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Media Watch 2004

29 October 2004
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Alex Efthyvoulos
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 29 October 2004.
Washington admits spending millions to swing decision
"UNITED States interference in Cypriot internal affairs with the specific aim of influencing voters to accept the controversial Annan Plan is clealry admitted in a special official report"

UNITED States interference in Cypriot internal affairs with the specific aim of influencing voters to accept the controversial Annan Plan is clealry admitted in a special official report evaluating the effectiveness of the Bi-Communal Development Program (BDP) conducted on the island through a United Nations agency, but under firm American control and funding.

This American interference in Cypriot affairs is clearly admitted in the voluminous, 100 page-long and highly detailed official Evaluation Report of the Bi-Communal Development Program conducted by US officials.

The report, which surfaced this week, has created a tremendous furore locally with the government and its supporters claiming it provides ample proof of American interference, including bribery, to win acceptance of the Annan Plan, and the rejection of such claims by the opposition and those who voted 'Yes' in the April referendum.

The evaluation itself speaks volumes, however.

It reveals clearly that the thrust of the BDP in the last few years was the acceptance of the Annan Plan; it bewails the failure to achieve this aim and questions whether it would be worth while to continue to spend money on the program.

The preface to the report says that the evaluation "began shortly before negotiations began between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders on the United Nations formula for reconciliation and reunification. There was great hope that a 'historical moment' was at hand, by which the United Nations, using the 'Annan Plan' developed under the leadership of the Secretary-General could assist both sides to find a path to peace.

Not clear whether BDP should continue after GC rejection
After pointing out that the plan was overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots, and approved by "a substantial majority" of the Turkish Cypriots, the report declares that "it may be argued that a BDP-type programme should have begun much earlier to develop an active constituency for peace in the Greek Cypriot community, much as it was able to do among the Turkish Cypriots.

"Turkish Cypriot NGOs, many of them supported by BDP, were active proponents of the settlement, and helped to convince others that this was their best hope to enter into the modern world.''

Dealing further with its failure to convince the Greek Cypriots to accept the Annan Plan, the Report goes on to declared that "we also identify where we believe improvements could be made in the program, mainly in the context of our hope that the UN Plan would be accepted."

But, it continues: "With the Greek Cypriot rejection of the Plan, it is not clear whether there will be, or should be, a continuation of the BDP, or any other foreign grant program dedicated to convincing Greek Cypriots to 'vote for peace.'

"The factors which caused these citizens to reject a settlement may well be too powerful for any such program to succeed.''

What is indeed weird about this American attempt to influence the people of Cyprus through a programme financed and controlled entirely by US officials is that it has been presented as a United Nations operation, under the general title United Nations Development Program/United Nations Office of Project Support - or UNDP/UNOPS.

This weird approach is stressed further by the admission in the report that "the conditions under which the Bi-Communal Development Program operated required extreme political sensitivity; consequently the Grant Agreement specified that the UNDP would receive political guidance from the US Embassy in Nicosia in selecting activities to be funded."

UNOPS has since released a detailed list of where the millions in US aid were allocated in Cyprus (see separate report) while the US evaluation also reveals details of the operation and its dealing with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), both Greek and Turkish Cypriot.

Dealing with this aspect, the evaluation Report states in effect that "The desire to avoid negative publicity or the appearance of political interference may also explain the predominance of grants to health (30%) and environment (19%) NGOs, particularly in the first three years of the project. As BDP became more established and the political constraints were relaxed, funding shifted to peace/mediation NGOs (11%), the latter mostly in 2002/3."

Grants given to favourites or bogus NGOs
The evaluation added that "as the possibilities of a settlement improved in 2002, the Special Initiative Grant was established, permitting the beginning of a more directive program that remained within control of the Embassy -Project Management Unit decision makers.''

Expanding on this, the report said that "after the 2002 annual review a `fast track' process was created for target of opportunity projects or for ad hoc projects that might not receive the approval of the authorities. A weekly meeting was established whereby the Project Management Unit and the US Embassy approved such projects without reference to the Personal Services Contractor.''

The report further explained that decisions for financial aid to NGOs "suggests an understandable desire to avoid funding organisations that might arouse opposition of one side or the other."

Even so, the BDP gave financial grants to a total of 77 NGOs, none of which dealt with such major issues as the importance of a settlement being based firmly on respect for human rights and the rule of law, including the right of refugees to return, as such things are anathema to the Turkish/Turkish Cypriot side!

In a biting criticism of the people responsible for administering these grants, the evaluation declared that "the program never was able to develop consistent, well understood and documented criteria for grant-making...The perception of inconsistency undermines the credibility of the BDP, and the resulting belief that grants are given to favourites or bogus NGOs.''

This 'perception' is underscored in another part of the evaluation.

This reveals the stress on dealing with 'favourites' by saying that it asked 17 Greek Cypriot NGOs that were asked about the Annan Plan; "Ten said they would be in favour while four said they would be in favour, with reservations. One person said they would vote against the plan, while two said they have not made up their minds yet.''

Clearly the US embassy people carrying out this pulse-taking never bothered to expand the number of NGOs to include any that might declare rejection of the Plan.

US interests given primary consideration
The evaluation further revealed that, in determining public response to the plan "a list of Opinion Leaders was compiled, with assistance from the US Embassy staff and from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot members of the evaluation team. 23 Opinion Leaders were interviewed (see full list).''

It is worth noting that almost all the so-called Opinion Leaders identified by the evaluation report are staunch supporters of the Annan Plan, surely something that provided anything but a true picture of the opinion of the public at large.

Expanding on this, the report said that "in the Cyprus political environment, the PMU could only operate effectively by not sharing full information. At times, it was better for the Greek Cypriot authorities not to know what projects the Turkish Cypriots were approving and vice versa. Throughout, it was risky to share too much information and/or any documentation because of its potential use to either advance or discredit political positions within each community and /or between the two communities.''

The report has no reservations in admitting that the money spent was designed to promote US interests.

It says that: "In a political program largely financed by the United States it is not surprising that the foreign policy interests of the US government should be given primary consideration in how the program is perceived and what kinds of benefits can be expected.''

Admission settlers a majority in the north
The report makes scant reference to the situation prevailing on the ground in Cyprus, avoiding any mention of the Turkish occupation of the north. It refers to the presence of the Turkish occupation troops in a single sentence that states only that "the area north of the buffer zone (currently host to approximately 30,000 Turkish troops) would remain in international `limbo' at least until Turkey's European aspirations are addressed."

The report, nevertheless, makes one significant admission in connection with the influx of Turkish mainland settlers to the north. It states that "the Turkish Cypriots are very different from the Anatolian Turks (and Kurds) who have been brought in from the mainland as settlers. Now a majority in the north, the settlers are largely agriculturists, poorly educated, traditional in belief and custom and poor, compared to Turkish Cypriots. Several of the Turkish Cypriot leaders noted that this social dualism is a source of potential serious conflict and needs to be addressed immediately if the settlement is to work.''

Despite this admission in the report, the United States gives full backing to the Annan Plan, which provides for the continuing presence of the illegal mainland settlers, even though this would constitute the legitimisation of the war crime stemming from the violation of the Geneva Convention that forbids an occupying power to send settlers of its own to the occupied region.

America's valuable aid to help Cyprus rebuild

THE United States has given hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to help Cyprus recover from the terrible upheaval of the 1974 Turkish invasion and the ethnic cleansing of the Greek Cypriot population of the occupied north. Much of this money was used through the United Nations refugee agency for the relief of the homeless and dispossessed refugees.

The people of Cyprus cannot but be most grateful to the US government and the American people for this humanitarian assistance at their hour of need.

With the passage of time and the resettlement of the refugees the annual Congressional grant of $15m for Cyprus began to be used for many other purposes, such as the Fullbright Scholarship Programme, and for the purpose of restoring the shaken inter-communal relations under the general title of the Cyprus 'Bi-Communal Development Program,' or BDP.

In the past few years however money has also been spent to promote the acceptance of the controversial Annan Plan.

The majority of the Greek Cypriot people, who rejected the plan as unacceptable, came to regard this as a blatant interference by the US government in the internal affairs of Cyprus.

The clear objective of this US interference was revealed by Daniel Fried, a senior US State Department official, who told reporters in Washington on June 26 that the Annan Plan was devised specifically to offer Cyprus to Turkey."