Monday, June 28, 2004

Quick update: Cyprus

Updated A politically-tense status quo seems to have settled on the situation over Cyprus in the wake of the island's rejection of a referendum on a UN-sponsored reunification plan which islanders had been under heavy pressure to approve.

The plan would have created a "federation" of a Greek-Cypriot area and a Turkish-Cypriot area joined by a weak central government. It was soundly defeated by the Greek-Cypriot side, which felt (with justification) that the plan legitimized the 30 year-old seizure of the northern third of the island by Turkish forces, which established a breakaway state there. That government has never been recognized by a single nation other than Turkey.

On June 11, the UN Security Council agreed after a rancorous meeting to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force on the island for another six months, but also required
Secretary-General Kofi Annan to review the purpose of the force....

James Cunningham, the U.S. deputy ambassador, harshly criticized the Greek Cypriots, saying Annan had to examine "the need" for the operation, in light of scarce resources and the results of the April 24 referendum. ...

Cunningham said Greek Cypriots "missed an historical opportunity for peace." If they want to negotiate in the future, they need first to "articulate with clarity and finality" their concerns," he said.
But of course, Greek Cypriots have made clear their "concerns." They want reunification as a single nation, not as two stitched-together rump states, and they want the 33,000 Turkish troops still on the island, off (and the peacekeeping force to remain until they are). They want, that is, the UN to live up to its own standards, including "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war."

At the same time, Turkish Cypriots - who strongly supported the UN plan in the referendum - fear that reunification under those terms would turn them into an oppressed minority and perhaps even drive them from their homes. Indeed, resettlement arrangements between the areas of the island was one of the sticking points in the negotiations leading to the referendum. While some of the Turks living on Cyprus were brought there by Ankara in order to strengthen its claim to the territory, their children were often born there: To them, Cyprus is home and always has been. And there are other Turkish families who were there long before the 1974 invasion. Any just settlement would have to take account of those facts and provide protection against post-reunification discrimination. But in the view of Greek Cypriots, the rejected settlement went far beyond that.

As a result, reported the Greek newspaper Kathimerini on June 12,
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos widened his country's rift with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Washington and London yesterday by bluntly rejecting any new vote on a UN blueprint to unite Cyprus. ...

"The Annan plan as is, without undergoing changes, cannot be accepted or be put before a referendum again," Papadopoulos told reporters here after returning from a trip to the United States where he met with Annan. "There is disagreement with Britain and the United States... Their position is that it's the only plan that can lead to a settlement. I told the secretary-general it was not the only solution," he added.
Annan had previously
blamed Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos for misrepresenting the U.N. reunification plan because he did not really want a settlement.

Papadopoulos called Annan's remarks "offensive" and "erroneous" in a 31-page written response.
Something was made of the subsequent elections for the European Parliament on the island when the Democratic Rally party (DISY), which had supported the UN blueprint, came in first with 28.2% of the vote, enough for two of the six seats allotted to Cyprus in the 723-member EP, Kathimerini reported on June 14. While clearly a victory for DISY, it actually did not reflect a shift of opinion on the island: The next four parties, all of which opposed the plan, together got over 66% of the vote and the other four seats.

More recently, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has
expressed his dissatisfaction at the European Union's call that Ankara recognize the Republic of Cyprus and he accused the EU of dragging its feet in ending the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots.

"They have not taken a single step," Erdogan said, referring to the EU's promise to lift restrictions against the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in northern Cyprus after Turkish Cypriots voted to accept a UN reunification plan in April.
The issue here is that Cyprus is now a member of the EU - but because reunification failed, the Turkish-controlled area is still technically a breakaway state. The net effect is that the Greek-Cypriots get the benefits of EU membership but the Turkish-Cypriots are still isolated. But because Ankara has customs agreements with the EU, it's being pressured to recognize Cyprus by extending those agreements to include it and the other new members.

That isolation may be ending, however. Kathimerini also reports that
the US State Department coordinator for the Cyprus issue, Thomas Weston, paid the first visit by a US official to the offices of the Turkish-Cypriot representation in Washington on Thursday[, June 17]. He and Turkish-Cypriot representative Osman Ertug discussed US measures aimed at easing the breakaway state's isolation. Weston said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan was not open to the renegotiation that Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has called for. Papadopoulos, he said, "has already received his reply from the Turkish Cypriots with regard to the Annan plan and therefore will not find someone to hold the new negotiations with," the Athens News Agency quoted Weston as saying.
If the US's intention to tilt toward Turkey in this was not clear enough, in a June 27 press background briefing on Shrub's talks with Turkish leaders, a "senior administration official" said that he
expressed his thanks to Turkey for its extraordinarily constructive and creative attitude.... [He] also expressed his real gratitude to Turkey for what it had done and made clear that ... Turkish Cypriots no longer be subject to isolation
because they had "done what the world asked."

Apparently, free elections only count when we get the result we want. By the way, has anyone else noticed that our new readiness, even eagerness, to reward Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots for agreeing to, in effect, legitimize Turkey's 1974 invasion - which must have been a real wrenching decision for them, I bet - came just about the time Turkey was publicly coning around to our way of thinking about Iraq and the "war on terror"(tm)(c)(pat. pending)?

Footnote: Turkey hopes to open negotiations on becoming part of the EU by this fall. It had previously been denied membership over human rights questions. Any one member of the EU can veto that process. Cyprus says it will not, but Austria's incoming president Heinz Fischer has raised concerns about the timing. I wonder long it will be before he'll be hearing from a "senior administration official?"

Previous posts on Cyprus were on January 26, February 5, February 14, February 20, March 17, March 23, April 5, April 18, April 24, and June 1.

Updated to include the link for "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and to correct the wording of the quote.

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