To forgive and to compromise
Commenting about George Vassiliou, the late Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş said he was no different than other Greek Cypriot leaders; the only difference might have been his ability to make the nastiest remarks with a smiling face. “He is a smiling devil… No different than the others,” he said. He was wrong.
Vassiliou’s difference from all other previous Greek Cypriot leaders was that he was a leftist, never involved in communal crime or a part of the EOKA terror gang. He was pragmatic and saw the benefits of a resolution with the approach of a businessman. Indeed, he really wanted a compromise, yet he was so weak politically that he could not deliver a solution. Was the Turkish side willing at the time to accept a compromise deal? Unfortunately no.
Because of some dirty American and British backstage conspiracies at the time, not only did Asil Nadir collapse, but Denktaş was also compelled to play defense. In any case, Denktaş never trusted Vassiliou, and a golden opportunity was missed.
Talking last week at the 25th book fair hosted by the famous Işık Bookstore - which is more than just a bookstore, but also a meeting place in Nicosia’s old quarter for Turkish Cypriot intellectuals, particularly on Saturdays —Vassiliou said a Cyprus settlement must be built on two cornerstones: Forgiveness and compromise!
Easier said than done, particularly on an island with such a traumatic past and where the larger community refuses to acknowledge, even after more than half a decade, its horrendous crimes. Vassiliou was right to stress that had Greek Cypriots not struggled to achieve a union with Greece, “Enosis,” it would have been much easier to resolve the Cyprus problem. Yet he was wrong. Because if the Enosis campaign had not been launched, and had the Turkish Cypriots opposing Enosis not been butchered, tortured, traumatized, and massacred, then there would not be a Cyprus problem in the first place. It was saddening to see even Vassiliou involved in that systematic denial policy.
However, more and more Turkish Cypriots are waking up from that “motherland” and “kinderland” fairy tale, understanding they are being colonized by Turkey and realizing the urgent need for a resolution on the island through “forgiving,” and, of course, “painful mutual compromise.” Unfortunately, Greek Cypriot politics continue to be obsessed, as the sole legitimate government of the island according to the international community, and has been expecting Turkish Cypriots to succumb eventually to Greek Cypriot domination and give up their demands for political equality.
Turkish Cypriots woke up from a nightmarish dream, despite the disapproval of people like this writer who opted for a settlement even if it is bitter; they demonstrated that decision in the 2004 referendum.
No… No… I will not repeat that at the identical referendum in the Greek side, Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly voted against the U.N. plan and demonstrated their disinterest in a power-sharing deal with Greek Cypriots. That is known by the entire world anyway. Since 2004, even opponents have learned to respect the pro-settlement resolve of the Turkish Cypriot people.
Of course, the colonization policies of the past 12 years of Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule helped a lot as well. Now, the rumor is that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gathered political party leaders at the Turkish embassy, opposite the Turkish Cypriot parliament, and told them to stop creating hurdles to increasing the population of northern Cyprus with new citizens from Turkey.
Unfortunately, Vassiliou is a rich but lone man in Greek Cypriot politics. His wise but late call will not fall on the deaf ears of those in government who are still trying to make a deal with Ankara, rather than a painful compromise with Turkish Cypriots.
Why? Because had they accept Turkish Cypriots as their counterparts, who should be accorded full political equality and with whom power must be shared, in which case there would not be a Cyprus problem anyhow…
To forgive and to compromise… The meaning of those words is apparently long lost in Cyprus. Turks cannot forgive the wrongs they faced, and Greeks cannot compromise…