Solution now, says former President Vasiliou

Former (south) Cyprus President George Vasiliou has said in an interview with Alithia newspaper that he is optimistic that there will be a solution, thanks to the strong moment that exists now, which comes not just from the good wvasiliou3ork of the two leaders, but from the benefits that Turkey will gain.

He called on the two sides to reassure their people on issues that perhaps create fear and anxiety, such as the question of security, which can be assuaged by the fact that Cyprus is an EU member, as well as to explain the economic benefits that would accrue from a solution, such as growth in tourism and foreign investments.

He expressed the belief that Turkey is aware that it is in its interest to find a solution in Cyprus. “Turkey got what it wanted in 1974,” he said. “I’ve said this to the National Council. Turkey wanted to control northern Cyprus and has achieved it. It just wants to make sure that there will be a Turkish Cypriot constituent state. From there on it won’t have to pay hundreds of millions to the other side, or keep an army there.”

He added that Turkey also wants to join the EU and that to do so it will need to respect the European acquis, which will help the Cyprus problem.

Vasiliou also expressed the conviction that this time people will vote in favour of a solution. “Once the two sides reach a deal and DISY and AKEL support it, Greece and Turkey support it, the people will vote yes.

The former president admitted, however, that there were a number of people who would reject a solution no matter what. “It’s psychological,” he said. “These people haven’t come to terms with what happened in Cyprus. They want to go back to the way things were before 1974. An unfairness did happen, but what we must not forget was that we made mistakes too that destroyed the Republic of Cyprus.” He added that while he did not want to minimise Turkey’s responsibility, the Greek Cypriot side must carry out some self criticism rather than always blaming foreigners. “In a fight there is never one person to blame,” he said and added, “Returning to the way things were in 1974 is not feasible.”

Mr Vasiliou said that when he was president he twice met with Nelson Mandela and asked him how they had managed to solve a tragedy such as South Africa. “He told me it was two simple things – to decide to compromise and to forgive the crimes of the past.”

Asked whether he was concerned that there were political parties ready to influence the people to vote no, he said he wasn’t at all concerned because this was their job. “They were always against a solution. They’re selling patriotism from morning till evening. They’re afraid of federation because they know it’s the only possibe solution.”

Asked about why the referendum {on the Annan Plan} failed in 2004, Vasiliou said it was because AKEL changed its mind at the last minute. “If AKEL hadn’t changed course, the people would not have voted no.”
He said one of the biggest problems in the Annan plan was that there was a provision for compensation for loss of use in the property issue. “This would have bankrupted the new state from the get go,” he said and expressed the hope that the two leaders were not discussing such a thing now.

He also blamed Greece and Costas Karamanlis for not taking a stronger stance in 2004, giving Mr Papadopoulos a blank cheque to do what he wanted. “Tasos Papadopoulos tricked Europe and me personally,” he said. “He asked me to make sure that there would be no obstacles to Cyprus joining the EU.
I told him I would do anything for the good of Cyprus, but the first thing the Europeans are going to ask me is will we support the Anan plan. The answer he gave me was ‘of course we will vote for the Annan plan, I already told them so.’ So that’s what I did. Had we told them we would be voting no, we would not have got into the EU.”

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