NICOSIA – Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, in an interview with The National Herald on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Turkish invasion, emphatically declared that there is no Plan B, i.e., a two-state solution, for Cyprus.
The European Union, of which Cyprus is a member, the United States, and the international community at large, Anastasiades said, does not support a two-state solution in Cyprus.
Anastasiades referred to efforts to remedy the deadlock in talks for a Cyprus settlement, confidence-building measures aimed at creating a new dynamic from which on the one hand can achieve a win-win scenario and on the other something from which all parties can benefit (win-win scenario), and for the negotiation process to receive a new impetus.
President Anastasiades also emphasized that Turkey is not the only player on the Cyprus problem chessboard, but it is the key, and that the Turkish-Cypriot community is not politically monolithic with regards to the problems and solutions.
MEMORIES OF THE INVASION
TNH: Tell us also about those tragic days of the invasion, and how did you learn about it?
NA: I learned about the invasion just like everyone else did. It was a traumatic experience for all of us, for every Greek Cypriot, no matter where they were and what ideology they believed. It was a dark time for all of us who remember, and we remain hopeful that our land and our people never experience anything like that again. What matters is not only the tangible data, such as the number of dead and missing persons, refugees, and loss of property, but that all of that taken together overturned a history on the island that had been built upon many centuries.
The expulsion of the Greek population from the occupied part of Cyprus, the relocation of all Turkish Cypriots to the North and an organized colonization by Turkey has created a new reality. As time passes, there is a risk that this reallocation will become permanent. I am very anxious about this, and my concern is not to allow there to be a permanent division of Cyprus.
My message, then, on the occasion of this tragic anniversary, is this: we must prevent, at all costs, a permanent division of Cyprus. The future of our country and our children will be brighter and more hopeful if we succeed and overcome obstacles, and make possible the elimination of dividing lines, through a federated Cyprus, where the EU’s Acquis Communautaire will be valid throughout the country.
TNH: Do you think there have been missed opportunities for a resolution?
NA: Whether or not there have been missed opportunities is up to future historians to judge. It is not helpful to look upon the past with a critical eye. Rather, the past should help us define the future. Again, I believe the right solution will be a situation in which everyone – Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots – will win.
Once the problem has been resolved, Cyprus must play a regional role much greater than might be expected from a country that small in size. It is the only country in our region that exemplifies coexistence between Christians and Muslims, and maintains excellent relations with Israel and all the Arab states.
A solution would also allow for the utilization of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean and create conditions for reconciliation between Greece and Turkey.
At the same time, a solution would help to create a better sense of stability and to attract significant investment, to the benefit of all legal residents.
Therefore, there are so many of the benefits a solution will bring, that I see no reason why we cannot succeed. My wish and my hope is that the other side will see it that way as well, and we can work toward a day when we celebrate the anniversary of the solution, not the dark anniversary of the invasion.
TNH: Do you think Turkey would every allow Turkish-Cypriots to live among Greek-Cypriots if they so choose? Is Turkey an obstacle to the Turkish-Cypriots to express their true will?
NA: Turkey has always been the key to the solution. It is not the only player on the chessboard, but it is the key.
You know, in the history of Cyprus, particularly in the history of the Turkish-Cypriot community and its relationship with Turkey in the negotiations, there has always been this two-way relationship, where at times the Turkish-Cypriot leadership (Denktash) guides developments in Cyprus or when the army in Turkey decides every move at the negotiating table.
That Turkey maintains more than 40,000 troops in the occupied territory, however, and plays a role as political mentor and financial sponsor, renders it the most important factor in the equation.
I do not want to give an opinion as to the true will of the Turkish Cypriots; the Turkish-Cypriot community also is not politically monolithic. What troubles us is procrastination, or rather the contradictory messages we get from the other side. That while we often hear public statements and positions on the need for immediate settlement of the Cyprus problem, and assurances to third parties that Ankara is ready to contribute to the solution, in practice we see that readiness result in concrete actions.
We, however, try to reformulate the rules of the game, if you want to break the deadlock, and stagnant positions and opinions that did not bring about resolution during the past 40 years, offering new perspectives aimed at creating a new dynamics. We hope soon to have the appropriate response from the other side.
THERE IS NO PLAN B
TNH: How do you assess the progress of the peace talks? Do you share the view of those who say that the Turks are trying to create conditions that preceded the request of recognition of their puppet regime?
NA: Talks have resumed under the agreement reached between the two leaders on February 11, and has since been actively pursued. As for our part, we are committed and engaged in this, and we want to continue and the successful conclusion of the talks.
Regarding your second question, there is no Plan B. Turkey has tried to gain that recognition for 40 years and failed. The integration of the totality of the territory of Cyprus to the European Union in 2004, with reaffirmation from the United States and the international community, reaffirms that a two-state solution is simply not an option. The context of the solution is in place; what remains is to agree on the content.
TNH: On this 40th anniversary of the invasion, is there anything else you would like to convey?
NA: This spring completed 50 years of presence of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, and a few weeks ago, 40 years from the black anniversary of the invasion. I do not think there is a single Cypriot on this island who does not want the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, and the right to dignity, without fear and uncertainty of life.
We, therefore, as political leaders, are obligated not to disappoint our country, our countrymen, and history yet again.