Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
Print this page Print Bookmark and Share
Media Watch 2004

27 July 2004
Source: Financial Times
Author: Shlomo Avineri
Comment: The following article appeared in the Financial Times of London on 27 March 2004.
Realities behind the failure over Cyprus
"it appeared that the UN and the European Union were bent on legitimising at least some of the consequences of the Turkish invasion of 1974, because the EU wanted to take the Cyprus issue off the table in order to facilitate negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU... Greek Cypriots would not have freedom of movement in their own country. In a way, the Greek Cypriots would have been ghettoised"

The following article appeared in the Financial Times of London on 27 March 2004 by Shlomo Avineri, Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and former director-general of Israel's foreign ministry.
"Realities behind the failure over Cyprus

The Greek Cypriots' overwhelming rejection of the United Nations plan for the reunification of Cyprus should not come as a surprise. In the international media, the plan by Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, had been presented as a fair-minded and well-intentioned compromise. The Greek Cypriots would regain some territory and a "Swiss-like federation" would reunify the island.

But this is not the way it looked to most Greek Cypriots in the south. To them it appeared that the UN and the European Union were bent on legitimising at least some of the consequences of the Turkish invasion of 1974, because the EU wanted to take the Cyprus issue off the table in order to facilitate negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU.

Although the Annan plan in its various versions - the last one filled 9,000 pages – has not been fully translated into either Greek or Turkish, most of its outlines were, of course, known. But while outside observers focused mostly on the territorial and constitutional aspects suggested by the plan, for most Greek Cypriots the plan not only failed to answer their concerns but also seemed to be contrary to both UN and EU norms and values.

While some Turkish-occupied territory would be returned to Greek Cypriot rule, the contours of the Turkish Cypriot region would still reflect the outcome of Turkey's military invasion of 1974. Only half of the 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees uprooted by the Turkish invasion would be able to return to their former homes. The rest would not be able to return, or be entitled to adequate compensation.

Most of the Anatolian Turks who have been settled in the north by the Turkish occupation authorities would remain. Turkish forces would also stay in the north until Turkish accession to the EU – an arrangement the Greek Cypriots would consider an infringement of their sovereignty. The UN and the EU, which, justly, oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, appeared to reward Turkish occupiers and settlers in the Cyprus case.

Last but not least, Greek Cypriots would not be able to move freely or settle in the Turkish north. This last prohibition rattled Greek Cypriots most because it meant that in a united Europe, where every EU citizen would be more or less free to take up residence and work in the Turkish part of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots would not have freedom of movement in their own country. In a way, the Greek Cypriots would have been ghettoised.

The failure to win approval for the Annan plan has wider ramifications. It shows that there are limits to what massive international pressure can accomplish when at least one of the participants in a dispute feels that its concerns have not been adequately dealt with.

Even well-intentioned plans cannot be first worked out by outside powers and then rammed down the throats of recalcitrant parties, whether in Cyprus or Bosnia, Kosovo or Kashmir, or in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When there is no local political will, outside pressure is not strong enough to achieve a workable solution. In such cases, conflict management is preferable to unrealistic outside schemes for conflict resolution.

The Greek part of Cyprus will enter the EU on May 1 under difficult conditions. Much wisdom and restraint will now be needed from both the EU and the Greek Cypriots. The EU, while obviously disappointed, should respect the sovereign will of the Greek Cypriot majority. The referendum, after all, was suggested by the international community and the EU expressed willingnes to accept the Greek part of Cyprus even if reunification was not achieved by the accession date. To be vindictive now against the new member – Cyprus, albeit truncated – would be a political mistake and a moral failure on the part of the EU.

As for the Greek Cypriots, they should be careful not to translate their decision into triumphalism. Specifically, they should not view their successful accession to the EU as a licence for trying to bar EU negotiations with Turkey about future membership. On the contrary, like the Greek government, they should now advocate and support EU membership for Turkey.

This would be not only be magnanimous and politically astute, it might also be the only way towards a united Cyprus in the future, under conditions more acceptable to the Greek Cypriots and more in tune with international norms and values.

The writer is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem and former director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry"