By Gene Rossides
EU Council President
The European Union (EU) Council President Herman Van Rompuy stated in Cyprus that the EU stands ready to provide all the advice and support possible to find a solution to the Cyprus problem. His remarks followed a request from President Demetris Christofias for assistance to reach a Cyprus settlement.
Van Rompuy was in Cyprus in preparation of the Informal EU Summit in February 2010. He had a working lunch with Christofias. He said that a Cyprus settlement was important for the EU as well. “It is about ending divisions in Europe and about stability in the region….A comprehensive, just and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue, in line with UN Security Council resolutions, would not only allow unification of Cyprus but also send a strong positive signal to the whole region.”
He said “We are fully aware that difficult issues are being discussed, but the expectation is high. We are convinced that all involved will take up their responsibilities in order to achieve the goal of unification. The time is now ripe for courageous and forward-looking decisions for the benefit of all Cypriots.”
Van Rompuy said the EU was ready “to provide all the advice and support possible to find a solution.” See generally Cyprus Mail, Jan. 22, 2010.
While Van Rompuy was in Cyprus, the government of Cyprus published on January 21, 2010 a copy of a letter President Demetris Christofias recently sent to the heads of the European Union (EU) member states and to the five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council. The government spokesman, Stefanos Stefanou, said the letter was published “because it had been leaked to the media with certain distortions.”
Mr. Stefanou further stated that the letter aimed to “demonstrate and condemn the unacceptable aspect of the Turkish proposals” and that people should be able to “read it, assess it, and judge it” for themselves.
Mr. Stefanou further said, “The President emphasizes in his letter that many of the (Turkish Cypriot) positions contradict both the agreed basis as well as the sensitive balance that has been created throughout these years” under the UN auspices.
In his letter, Christofias said he was writing to inform the recipients “about the latest developments in the Cyprus negotiations and to submit an evaluation of the recently submitted proposals of the Turkish side.”
In his early paragraphs Christofias set forth the agreed basis for the negotiations under the auspices of the UN and sharply criticized the Annan Plan as “an unfair and unbalanced plan and a non-functional and non-viable proposed settlement.” He referred to its preparation by “foreigners” who also “imposed the one-sided arbitration in favour of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side.” The relevant paragraphs follow:
As agreed with the Secretary-General of the UN, these negotiations are conducted on the basis of the principle of Cypriot ownership, without strict timetables and without any possibility of a new arbitration. It is also agreed that the negotiations are conducted under the auspices of the UN, whose role is to facilitate.
The above-mentioned procedure was adopted by relevant Security Council resolutions. This was done in order to avoid the repetition of bitter experiences of the past, when foreigners prepared the Annan Plan and imposed the one-sided arbitration in favour of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side. This ended up in an unfair and unbalanced plan and a non-functional and non-viable proposed settlement. For these reasons, that plan was fairly rejected by 76% of the Greek Cypriots.
The EU must take action
Frankly, the EU has not done much to achieve a solution. There are several obvious steps the EU should take in its own interests to achieve a “comprehensive, just and viable settlement” in line with UN Security Council resolutions and the rule of law.
First, call for the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish military forces from Cyprus. There are an estimated 43,000 Turkish aggression troops in the occupied part of Cyprus. The EU should demand a short timetable by Turkey to remove its troops. This is not a matter for negotiation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Second, call for the prompt return to Turkey of the estimated 180,000 illegal setters in open and flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention. Turkey’s aim is to alter the demographics of Cyprus. There are now 2 illegal Turks from Turkey for each Turkish Cypriot in the occupied area of Cyprus.
Third, The Law Library of Congress issued a devastating 50 page report on the destruction of the cultural and religious heritage of the Greek Cypriots in the occupied area of Cyprus titled Cyprus: Destruction of Cultural Property in the Northern Part of Cyprus and Violations of International Law, Report For Congress, April 2009 (LL File No. 2008-01356)
The EU should call for the full restoration of the damaged and destroyed churches and cultural institutions. The EU should further call for the full access by Greek Cypriots to worship in the occupied area.
Fourth, the EU should publicly tell Turkey to recognize the Republic of Cyprus and to allow Cypriot flag vessels and planes into Turkish ports and airports or face the consequences.
Fifth, the EU should inform Turkey that these items are not the subject of negotiation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. They are part of Turkey’s relations with the EU. Turkey should be told by the EU that unless the above actions are taken that the EU will promptly proceed to employ full diplomatic, political and economic pressure on Turkey including a halt in negotiations regarding potential membership in the EU, suspension from the Council of Europe and a review of the EU-Turkey association agreement and trade and commercial relations with Turkey.
The EU should remember that Turkey’s aggression forces controlled 4% of the territory of Cyprus on July 23, 1974 when the legitimate government of Cyprus was restored and a UN cease-fire was in place. Three weeks later, on August 14-16, 1974, Turkey broke off negotiations and committed further naked aggression and land grab of 33% of Cyprus and war crimes.
I respectfully suggest to EU Council President Van Rompuy that “The time is now ripe for courageous and forward looking decisions—by the EU—for the benefit of all Cypriots.”
**** Gene Rossides is founder of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.