Washington, DC- On May 28, 2005, The Washington Times published AHI President Gene Rossides’ letter to the editor, on page A12, responding to Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat’s article on Cyprus. The text of the letter appears below, followed by The Washington Times article to which the letter responds.
May 25, 2005
Letters to the Editor
The Washington Times
3600 New York Ave., NE
Washington, DC 20002-1947
Turkey, Cyprus and the Annan plan
The May 22 Commentary column "Cyprus just an island?" by Mehmet Ali Talat presents a one-sided view of Cyprus. He does not mention why 76 percent of Greek Cypriots voted against the Annan Plan on April 24, 2004, and he distorts reality regarding Turkish Cypriot economic isolation.
The Greek Cypriots faced a plan that created permanent division, not unification. The Annan plan was undemocratic, unworkable and not financially viable.
The plan provided for an 18 percent minority to have veto power over all legislative and executive decisions. The plan allowed the Turkish Cypriots and illegal settlers to keep the Greek Cypriot homes and property that they seized following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and actually provided that the Greek Cypriots pay themselves for their property. The plan did not call for the removal of all illegal Turkish troops and colonists on Cyprus.
The Annan plan incredibly absolved Turkey for its invasion and aggression against Cyprus, its killing on a substantial scale of innocent civilians, rapes of women from 12 to 71, the enormous destruction it did to Cyprus, the large-scale looting and the destruction of churches. (See report of the European Commission on Human Rights, July 10, 1976.)
The Turkish Cypriot's isolation obviously is caused by Turkey and can be eliminated overnight by removing the illegal 40,000 Turkish occupation troops, the infamous Turkish barbed-wire green line, and the 110,000 illegal Turkish settlers.
Since the Green Line partially opened, 7.5 million visits have been made with no incidents between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, which dramatically disproves the allegation that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not live and work together. In addition, numerous Turkish Cypriots work in the Republic of Cyprus.
President American Hellenic Institute Washington
CYPRUS JUST AN ISLAND?
By Mehmet Ali Talat
April 24 is a special day for Turkish Cypriots. A year ago that day they voted for reunifying Cyprus -- our beloved island and common home with the Greek Cypriots for the last 450 years. But is Cyprus just an island?
At this point I remember the words of the great English poet, John Donne, who famously wrote "no man is an island," and feel tempted to extend the analogy to "no island is an island." I believe what happens in Cyprus has ripple effects beyond the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Although the United Nations plan for settling the Cyprus problem (the Annan Plan) did not go through on account of our Greek Cypriot partners' "oxi" (no) vote, Turkish Cypriots have maintained adherence to a peaceful solution. In the two democratic elections since -- one parliamentary, one presidential -- they voted into office parties and politicians who advocated a united Cyprus within the European Union. The international community must support and nurture this vision.
As winner of the presidential election on the anniversary of the referenda, I feel honored by the trust my people have invested in me and my policies, yet humbled by the enormity of my task.
Cyprus is no ordinary island. It sits not astride the crossroads of ancient civilizations but also near one of the world's most volatile regions. Its longstanding division, while seemingly internal, is a symptom of the differences between two regional powers and, on a larger scale, between two great civilizations.
Turkish Cypriots are cognizant of the positive role their island could play in this complex web of national, regional and international interests.
However, when I look south across the "Green Line" that divides our island, I see leadership that, unfortunately, lacks any incentive for a settlement, believing its comfortable position will last forever as the recognized "government" supported by unchallenged European Union membership with all the economic, political and psychological benefits that entails.
I have no way to challenge the calcified position of Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and his cohorts, except to try to expose him and his uncompromising policy toward Turkish Cypriots. I can hope increasing international pressure will make a difference.
But meanwhile, my people, who have undergone a remarkable transformation, continue suffering isolation instigated by the Greek Cypriot administration. Efforts to get this isolation lifted or at least eased, particularly within the EU, have been thwarted by the Greek Cypriot side. While EU leaders express consternation at this unconstructive attitude, they have not yet found a way to overcome the legal and political obstacles presented to them by "club-member Cyprus."
I believe the United States, which has moved to ease the inhuman restrictions on Turkish Cypriots, will show greater determination and lead to end the isolation. As the world's only major power not encumbered by Greek Cypriot obstructionism, the United States is uniquely capable of doing so.
Cyprus is a small yet important part of the world whose bright skies are darkened only by the ghosts of the past and the chauvinistic practices of the present. Small as it is, Cyprus presents a challenge to the civilized world to do justice, where justice is due.
As I again extend my hand in peace and friendship to the Greek Cypriots, I call on the international community to heed our call for justice and fairness. President Bush's Inaugural address, in its pledge to spread freedom and democracy "to the darkest corners of the world," inspires all believers in these universal values.
With U.S. leadership and concerted international efforts, Cyprus can become a beacon of peace and freedom in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and beyond.
Mehmet Ali Talat is president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.