By Ismail Veli
Reading an article on cyprusscene.com, click here, I felt compelled to make a comment by sharing what the ex Foreign Minister of Cyprus Nicos Rolandis has stated on many occasions.
For half a century the Turkish side has been accused of intransigence on resolving the Cyprus problem. It was only after the referendum and rejection of the Annan plan by the Greek side in 2004 that some Greek politicians like Rolandis finally began to reveal the true extent of the rejectionist stance of their leaders since the late 1940s. Nicos Rolandis listed all the plans put on the table since 1948. The list comprises 15 plans of which one was rejected jointly, while a whopping 14 were rejected by the GCs. With the start of talks again on the horizon what chance is there of finally settling this protracted problem that has been going on for decades.
How many times have we heard “this is the last opportunity”, or “a settlement must be reached by the end of the year”??. Frankly most Turkish and Greek Cypriots are not optimistic of any final settlement. The only difference to the background this time is that for the first time since 1963 the Greek Cypriot’s ability to hold out the carrot of economic success as opposed to TC lack of it, no longer carries weight. The Greek economy is on its knees and the threat of Turkish economic collapse has now become a pipe dream for the Greek leadership.
If we add the fact that the international community with immense problems, like Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq and we can add many other hot-spots to the list, we can truly understand why others are simply sick and tired of the Cyprus problem. Contrary to what many Cypriots believe, we are not the center of the universe.
The biggest hurdle in the dispute seems to lie on 3 items, property ownership, Turkey’s guarantee and equality.
The Greek side simply will not accept the latter 2. On the former they argue that the land should be distributed on the percentage of population. For the Turkish side Turkey’s guarantee is indispensable, at least until unification and trust has been established over a long period of time. On equality, the TCs will never accept a minority role in a Greek dominated Island. Past experience and a lack of acknowledgment by the Greeks for the mistakes of the past and the continued isolation of the TCs has led to a mistrust that the Greeks simply cannot, or will not understand.
Indeed to many TCs it almost seems that the vast majority of GCs relish the constant punishment of an “ungrateful and greedy Turkish community” that “rebelled” against what many Greeks consider to be an Hellenic Island. In the Greek opinion a protected minority status is more than adequate. Though there is a growing number of people on both sides wishing to see a ‘Cypriot’ identity as opposed to Greek or Turkish, nothing in the education, cultural or political rhetoric have even given the ‘Cypriot identity’ sufficient time or effort.
As for the dispute in land ownership it may be worth looking at each side’s arguments. For that we need to at least look at the 1960 census results. My analysis will be based on the Adelphi files published in 1989 by the International Institute of Strategic studies and the agreed principle between the TC leader Rauf Denktas & Makarios in 1977 and Denktas with the GC leader George Vasiliou in the Gali set of ideas in 1992.
According to the 1960 census the ownership of land was the following
State land 28%
British Sovereign bases 2.8%
Private GC ownership 48.6%
Private TC ownership 20.6%
The Turkish side disputes the above, and claimed that Turkish land amounted to nearly 30% and that the British had transferred massive chunks of Vakif land to the Greek side during the Colonial period. In addition the 1960 constitution was established on a partnership basis which means that half the state owned land was Turkish. The GCs believe the TCs are only entitled to 18% of the land belongs to the Turkish community . Anything more is considered excessive. The Greek leaders did agree however that one third or 30% of state land can be allocated to the Turkish side. Once the 30% of state land (which is 9% of total Cypriot territory) is added to the private 20.4% of Turkish land a formula of 29%+ plus was reached between Denktas and Vasiliou. Sadly due to internal opposition, Vasiliou was unable to present the Boutros set of ideas to the Greek public and another opportunity to end the dispute in 1992 was lost.
The argument by the Greek opposition based on land distribution according to population is flawed, as the Greeks themselves only owned 48.6% of private land. A simple example on this would suffice. One of the largest property owners in the UK by some strange coincidence is Andrew Charalambous a business man of GC origin. He is reputed to own over a thousand properties, while many in the UK only own one.
Does that mean that 999 properties owned by Mr A. Charalambous need to be handed over in order to balance the equal ownership based on a head count? Certainly not. The Greek leaders in the past have, as indicated already accepted the principle of 29+. Its inclusion in the Annan plan was not,- contrary to Greek propaganda engineered by the “Imperialist West”- designed to divide Cyprus and concede to Turkey’s territorial ambitions. The question by many as to why have the GC leaders rejected so many agreements can be summarized as follows, they simply have not had the courage to sell any agreement to the long suffering GC population on account that the massive propaganda dished out by the opposition and media to their “heroic OXI’s (No’s) since the early 1950’s has conditioned and convinced the GC public that it’s better to defy a “barbaric threat” and the national goal of Hellenism will eventually prevail against oppression, invasion and injustice. That national goal was originally Enosis (Union with Greece), then “unfettered self determination”.
Sadly for the Greeks the determination by the TC people to equally prevail in holding on to their rights has been seen as not too important, or equal to the Greek feeling that courage and right can only belong to the numerical GC people, therefore the Turkish argument and determination is weak and they will eventually see the error made in relying on an “occupying power” Turkey.
One way for the Turkish side to weaken the Greek argument on Turkey’s Guarantees and accept TC equality, could be for the Turkish side to concede more territory by reducing the 29%+ already agreed to the lower 25% mark. This would mean a substantial uprooting of a massive percentage of Turkish people in order to make way for the Greeks to reclaim most of their former homes. This concession on the Turkish side would entail great suffering and a possible rejection by the TCs in any referendum, but massive international financial assistance to re-house the Turkish people may in the long run offset this upheaval. The peace dividend should in the long term more than outweigh any initial financial cost. Such a concession by the Turkish side would however force the Greek opposition into turmoil and would be seen by the International community as one of the biggest opportunities to settle the dispute.
If the Greek politicians or leaders reject the offer, then unlike the broken promises made to the Turkish side in the Annan plan, a firm international guarantee must be given to the Turks, that any rejection by the Greeks will mean an acceptance that the problem is insoluble and recognition of a 2 state solution must follow. The Greek side cannot be given an open ended free hand to drag out the problem forever, while the Turkish side needs to decide whether hanging on to 34% of unrecognized land as opposed to 25% free of sanctions. Is being unrecognized with less hope for a long term prosperity worth the sacrifice?
I have no doubt that many will argue against the points made in this article. By the same token I’m certain that many will see the wisdom of a radical new approach to help break the deadlock. in the meantime however the two contradictory points of view prevailing on the Island seems as irreconcilable as ever. Therefore hopes of a settlement in the upcoming talks are just seen as a show by each side to prove to the world that it’s the opposing sides intransigence that holds back an agreement rather than a genuine attempt by either side to bring about a final solution that seems as elusive as ever.
My comment made on an article: Greek Cyprus “punished for blackmailing Europe” is as follows.
“The following list is from Nicos Rolandis The ex Foreign Minister of Cyprus “Peace moves rejected by Greek Cypriots”: I think the world will slowly get fed up with Turk bashing by The GCs. It’s way past its sell by date.
1) 1948: Consultative Assembly: We (GCs) rejected it.
2) 1955-56: Harding proposals: We (GCs) rejected them.
3) 1956: Ratcliffe Constitution: We (GCs) rejected it.
4) 1958: Macmillan Plan: We (GCs) rejected it.
5) 1959-60: Zurich-London Agreements: We (GCs) rejected them in 1963 (through the efforts to amend the Constitution) although we initially accepted them.
6) 1964: Acheson Plan: We (GCs) rejected it.
7) 1972: Agreement of Clerides-Denktaş: We (GCs) rejected it.
8) 1975: Bi-communal Arrangement: We (GCs) rejected it.
9) 1978: Anglo-American Canadian Plan: We (GCs) rejected it.
10) 1981: Evaluation of Waldheim: We (GCs) rejected it.
11) 1983: Indicators of Perez de Cuellar: We (GCs) rejected them.
12) 1985-86: Consolidated Documents of Perez de Cuellar: We (GCs) rejected them.
13) 1992: Set of Ideas, Boutros Boutros-Ghali: We (GCs) rejected them in 1993.
14) 1997: Kofi Annan’s proposals at Troutbeck-Glion: They could not go through.
15) 2002-2004: Annan Plan: We (GCs) rejected it”