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This article was written for the “Parliamentary Brief”, a monthly political magazine which is read by all members of the U.K. parliament and also by politicians and journalists in Brussels and in Europe. The occasion: The third anniversary of the Cyprus referendum on the Annan Plan. The Article is already published on the website of the magazine.

In a recent article of mine I drew a parallel between the texture of the Cyprus problem and the dramatic process of an ancient Greek tragedy,
whose epilogue is characterised by catharsis. I wondered how and who could bring catharsis to Cyprus, in order to purge the sins and the blunders of the two Cypriot communities over the past fifty years. Could the three great tragic poets of Ancient Greece, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides ever pinpoint the source of evil and the nature of catharsis which should follow?

In my above article I concluded that the three tragic poets might prove unable to address such a complex issue. However by delving into the subject, I traced the correct answer in a dictum by Euripides in the “Phoenissae”. Euripides wrote: “Enough is abundance to the wise”.

Since 1960 neither of the two communities of Cyprus behaved with prudence and wisdom. “Enough” was never going to give satisfaction – it was never tantamount to “abundance”. Their ambitions transgressed the bounds of “enough”. Each side was after the whole pie, although they both knew that there was only one pie.

The period of 1960-1974 was dotted with blunders, omissions and criminal activities. During the first three years of the life of the new Republic, the two communities undermined each other and at the same time they both dynamited the foundations of the country. In 1963 President Makarios, acting contrary to the advice of Greece, misguidedly suggested a number of amendments to the Constitution, in favour of the Greek side. He had forgotten that in 1960 he was happy with the Constitution and that he was rejoicing, using the phrase “We have won”. That decision of Makarios proved to be a tinderbox. Each community went its own way and they never came together again. Warlords, political assassinations and political instability emerged on both sides of the dividing line, which scarred the body of Cyprus. A line which was embedding gradually deeper and deeper into the ground.

In 1974 Cyprus was inundated with blood. The Greek coup in Cyprus opened the doors of hell. A larger crime followed, the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus, which broke up Cyprus into two parts.

During those tragic days and thereafter the international community was not particularly helpful. Most of its resolutions were void of courage and ineffectual. Of course they reflected the past misdeeds of both communities. At the same time they were permeated with the enormous interests of the mighty countries in a pivotal part of the Eastern Mediterranean. Each country viewed Cyprus and its problem through the lens of its own interests.

The people of Cyprus were to some extent victimized by the interests stated above but they mainly paid the price of their own obstinate and insatiable stance. Over the years which followed, seven international initiatives on Cyprus were dumped, in almost all cases by both communities. They were: The Anglo American Canadian Plan (1978), the Evaluation by Waldheim (1981), the Indicators of Perez de Cuellar (1983), the Consolidated Documents of Perez de Cuellar (1985-6), the Set of Ideas of Boutros Ghali (1992), the Troutbeck Initiative of Kofi Annan (1997) and the Annan Plan (2002).

The Annan Plan, which had four amendments in its process was a solution of a sort. It was not perfect, it was not even good. It could constitute though an historic settlement of a problem which remains unresolved for almost half a century. The Greek Cypriots rejected it by an overwhelming majority (76%). Two thirds of the Turkish Cypriots voted in favour.

The international community endorsed in an absolute way the Plan through unanimous Security Council Resolution 1475. The European Commission and the European Parliament gave it their blessing. The Greek Government considered the positive elements as superior to the negative ones -but eventually she kept silent. The Greek opposition was very much in favour. Turkey said yes.

In Cyprus the President appeared on television and through a sentimentally loaded speech he suggested an unequivocal rejection of the Plan. The largest party of the Government coalition, communist AKEL, initially stated clearly that it did not share the views expressed by the President and it went further to glorify the plan, as nobody else in Cyprus did. However, in a surprising U-turn, it rejected the Plan, so that it could stay in power. The main opposition party, the Democratic Rally, endorsed the Plan.

President Papadopoulos was apparently oblivious of the fact that extreme sentiment is a bad counsel in crucial political decisions. It slipped his mind that politics is the art of feasible and not of what is desirable – as Makarios declared at a bright juncture of his tumultuous presidency. Furthermore Papadopoulos apparently has never and will never realise that aiming at the absolute is equivalent to pursuing a chimera; it is a mere illusion.

The political prospects in Cyprus today are not sanguine. The Greek Cypriots were deprived of all the advantages which AKEL enumerated in its study about the Annan Plan, at the initial stages, before AKEL switched to a negative stance. The Greek Cypriots are also losing their properties in the north and new settlers from Turkey flow into Cyprus. The Government of Cyprus has been isolated in the European Union and she has been shunned by the United States. In Brussels the Cypriot Government has pursued a number of issues (mainly related to the accession of Turkey) on which the response of almost all other E.U. members was negative. She has been a loser on the European political chessboard.

A spirit of political inaction, which will eventually lead to partition, is already hovering in the air all over Cyprus. This happens unfortunately at a time when there is an attitude of more moderation on the other side of the dividing line than ever before. Cyprus has been fighting for so many years to stay united. It now seems that she is gradually slipping into permanent division and a possible break up, whilst a large sector of the population follows events with a surprising apathy and nonchalance.

In a number of articles of mine last year I described in detail what I consider as a scenario for a solution to the problem: A pragmatic and result-oriented dialogue of the leaders of the two communities for a period of 9 months, under the auspices of the United Nations and later on with the assistance of Greece and Turkey and a quartet consisting of the U.N., the E.U., the U.S and Russia, on all cardinal issues. The international community will have a significant role to play in such a proceeding. Such issues are: The conversion of Cyprus into a bizonal, bicommunal federation. Territory. Constitutional structure. Properties. Veto rights. Human rights. Economy and Central Bank. Refugees. Settlers from Turkey. Occupation forces. Security and guarantees. Probable oil reserves.

Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have not realized yet that it is a virtue to admit their faults and sins of the past. That it is an even greater virtue to possess the strength and tenacity to say “I am sorry”. And that the ultimate political virtue would be to follow in the future a course of action which will be free from such sins and blunders of the past.

Shall we become wise, as Euripides’ moral dictates? Shall we perceive that “enough” is “abundant”, in a country and in circumstances where the absolute is utopian and does not exist? Shall we, all Cypriots, realize that reconciliation is an act of life, whilst clash and confrontation is an act of death?

Nicos A. Rolandis was born in Limassol, Cyprus. He became a Barrister –at-Law at the Middle Temple, London. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus 1978-1983. He was the founder and president of the Liberal Party (1986-1998), a member of the House of Representatives (1991-1996) and vice-president of Liberal International (1994-1998). He was also Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (1998-2003).

(Posting date 27 June 2007)

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