It seems like just yesterday – but it was 37 years ago. My friend Pampos Christoforou, then Consul General of Cyprus in New York, introduced me to Gogos Paraskevaidis, at a hotel in Manhattan. Paraskevaidis was one of the founders of the large international construction company Ioannou and Paraskevaidis, known as ‘J&P.’ Apart from being a very successful businessman, however, Paraskevaidis was also known as the great Greek Cypriot patriot and philanthropist who dedicated his life – and a part of his resources – to the struggle for the liberation of the enslaved region of his homeland. That's why he started visiting America quite often.
On the day we met, Rauf Denktash, the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, had declared the enslaved part of Cyprus to be the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". Paraskevaidis couldn’t wrap his head around what happened. “How could this happen?” he kept saying. “How could the great powers, and especially America, allow this? Do something,” he told me. “This must not pass. It must be reversed.”
(Gogos – George – Paraskevaidis passed away on December 5, 2007, in London, at the age of 91).
A couple of days ago, Erdogan visited Varosha, like some kind of a hero, to celebrate the 37th anniversary of that day and to emphasize that the dream of my dear friend Gogos, and so many other Greeks around the world, of the liberation of occupied Cyprus might be buried.
For Erdogan, the return of Famagusta to its original owners is not even discussed. There is only one solution: that of "two sovereign states."
There are "[t]wo different peoples and states," he declared.
"A two-state solution must be discussed and negotiated on the basis of their sovereignty and equality."
I thought of my friend Gogos again today, with tears in my eyes.
His struggle, his dream, but also the struggle and dream of so many others, for the liberation of Famagusta and all of enslaved Cyprus, if it is not extinguished, is very far away.
Gradually, but methodically, Erdogan is implementing the plan he dreams of, a comprehensive ‘solution’ to all the problems he has with Hellenism, from Thrace to Cyprus.
His visit to occupied Cyprus may seem to some to be a move for political gain.
It is that too. But at the same time, it creates a new situation, new facts – a fait accomplis – on the way to the full implementation of his plans.
And all we can do today, like the unforgettable Gogos Paraskevaidis then, is write something. To get angry. To cry. What else is left for us to do?