Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A brief narrative on the situation in Cyprus

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On the occasion of the 54th anniversary since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.

By Dr. Kyriacos Kouros, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the Kingdom of the Netherlands

This year on the 1st of October we celebrate the 54th anniversary since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus; a member state of the European Union since 2004. Unfortunately our celebrations are still marred by the consequences of military invasion and occupation of Cyprus since 1974 which constitute, to this day, a sore point in the contemporary history of the island: the military occupation, the forcible division, the violation of the fundamental human rights of thousands of Cypriots, the massive colonization of the occupied areas, the ethnic cleansing and targeted cultural destruction, the property usurpation of displaced persons and ethnic segregation imposed remain the main characteristics of the status quo on the island.CYPRUS MAP

A historical background

By looking at the map, one can clearly observe that Cyprus lies on historical crossroads, in an area of the world where civilizations from east and west collide and major historic events have taken place over the centuries; a European country with a Middle Eastern flavour. Irrespective of the situation in Cyprus, we remain the only example of stability in a conflict-prone and restful South-eastern Mediterranean neighbourhood.

Cyprus became an independent state in August 16, 1960. The struggle for the right of self-determination of the island with a predominant Greek population (80%) was met in the 1950s with fierce resistance by the then colonial rulers. In total disregard of the Lausanne Treaty (24 July 1923), a third country was invited in the talks for the future of Cyprus in an attempt to discourage the Greek majority living in the island from keep on asking for union (enosis) with Greece. The new word of division (taxim) was introduced!

Diplomatic efforts in the 1950s to solve the problem failed; a guerrilla war and civil disobedience tactics were launched by the Greeks of Cyprus between the years 1955-1959. Finally the sovereign and independent state of the Republic of Cyprus was established as the only option left on the negotiating table.

What is important to point out is that during the 1950s this decision for the future of Cyprus was taken in the absence of the Cypriots themselves because the situation was considered a “problem among NATO allies”; the island’s leaderships of the two biggest ethnic groups – Greeks and Turks alike, were just invited at a later stage to co-sign an agreement drafted by the departing colonial rulers and agreed upon by the two “motherlands”, providing for an extremely rigid, detailed and austere Constitution which introduced segregated institutions, the concept of third countries as guarantors with debatable intervening powers that contradicted the UN Charter, the stationing of armies from the “motherlands” for the supposedly security of the indigenous population; and more importantly established two foreign military bases on the island under a unique regime!

The Constitution of Cyprus does not allow for amendments in the most basic characteristics of the new state! Therefore Cypriot legislators do not have the necessary tools to deal with evolving social needs and challenges through the expected process of a state of law!

Moreover, the existing Constitution of Cyprus was not put to a referendum; nowhere its text refers to people as the source of its legitimacy! Instead it speaks of two communities which elect separately their leaders in the executive and the legislative: the Cypriots formed an exceptional ethnic partnership at the altar of foreign vested interests. The 80 percent of the Greeks felt they were tricked to sharing the power with the 18 percent of the Turks; and the Turks found them selves in an unexpected privileged position of power-sharing which naturally they did not want to give back.  Other tinier ethnic groups like the Maronites, Armenians and Latins were branded religious groups and were forced to choose to join into one of the two communities. Few hundred Roma are mentioned nowhere.

Tensions between the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots climaxed almost three and a half years after the establishment of the new state when then Cyprus President Archbishop Makarios proposed Constitutional amendments in an attempt to make it more proportionate to the understanding of the Greeks. Extremists on both sides took the lead and violence broke out. The authorities of the young state were found ineffectual to deal with the paramilitary forces of both sides which were supported by third parties outside the island.

Despite the initial deployment of UN peacekeepers in 1964, sporadic inter-communal violence continued and the Turkish Cypriots decided and removed themselves from all institutional bodies, leading their community into ghettos, or “enclaves”, spread throughout the island; and they remained there for ten years waiting for an opportunity! Their withdrawal to the “enclaves” can mostly be attributed to the wish of the Turkish Cypriot elite to enforce a de-facto partition of Cyprus.

On their part, the Greek Cypriot political elite filled up the void of power while inter-communal talks were launched in 1968 in a bid to find a way out so that both Greek- and Turkish-Cypriots coexist in what the Greek majority considered a fairer administrational system. The concept of the Right of Necessity provided the necessary legal instruments to the Greek-Cypriots to rule the island in the absence of the Turkish Cypriots.

In 1974, a coup against the legitimate Cyprus government orchestrated by the Athens junta and supported by Greek Cypriot extremists and advocates of union with one of the “motherlands” on the island – in essence a sort of a mono-communal civil war between the Greeks, provided the excuse for a military intervention by the other “motherland” on the pretext that this action was necessary to restore the constitutional order in the island. But this was only a pretext: even when the constitutional order was restored the invading power continued to violate the cease-fire, and after driving a conference summoned in Geneva about the situation in Cyprus to a deadlock, it launched a second attack. Unfortunately, occupation troops remain since, controlling around 36.2 per cent of the northern-bound territory of the Republic of Cyprus.

During the events of the summer of 1974, branded unsuccessfully as “peace operation” by the invading power, one third of the Greek Cypriots and one half of the Turkish Cypriots found them selves displaced away from their homes, a hundredth of the population mostly civilians lost their lives; about 2000 families found themselves searching for the whereabouts of their missing that include several hundred civilians as well as Prisoners of War; properties were destroyed, cultural treasures looted and so on. The “peace operation” was a full-blown military invasion with all its gruesome repercussions of atrocities.CYPRES

Two parallel 180 km-long cease-fire lines still divide the island from west to east while a UN peace keeping force patrols the buffer zone in between. Realistically speaking, no termination of hostilities has been achieved; and the cease-fire lines got a perverted “politically-correct” name of a «Green Line» or «buffer zone» or «no man’s land». As for the uneducated masses or the millions of clueless tourists who visit this exceptionally beautiful holiday haven from all over the world, the cease-fire lines look like a border of sorts.

Repeated rounds of negotiations since the cease-fire achieved in the summer of 1974 did not produce any significant results due to the intransigence displayed by the occupying forces. In 1983, the subordinate administration of the occupying country in the occupied areas of Cyprus unanimously declared itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”), but it is recognized only by the occupying power.

Repeated UN Security Council resolutions have declared the secessionist entity illegal, call for the withdrawal of the declaration and ask from the international community not to recognise it or facilitate its elements in any way.

Since then the repeated rounds of on-going talks are further complicated by more complex elements, such as the island’s demographic change with transfer of illegal settlers from the occupying “motherland”. Today the settlers are estimated to be two to three times more than of the remaining Turkish-Cypriots in the territory under occupation.

Moreover and unfortunately, a widespread ethnic cleansing policy has been systematically implemented in the areas under occupation to the extent that almost no name of town, village or street resembles anymore those before the summer of 1974 while traces of Greek or Christian cultural characteristics are systematically being wiped out. Having been severely looted, Christian Greek and Armenian, Orthodox or Catholic churches, monasteries, cemeteries and other monuments of historic significance are being turned to anything but places of worship and preservation. It is estimated than
about 60.000 cultural, archaeological and religious treasures have been scattered worldwide through black market routes.

What sort of a Cyprus settlement we seek? In a nutshell

Since 1974, the international community is trying to deal with the situation in Cyprus by making use of the good offices of the UN Secretary General. This means that the UN Secretary General has been mandated to assist the two sides to reach a settlement but does not have any other powers such that of an arbitrator or of a judge.

A number of attempts to solve the situation in Cyprus from 1977 till today have reached a deadlock! The two sides have agreed since 1977 in general terms that a solution of the situation in Cyprus could be best served with the transformation of the current unitary state to a federal state (UNSG Resolutions 750, 10 April 1992), comprising two politically equal communities.

This equality was also defined. It does not mean equal numerical participation in any future federal settlement but the effective participation of both communities in all organs and decisions of the said federal entity. (Paragraph 11, Report by the UN SG on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, 3 April 1992, document S/23780).

Most recent developments and the way ahead

A new round of fully-fledged negotiations under the good offices of the UN Secretary General was launched on 11th February 2014, after five months of extensive preparations. This will be our most recent on-going attempt to solve the Cyprus issue; hopefully the last one. 

A new catalyst can be the findings of natural gas and oil in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus. The export of significant quantities of natural gas which exists in the South Eastern Mediterranean basin could potentially also find a way through Turkey; but first we have to solve the Cyprus issue.

More than any other, we the Cypriots are fully aware that time is of the essence. More than one third of the Cypriot population continues to be internally displaced, irrespective that we had to go on living and building our lives again from scratch. The displaced people “are being denied access to and control, use and enjoyment of their property as well as any compensation for the interference with their property rights”, as has been reaffirmed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in numerous decisions, the most recent being the historic judgment of the said Court with regard to the claim by the Republic of Cyprus against Turkey for just satisfaction, on May 12 2014.

The 43,000 soldiers of the occupation army that are stationed in Cyprus are a constant security threat.

The large number of settlers illegally being imported since 1974 is altering the demographic character of the areas under occupation and threatens the viability of any prospective settlement. The ethno-cultural cleansing which carries on is self evident to any visitor to the occupied part of Cyprus.

New generations of Cypriots are coming of age having known only the ethnic segregation imposed by the consequences of the 1974 invasion.

Concluding, I would like to reiterate that the status quo in Cyprus is UNACCEPTABLE. Our vision remains a re-united Cyprus, free from occupation troops, fully respecting the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all its citizens and fulfilling the aspirations of all Cypriots to live and thrive within our European family.

 

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