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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ How we have blown decades of credibility in a few short years ]

How we have blown decades of credibility in a few short years

EVER since Archbishop Makarios decided to place the question of self-determination for Cyprus on the UN’s agenda in 1954, the Cyprus problem has had an international dimension. By the time of the inter-communal conflicts in the 1960s, the issue became one of international peace and security for the UN Security Council because it threatened to bring Greece and Turkey to war. There it has stayed ever since.


What this means is that the Cyprus problem is not simply another case of domestic civil strife between warring groups, but rather a potential source of international conflict requiring management by the international community. In this context, what the international community thinks about the problem is not just interesting, but highly significant if the island is ever to be reunited.

Right now, there is a widespread perception abroad that the responsibility for the impasse in Cyprus rests with the Greek Cypriot side. The other side of this coin is that the Turkish Cypriots are the victims of a policy of isolation by the Papadopoulos government, which enjoys virtually no trust or confidence outside Cyprus. This is a dramatic change from the view that prevailed between the time of the Turkish invasion and occupation of northern Cyprus in 1974 and the debacle at Burgenstock in 2004. During that 30-year period we may not have had much military clout to counter Turkish control of 40 per cent of the island, but at least we held the moral high ground, and our legitimacy as the sole recognised government of Cyprus was unchallenged by any country other than Turkey itself.

In a complete reversal, the misguided strategy of the president to not negotiate at Burgenstock, and to rubbish the Secretary-general’s plan prior to the referendum, has left us at the mercy of powerful forces in the international community where we have few friends to rely on, especially at the UN and among our European Union partners. Turkey having been absolved of responsibility can now plough fertile grounds to raise the status of the Turkish Cypriot administration not just within the circles of the Islamic world but even among our friends in Europe.

The reason the period between 2002 and 2004 represented a historic opportunity to reach a settlement was because Turkey needed to show its bona fides over Cyprus to become a candidate country for full EU membership. By opting not to go for a settlement at Burgenstock, Papadopoulos handed Turkey what it wanted and got nothing in return.

Papadopoulos’ miscalculation was that as president of an EU member he would be in the driver’s seat and able to extract more concessions from Turkey during its accession process. This strategy has proved to be entirely illusory and he is now in no position to do anything, except hope that Erdogan will remain so preoccupied with the Kemalists, Iraq and the Kurdish problem that he will not choose to take any risks over Cyprus that a new international initiative would entail.

In this respect at least he may get his wish. With the current leaders of Germany and France, the EU powerhouses, coming out strongly against full EU membership for Turkey, it is unlikely that Turkey will return to the table over Cyprus without some pretty strong assurances from the EU that, when it has satisfied the technical conditions for EU membership through the accession negotiations, there will be no political roadblocks holding back its membership.

Having blown his cover with the UN and the EU, Papadopoulos is no longer in a position to play games of silly buggers with the international community. That is probably the main reason that he has done nothing since the referendum to try and convince the international community that our side at least is ready to negotiate seriously a comprehensive settlement with the other side.

The July 8 agreement was a tiny procedural step that the UN was willing to go along with to see if there was really any will on either side to narrow the chasm between them. The answer so far obviously is no.
In this light, the UN will not likely ramp up its diplomatic machinery for another comprehensive settlement effort unless all sides give real evidence that they are finally ready to negotiate a settlement that is bi-communal, bi-zonal and federal.

Having lost the moral high ground through the president’s deception, we really have no cards left to play. Our international legitimacy as the recognised government of the Republic of Cyprus is barely tolerated and the majority view outside Cyprus strongly favours the upgrading of the Turkish Cypriot administration, even in countries with which Cyprus has traditionally enjoyed close relations, such as Syria.

Of course, the EU would dearly like to be rid of the Cyprus mess it was suckered into by the president, but whether that would be enough reason to give Turkey the sort of membership assurances it would need to return to the table is highly unlikely. Naturally, the Americans will do what they can on behalf of Turkey, but whether the new US president in 2009 will be able to prevail on his or her friends in Berlin and Paris is the 64 thousand dollar question.

Not the least of the many ironies resulting from the president’s ‘no’ policy is that today no other country has a greater interest in the success of Turkey’s EU membership process than Cyprus itself.

Clearly the current politics in Germany and France, as well as in some other member countries, do not favour full EU membership for Turkey. Until there is a shift in favour of bringing Turkey into the club for strategic reasons, the chance of another opportunity to settle the Cyprus problem is rather remote.

Nevertheless, we should be ready. It is well said that in politics five minutes is a long time, and if Turkey does signal a willingness to negotiate, we may get one more chance to reach a federal settlement. In that case, having a president who has some international credibility and is seen to be truly committed to a federal solution will be one of the few assets we can bring to the table.

Papadopoulos simply has no credibility internationally. By his strategic mistakes when he had an opportunity to negotiate a federal, bi-zonal and bi-communal settlement he has squandered the advantage of international legitimacy that he inherited from his predecessors, and forfeited the right to claim any superior ability to handle the Cyprus problem file over his opponents. Indeed, he is now a great liability for our side.

That is why the Greek Cypriot community should send him to a well deserved retirement on February 24 if not on the 17.


(Source: Cyprus Mail)





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