural and political life and looked forward to the day their ex-partners would finally realize that the island of Cyprus was the common home of the Turkish and Greek Cypriots alike who should share and have an equal say over its destiny.

2. Well aware of the fact that a peaceful future for the younger generations could not be held prisoner to the tragic experiences of the past, the Turkish Cypriots never lost their will or determination for a durable solution which would ensure that history would not repeat itself. It was upon the initiative of the Turkish side that the UN Secretary-General invited parties to New York on 10 February 2004 to resume the negotiations on the basis of a draft comprehensive settlement plan, and that an agreement could be reached on 13 February to resume negotiations to achieve a comprehensive settlement through separate and simultaneous referenda before 1 May 2004. It was in a constructive spirit that the Turkish Cypriot side participated at the UN sponsored negotiations aimed at the establishment of a new partnership based on the sovereign equality of the two ex-partners.

3. The last four and a half years efforts’ of the parties under the auspices of the UN, produced the “Annan Plan”, which was submitted to the approval of the two sides by separate referenda, leaving no room for any political or tactical maneuvers.

4. The first phase of negotiations between the parties leading to the Annan Plan was conducted on the Island, where only small progress achieved, due to the Greek Cypriot attitude. The second and third phases were conducted in Bürgenstock, Switzerland. During the final round, on 31 March 2004, the UN Secretary-General, in accordance with the agreed procedure, finalized the plan on the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem in close consultation with the two parties in Cyprus and with Greece and Turkey.

5. The EU Commission was also present at the final stage of negotiations in Switzerland and the EU commitment with regard to comprehensive settlement were agreed upon between the parties and the EU Commission. The European Union had repeatedly expressed its strong preference for the accession of a reunited Cyprus and its support to the good offices mission of the UN Secretary-General and had made specific commitments to encourage and promote such an outcome.

6. At the closing of the Cyprus talks in Bürgenstock on 31 March 2004, the UN Secretary-General submitted the final version of the Annan Plan to the approval of the two parties with these remarks: “The choice is not between a settlement plan and some other magical or mythical solution. In reality, at this stage, the choice is between this settlement and no settlement. There have been too many missed opportunities in the past. For the sake of all of you and your people, I urge you not to make the same mistake again.” Similar calls directed at both peoples and their leaderships in the Island were also made by several countries and international organizations before the referenda were held.

7. Separate simultaneous referenda were held on 24 April 2004 in the TRNC and the Greek Cypriot administration. The plan was approved in the Turkish Cypriot referendum by 65% of the votes, whereas 76% of the Greek Cypriot people overwhelmingly rejected the plan as called for by the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr.Tassos Papadopoulos, in televised address on 7 April 2004, where he demanded a “resounding no” to the Annan Plan from the Greek Cypriots. The rejectionist approach by the Greek Cypriot leadership caused wide-spread reaction from the international community, including the UN Secretary-General and EU officials. The ways and means used by the Greek Cypriot regime to solicit a “No” vote were also critized as they amounted to undemocratic methods.

8. The Greek Cypriot leadership launched a campaign following the referenda in order to explain why the Greek Cypriots voted against the Plan. The rationale and arguments used in that explanation were regarded as being baseless by the international community. In fact, the UN Secretary General Mr.Annan, in his letter of 15 June 2004, addressed to Greek Cypriot leader, took a different view from the latter and emphasized that he did not share the Greek Cypriot leader’s characterization of the conduct of the effort by the UN.

9. Following the referenda on 24 April 2004, the Cyprus issue has taken a new turn and a new state of affairs has emerged in the island.

10. It is a fact that the Annan Plan did not satisfy all the demands and needs of the Turkish Cypriot people. A very long list of why the plan should have been rejected exists in the minds of each and every Turkish Cypriot, let alone their leadership. However, having paid a dear price for protecting their vested rights and vital interests in the past, the Turkish Cypriot people are well aware of the fact that a durable solution also has its price and requires a good deal of compromise. The Plan was considered to be carefully balanced, and a product of a compromise by the international community.

11. The results of the referenda have clearly demonstrated, once again, that the island has two owners and it is the Turkish Cypriot side which sincerely wants a settlement of the Cyprus issue based on the principles of partnership, bi-zonality and the political equality of the two peoples. These are the main parameters for a solution of the Cyprus issue, reaffirmed by various UN Security Council resolutions and developed over the years through the decades-long negotiation process, under the auspices of the UN Secretary General.

12. The separate simultaneous referenda also confirmed the fact that there exist two separate peoples on the island, neither of which represents the other. Consequently it would be an untenable claim that there is a single authority to represent the whole island, disregarding the reality that any solution in Cyprus requires the consent of both sides and both peoples.

13. Such a strong “no” in the Greek Cypriot side, on the other hand, proved, beyond any doubt, that neither the Greek Cypriot people nor their political leaders were ready to enter into a power-sharing arrangement with the Turkish Cypriots, but instead continue to enjoy the benefits of the title of the “Republic of Cyprus” which they had usurped through force of arms in December 1963. The UN Secretary-General also underlined this fact in his report to the Security Council (S/2004/437) with the following words: “If the Greek Cypriots are ready to share power and prosperity with the Turkish Cypriots in a federal structure based on political equality, this needs to be demonstrated, not just by word, but by action” (para.86)

14. The April 2004 referenda have shown which side is for a solution that encompasses reunification and peace, and which side is not. It was the Greek Cypriot leadership and the Greek Cypriot people which blocked a comprehensive settlement on the island, thus returning to “normal conditions”. Ironically, the comprehensive settlement plan that was rejected by the Greek Cypriots, was in fact a product of the Greek Cypriots. 

 
15. Mr. Annan’s disappointment was reflected in his Report on his Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus, dated 3 June 2004, where he stated “the rejection of such a plan by the Greek Cypriot electorate is a major setback. What was rejected was the solution itself rather than a mere blueprint.”

16. The rejection by the Greek Cypriots of the UN plan was deeply regretted by the international community, since a unique opportunity has been missed and only the Greek Cypriot side of the Island was able to join the EU. This caused an anomaly, since the Turkish Cypriots, who said “yes” to reunification of the Island and the EU membership were left outside the EU, whilst the Greek Cypriot side, which rejected both, joined the Union.

17. Having been completed as a process, the Annan Plan is no longer subject to further negotiation or any amendment. The Turkish Cypriot people had their final word by saying “yes” to the Plan. For this reason, any initiative by the Greek Cypriot side or any other third party to make amendments to the Annan Plan is not acceptable on the part of Turkish Side.

18. Throughout the period of negotiation of the Annan Plan and all its predecessors, and for a period of more than forty years, the Turkish Cypriots have been subjected to physical and economic deprivation and debilitating uncertainty. It is time to put on end to this.

19. The question now is whether the world shall close a blind eye to the striking reality and allow the Greek Cypriots who opted for no solution to continue pretending that they represent the whole island, or honour the Turkish Cypriots with their vested rights to speak and act for themselves through their separate will.

20. The UN Secretary –General’s answer to this question was amply clear in his statement of 24 April 2004. Applauding the Turkish Cypriots who approved the plan, notwithstanding the significant sacrifices that it entailed for many of them, the Secretary-General regretted that “the Turkish Cypriots will not equally enjoy the benefits of EU membership as of 1 May 2004” but he hoped that “way will be found to ease the plight in which the people find themselves through no fault of their own.”

21. Besides the UN Secretary General, numerous international organizations, as well as dignitaries applauded the Turkish Cypriot people’s affirmative vote and, in the light of the understanding that ways and means should be found to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, they called for the immediate restoration of their direct political, economic, trade and cultural activities internationally without any restriction.

22. The Turkish Cypriot people only ask for their decades-old unfair punishment to come to an end. As the UN Secretary-General concluded in his report to the Security-Council, elimination of restrictions and barriers that have the effect of isolating the Turkish Cypriots and impeding their development would be consistent with Security Council resolutions 541 (1983) and 550 (1984).

23. The Greek Cypriot side, which astonishingly managed to convince the world of its political will for a solution and portrayed the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey as intransigent through the long process of negotiations, has in fact impeded a solution. As the Greek Cypriot leader publicly admitted , the Greek Cypriot side’s main focus was not to negotiate a solution, but rather to protect its illegally gained advantageous position.

24. It is an undisputable fact that after the referenda the parameters have drastically changed. Therefore, if the international community truly desires to see a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus, it has to re-diagnose the root cause of the Cyprus issue and adopt a fresh approach accordingly.