NICOSIA – Cypriot unity is being delayed because western governments are afraid to put pressure on Turkey, Peter Marudas, who was the Chief of Staff for former US Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland.
While visiting Cyprus, he told the news agency CAN that the sense Cypriots have the United States backs Turkey “is partly justified,” even though President Barack Obama recently said he felt Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was near-dictatorial.
Marudas said the US and the West have what he called a misplaced sense of security in trusting Turkey and cares far less about justice. Turkey unlawfully invaded Cyprus in 1974 and keeps a standing army of more than 30,000 soldiers in the northern third it occupies and which only it recognizes.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish counterpart, Mustafa Akinci, a year ago bolstered optimism for a solution to reunify the island but their talks have stalled and only now resumed with any vigor.
During his week-long visit, Marudas, now retired, praised Cypriots for what they had achieved following the invasion that keeps Cyprus – a member of the European Union – divided even as Turkey is trying to get into the bloc but won’t recognize the country and bars its ships and planes.
“My last visit here was in July 1975, there have been big changes since then,” he said, noting that people had faced challenging experiences in the long aftermath that hasn’t been resolved by a raft of diplomats and envoys from the West.
“I am impressed by the achievements of the Cypriots, the invasion was an enormous blow, Cypriots established an impressive country,” he said, and wondered what the US would have done if it had lost 37% of its land.
Cyprus, he added has a good reputation and plays a positive role in the region and is an EU member. “It is a respected member of the international community and as we say in the States, it carries its load,” he noted.
Referring to US backing of Turkey and the belief Cypriots have that Washington would always support Ankara, he said: “Many in the USA view Cyprus as a rather minor issue, and there are a lot of forces pushing to back Turkey.”
While he said Cyprus – rather like Greece – has been sidelined in favor of Turkey, which the West views as an opportunity to bring a stable Muslim country under its influence, Marudas said that, “Cyprus is an oasis of stability, notwithstanding the division, the only functional democracy in this part of the world – apart from Israel in its own country -, and this elevates Cyprus and its strategic role.”
He said there hasn’t been a solution for four decades because there hasn’t been any real urgency expressed by Europe or the West beyond lip service and occasional calls for both sides to find an answer.
The West will not exert the pressure needed on Turkey for a solution,” even though he said the long-running dilemma is different from the also-unresolved issue of Middle East peace and the elusive solution between Israel and Palestinians.
“It is in the US interests, economic, political and in relation to the values the country subscribes to, to support Cyprus in any way we can, the Cyprus issue is a struggle for values the US values highly,” he said.
TERMS FOR SETTLEMENT SET
While just now coming out of an economic crisis that required a 10-billion euro ($10.99 billion) international bailout, Cyprus is standing firm on the reunification even though Anastasiades made significant concessions to Erdogan as part of a European Union deal with Ankara to swap refugees. That included giving Turkey a faster-track into the bloc.
Cyprus Minister of Justice and Public Order Ionas Nicolaou said, however, there are four requirements the government has before moving toward a resolution.
He said those were:
- Restoration of the constitutional order and the island`s territorial integrity
- Reunification of the state`s institutions and the people Absence of guarantees post-settlement
- Respect of the basic principles of international and EU law.
“In the wake of the intensified phase of the negotiating process for the solution of our top political problem, we reiterate at every opportunity that we will not accept anything less than a solution which will restore to the maximum extent possible the constitutional and territorial disruption Turkey caused illegally and by force,” Nicolaou said, talking about an event in Thessaloniki, Greece to commemorate those killed during invasion.
“We seek and look forward to a settlement plan that would reunite the people and the institutions,” he added, the news agency KYPE reported.
“The only guarantees a settlement should include must be those relating to development and progress for the island`s Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot legal inhabitants,” he said, although none have been offered yet.