46th anniversary of a safe homeland

46th anniversary of a safe homeland

The late Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş would often say July 20, 1974 was the birth date of a safe homeland for his people. Indeed, he was right, though the same date represents a painful wakeup call for the Greek Cypriot people who unfortunately still insist the island completely belongs to them and no one else.

How and why Turkey intervened in Cyprus in 1974? This question was repeatedly visited in this column over the past many decades. The Cyprus problem did not start with the Turkish intervention. The Turkish operation was a byproduct of a quagmire that started just three years after the island gained its independence from Britain as an effective federation of Greek and Turkish Cypriot peoples. But the Greek Cypriots refused to accept Turkish Cypriots as their “equal partners” and saw them as an impediment to achieve their national aspiration: Union with Greece, or Enosis.

Unlike the traumatic resistance for survival they were compelled to stage from the Dec. 21, 1963 start of the Greek Cypriot attacks until Turkey’s intervention in 1974, Turkish Cypriots enjoyed full security. Indeed, the Turkish intervention provided security to Greek Cypriots as well because it completely terminated the perennial confrontation among pro- and anti-enosis Greek Cypriots. No one should forget that over 1,500 Greek Cypriots were killed in the July 15, 1974 Athens-engineered coup by pro-enosis Greek Cypriots.

Over the years, many settlement plans developed by either of the two sides or penned down by the United Nations after a series of talks with the two parties, as well as Turkey, Greece and Britain, the three guarantor powers of the 1960 republic have all failed because as former Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos confessed weeping and crying during a televised speech in which he asked his people to vote and kill a U.N. plan in 2004, he would never accept to abandon the seat of the president of Cyprus and become the leader of one of the two founding elements of a new Cyprus. Never did the Greek Cypriots concede the reality that there are two equal people on the island, and as former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan had expressed “the relationship between them is not one of minority and majority but of two communities sharing the same homeland.”

I receive tens of letters every week, mostly from my Greek Cypriot readers. In a recent letter, a Greek Cypriot living in Australia made a suggestion worth considering. I know Greek Cypriots would immediately reject such an offer, but I wanted to present a summary of the proposal:

“As you well know, since 1974 there have been thousands of meetings and plans and yet the situation remains as it. I am not here to blame one side or the other, just offering my opinion on a mutual solution for both sides.

Cyprus covers an area of 3,572 square miles. The Republic of Cyprus [Greek side] occupies an area of 2,133 square miles, or 59.74 percent of the total area. The [Turkish Cyprus] KKTC controls 1,244 square miles, or 34.85 percent of the total area. The United Nations-controlled Green Line covers an area of 96 square miles, or 2.67 percent of the island. The two British bases cover an area of 99 square miles, or 2.74 percent of total area.

Given there is so much historical mistrust between both sides, that what is needed here is one last twin simultaneous and separate referenda.

A- United Cyprus based on a Swiss or Belgian model [one nationality] and two official languages
B- A two-state solution i.e. Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus [i.e. Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland]
C- Annexation of Northern Cyprus by Turkey which would mean that Northern Cyprus would become part of Turkey and that “internationally” the name Cyprus will only be the Greek-controlled side, in other words the KKTC would become Turkey. Turkey has failed since 1974 to get international recognition of the KKTC. Annexation of the KKTC has been on the cards. Russia recently annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

There are arguments for and against any of these proposals but at least let both peoples on both sides decide. Hypothetically speaking, let’s assume that if a referendum took place and most Greek speakers in the Republic of Cyprus wanted a United Cyprus and most Turkish speakers in the TRNC wanted an independent state, then this should be formalized under U.N. auspices.”