Statement of President Ersin Tatar on the 19th anniversary of the separately held simultaneous referenda on the UN Comprehensive Settlement [Annan] Plan.
“Turkish Cypriot People and our State will reach their rightful status in the international community despite the continuing injustice and broken promises to end our isolation”
President Ersin Tatar issued a written statement on the 19th anniversary of the separately held simultaneous referenda of the UN Comprehensive Settlement [Annan] Plan and the 20th anniversary of the first border crossing point between the two Sides.
The ‘Annan Plan’ had come about following decades of federal-based negotiations between the equal Turkish Cypriot People and Greek Cypriot People, which was held under the UN and supported by the international community. During the Annan Plan period, numerous promises were made to the Turkish Cypriot People by many international actors and States, that the inhumane isolation, which has negative impact on the development of the Turkish Cypriot People – both as a collective and as individuals – would be lifted. However, none of the promises have been fulfilled, and despite the passing of 19 years, the Turkish Cypriot People continue to be isolated and prevented from being able to trade directly and enjoy direct flights. Despite their rejection of the Annan Plan, the Greek Cypriot Side acceded to the EU in the name of the whole island one week after the referenda in 2004, whilst Turkish Cypriots were left out in the cold.
President Ersin Tatar’s statement to his People on these two important anniversaries reads as follows:
“My Honourable People,
Today marks the 19th anniversary of the separately held simultaneous referenda for the UN Comprehensive Settlement [Annan] Plan (aka ‘Annan Plan’), which was held on April 24, 2004.
As it will be recalled, negotiations on the Cyprus issue commenced almost 55 years ago in June, 1968. Since then, political and technical negotiations which took place at every level failed due to the intransigent approach and mentality of the Greek Cypriot Side. However, there have also been very important turning points in these processes.
In 1960, exercising their inherent sovereign equality rights, the Turkish Cypriot People and the Greek Cypriot People established the partnership Republic of Cyprus. Just three years later, the Greek Cypriot Side violated the Constitution and expulsed Turkish Cypriot officials out of the state apparatus by force of arms. Island-wide armed attacks by Greek-Greek Cypriot forces, including the EOKA terrorist organisation were initiated against innocent Turkish Cypriots which lasted for 11 years as part of the aspiration to unite Cyprus with Greece (ENOSIS).
On July 15, 1974, a coup d’état was staged and the ‘Hellenic Republic of Cyprus’ was declared. Motherland Türkiye undertook the Cyprus Peace Operation on July 20, 1974, as obliged by the Treaty of Guarantee, the day after Archbishop Makarios addressed the UN Security Council that “Greece has invaded Cyprus”. The fascist junta of Greece proceeded to kill Greek Cypriots who opposed them. Furthermore, had Türkiye not have staged the Cyprus Peace Operation, the military junta in Greece would not have collapsed and democracy would not have returned to Greece.
In the following period, the Turkish Cypriot People, who have been putting forward a great struggle to protect their inherent sovereign equality rights as one of the co-owners on the island of Cyprus, have been governing themselves effectively as a State since 1963. Exercising our right to self-determination, Turkish Cypriot People proclaimed our own democratic sovereign State in November 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot Side has never abandoned its sincere, constructive, and good faith approach in all these years, and have always tried to accommodate an equality-based comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. However, all negotiations collapsed, due to the Greek Cypriot Side’s unwillingness to share power and prosperity with their Turkish Cypriot equals in a new partnership.
Opening of first border crossing by TRNC
Precisely 20 years ago, on April 23, 2003, the Turkish Cypriot Side undertook a historical game changing act and opened the Ledra Palace border checkpoint in Lefkoşa that provided an opportunity for the two Peoples on both Sides of the island of Cyprus to be able to cross the border.
At first, the Greek Cypriot leadership had put forth a position of not accommodating the opening of the border checkpoint, but this was short lived due to the overwhelming pressure by the Greek Cypriot people. However, the reason why such resistance was initially shown needs to be questioned. The explanation is simple. The Greek Cypriot leadership wanted to prevent their own People from visiting the ‘North’ as they did not want them to see the realities in TRNC and how we really lived, which had been a tool they used to make negative propaganda over many years.
The realities in the island of Cyprus, including the existence of two separate sovereign States, were witnessed first hand by both the Turkish Cypriot People and Greek Cypriot People who used the border crossings. They not only witnessed, but also understood that there were separate set of laws, rules and regulations and requirements of the two different States, that they had to comply with when they crossed, including the need to have a different currency. The phenomenon that has emerged in 1974 has become deeply rooted and the opening of border crossings between the two States has added ‘flesh and bones’ to this reality, which cannot be denied.
Annan Plan referenda
Nineteen years ago, a first was lived in the history of negotiations on the Cyprus issue (including the 1959/1960 process), where a UN Comprehensive Settlement [Annan] Plan was put to separate simultaneous referenda on both Sides in Cyprus. I must summarise and emphasise the significance of this momentous event: Following the approval by both sides in Cyprus who accepted to put the ‘Annan Plan’ to separate, simultaneous referenda, the TRNC Parliament approved the referendum legislation, and as is the case for every election in our Republic, our Supreme Election Council announced both the polling stations and the electorate list. As in every election in our country, all our citizens who had the right to vote did so in the referendum. The same processes were also followed on the Greek Cypriot Side. The referenda were separately and simultaneously held on both Sides. The two States held the referenda according to their own laws, rules, polling stations, electoral list and votes were thus cast. This is, in itself, concrete proof of the realities that prevail on the island of Cyprus which is that two States exist here. In other words, the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot People is an inherent right that already exists and is not subject to and could never be dependent on a compromise and the result of any negotiation process.
Another fundamental conclusion that can be drawn following the outcome of the separately held simultaneous referenda of the ‘Annan Plan’ is that there will never be a change to the policies and deep-rooted hegemonic mentality that exists in Southern Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot leadership had at the time agreed to allow the ‘Annan Plan’ to be put to a referendum on their own Side at the summit held in Burgenstock on March 31, 2004, in order not to look bad to the international community. However, immediately after returning to the island, the Greek Cypriot leadership started to demonise the plan, and put into place manipulative, demagogic and inflammatory campaign through a propaganda machine, where even the late Greek Cypriot leader made a last-ditch effort through a national address broadcast on television, where he cried and pleaded for a ‘no’ vote from his People. Their reasons were very simple. According to Greek Cypriots, the island of Cyprus should be a Hellenic Island, the guarantees should be abolished, and the Turkish forces should be completely removed from the island. According to their demands, the Turkish Cypriots should have very limited powers, if any, in the administration and the ‘supreme Greek Cypriots’ should be able to make the important decisions with regards to the island, on the grounds of ‘functionality’. This was the picture at that time and the denial of these facts would not go beyond populism. These are excerpts from statements made by Greek Cypriot politicians of not only the right-wing political parties, but also of the Greek Cypriot communist party, AKEL, another important representative of ideological populism, which is trying to keep a false image of being the “angel of peace”. The Annan Plan referenda in 2004 were both a moment of sincerity as well as time of confrontation with the facts.
Despite the realisation of these unchangeable realities, there have been numerous efforts to set up the same stage and setting. Those who have time and again seen the mentality of the Greek Cypriot Side over decades voiced disappointment again following the outcome in Crans-Montana in July 2017, where the last and final summit for a federal-based settlement collapsed due to the Greek Cypriot Side’s refusal to come to terms with sharing power and prosperity with the Turkish Cypriot Side on the basis of equality.
The ‘Annan Plan’ referenda in 2004 and the events in Crans-Montana in 2017 once again revealed that a federal-based solution is not possible. Whilst the Greek Cypriot side rejected our inherent equality and sovereignty rights in Crans-Montana, well known demands were repeatedly made for the solution to be based on the ‘evolution’ of the ‘Republic of Cyprus’, to eventually becoming a unitary state being ruled by the Greek Cypriots, which was further evidenced through their “zero troops, zero guarantees” position. The objective of the Greek Cypriot Side is very clear.
The Greek Cypriot Side is awaiting a conjunctural solution. Their sole objective is to perpetuate the status-quo and to continue being recognised as the so-called ‘authority’ of the whole island, until such a time where a situation arises that they can use a negotiations process as a tool to satisfy their own ambitions and force us to surrender.
On the anniversaries of these important dates, I would like to reiterate once again that we will not allow the Greek Cypriot side to remain in their comfort zones, which they have unjustly and illegally abused. The Turkish Cypriot Side, with the full support of Motherland Türkiye, will not enter into any basis that have been exhausted. We will not surrender the future of my honourable people, who heroically continue their struggle for survival and equal co-existence.
Any settlement needs to be based on the sovereign equality and equal international status of the two States on the basis of a cooperative relationship. With this vision, we will continue our work by choosing rational power and keeping diplomacy at the forefront. While these efforts continue, we shall arduously continue our efforts for the equal status, equal treatment and equal opportunities for our People and State, which is our inherent right.”