By Nicos A. Rolandis
I recall it was May 1978, three months after I had taken over as Minister of Foreign Affairs. I was in New York with President Kyprianou to attend the First U.N. Special Session on Disarmament.
During my stay there, I addressed a gathering of overseas Greeks and Cypriots and I thanked them, inter alia, for the solidarity of the “Greek Americans” with Cyprus and her cause. When my speech was over, the president of one of the associations which participated, approached me and discreetly suggested that Greeks in the U.S. would rather be called “Americans of Greek origin” than “Greek Americans”. They were first and foremost “Americans” and their origin followed.
When I went back to the hotel I pondered over what was suggested to me. I wondered how many Cypriots feel to be Cypriots first, and then Greeks or Turks. My memory flew back to the hard years we went through in the 1960s, when a negligible number of citizens only believed in their country and her national symbols…Years during which Greeks and Turks considered Cyprus as a ¨ transit station ¨ to union with Greece (enosis) for the Greeks and to partition or total Turkish occupation for the Turks.
“I do solemnly affirm faith to, and respect for, the Constitution and the laws made thereunder, the preservation of the independence and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus”. This is the oath taken by the leaders, this is the oath of all Cypriots, Greeks and Turks.
The President of the Republic, however, in December 1963 attempted to redraft and amend the Constitution, to which he had pledged his allegiance. Furthermore the House of Representatives (consisting of Greek Cypriots only at the time) voted unanimously on the 27th June 1967 that ¨ it will not defer the struggle, presently carried out with the solidarity of all Greeks, until the union, without any intermediary stations, of the whole unified Cyprus with motherland Greece is implemented ¨ (Minutes of the House of Representatives 1966-1967, page 1274).
On the other side of the fence the Turkish Cypriots, through extremist and unlawful organizations (in parallel to the Greek Cypriot ones), were trying to overturn the constitutional order and achieve partition.
We really had beautiful people in Cyprus in those years, fully dedicated to their motherland! A motherland in which they never believed – they employed all possible methods to exterminate her… Which they eventually achieved.
The mentality of many people remains unaltered since then. As I wrote in the past, the more we suffer the less we learn in this country.
Each community has built its own cause through its own separate angle. It firmly believes that justice and principles are on its own side. And each one has erected its own ideological castle along the following lines:
Greek Cypriots: They fought in 1955-59 for union with Greece, a venerable and sacred right. In 1960 they were compelled to veer to independence, which however was not just and balanced. So, they endeavoured to make the necessary corrections in 1963, keeping alive, in parallel, their irrepressible desire for union with Greece. In the meantime the Turkish Cypriots kept undermining the Cyprus Republic and they revolted in 1963. Later on, the treacherous junta came to power in Greece, it destabilized Makarios and together with EOKA B it carried out the coup in 1974. Turkey invaded and brought havoc to Cyprus. She still occupies 37% of the territory of the Republic. There are 1500 Greek Cypriot missing persons. The various Plans of the United Nations cannot be accepted because they do not safeguard in a just way the rights of the Greek Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots and Turkey are to blame for whatever goes wrong in Cyprus.
Turkish Cypriots: The Greek Cypriots fought in 1955-59 for union with Greece, ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriots. Eventually the Republic of Cyprus was established, which the Greek Cypriots incessantly undermined. In 1963 Makarios tried to destroy the constitutional order. In the 1960s the Turkish Cypriots were forced to live in enclaves and the Greek Cypriots were aiming at their annihilation. In 1974 the Greek Cypriots and the Greek Junta tried to achieve union with Greece through the coup dʼetat. Turkey intervened to save the Turkish Cypriots but still many of them perished and 500 are missing. Because of the above, the Turkish Cypriots believe that the two communities must live apart under a very loose federation. The Greek Cypriots and Greece are to blame for whatever goes wrong in Cyprus.
The international community kept, in general terms, a distance from both communities. It recognized on the one hand the Republic of Cyprus under the leadership of the Greek Cypriots. On the other hand, through its stance and resolutions, it supported pragmatic positions which are not palatable to many Cypriots.
In regard to justice, which are really the criteria which apply in this world? A world where you have the Gaza Strip, Darfour and the 40.000 children who die of hunger every day on the one hand and the mega-yachts and the provocative abundance, waste and luxury on the other. Where did justice prevail in real terms, so that Cyprus could seek to have it as well? And what constitutes justice in this unjust world?
It is in this unstable atmosphere that the talks are carried out in Cyprus. And although I am not conversant with all details I would make some preliminary remarks on what is under negotiation:
1. I do not believe that the Greek Cypriot position of electing the President and the Vice President on a single list by the whole electorate is correct and sustainable. In such a case the Greek Cypriots will determine who the Turkish Cypriot President/ Vice President will be, because they constitute the majority of the electorate. Such a Greek Cypriot privilege did not exist even in the 1960 constitution.
2. The Turkish Cypriot side cannot insist that Turkey should have the right to a military intervention in Cyprus, which is a member of the European Union and to which Turkey aspires to accede. Besides, such a ¨ right ¨ is prohibited by the United Nations Charter and by European laws and regulations. Under such an arrangement shall we not legalise the aggression of one state against another?
3. As far as the question of property rights are concerned, I believe that neither the absolute positions of Talat nor those of Christofias will lead anywhere. There are many resolutions of the United Nations which propose a methodology on this issue. But most importantly we have the 1977 Makarios – Denktas Agreement, which provides that matters of principle, like “the right to property are open for discussion, taking into consideration the fundamental basis of a bicommunal federal system and certain practical difficulties which may arise for the Turkish Cypriot Community”. This Agreement, if there is good faith, may constitute the golden mean.
Aeschylus had said that “when one listens to one of two sides, he learns only half the truth” Christofias and Talat must listen carefully to each other and seek justice after taking into account the arguments, the mistakes, the omissions and the sins of all Cypriots. Otherwise, Cyprus will remain divided into two parts, which does not serve the interests of either the Greek or the Turkish Cypriots.
*** Nicos Rolandis is former Foreign Minister of Cyprus