Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Cyprus solution hopes re-kindled by Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Cyprus, an island inhibited by Greeks and Turks, got independence from Britain in 1960. For the first three years of independence both the communities somehow managed to co-exist however in 1963 disturbances started. According to the Turkish Cypriots, the then leadership of Greek Cyprus denied even basic rights to the Turkish community and started killing them. The tense situation continued on the island and a time came in 1974 when the Greek leadership tried to have enosis (reunion of the island with Greece). Then the Turkish forces landed at the island on July 20, 1974 to prevent this enosis. Since then the North side celebrates July 20 as the peace and operation day. I had a chance to attend these celebrations. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the chief guest on the occasion.

Cyprus issue no doubt has become a hard nut to crack not only for the communities but the guarantor powers such as Britain, Turkey and Greece and world bodies like OIC and the United Nations. Both communities have been engaged in talks since the trouble started with a view to re-uniting the island, nevertheless no significant progress could be achieved mainly because of the Greek Cyprus, which is in majority and not ready to give the due share to the Turkish Cypriots.
The United Nations is involved in the issue since the very beginning and maintains offices at buffer zones. The former UN secretary general Kofi Anan in 2004 presented a plan for the re-unification of the island. The plan, known as Anan Plan was put to referendum and both communities were asked to vote. Though, the Plan did not envisage an ideal situation for the Turkish side, even then they decided to vote in favour of the UN Plan and approved it with 67 per cent majority. The Greek side rejected the Plan overwhelmingly. On the day of referendum the then Greek Cyprus president appeared on the national hook-up and asked his people to reject the plan. Consequently people voted against.
The Greek Cyprus decision came as a sheer disappointment for the UN secretary general and the Turkish Cypriots. Kofi Anan, after the referendum said Greek Cyprus had missed the opportunity of island reunion for there won’t be a Plan b.
To cut the story short, ever since Nikos Anastasiadis in Greek Cyprus and Mustafa Akinci in North Cyprus have taken over as the presidents of their respective states, hopes of reunion of the island seem to have revived because there are a number of commonalities between the two leaders. Both are personal friends. And especially Greek Cyprus president Anastasiadis had whole heatedly supported the Kofi Anan plan for the island reunification in 2004, which means he is among those Greeks who genuinely want a reunion.
Mustafa Akıncı and Nikos Anastasiadis came together few days ago at Othello Tower in Famagusta. At the event, which was organized by the Technical Committee on Culture, the bi-communal music group ‘Kyprogenia’ gave a concert, which was named ‘our music under the moonlight’. The two negotiators Andreas Mavroyiannis and Özdil Nami, the UN Special Advisor Espen Barth Eide and the UN Special Representative to Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim as well as some religious representatives also attended the event.
Both leaders are holding regular meetings in order to build confidence and find out amicable ways to solve this issue. Ostensibly, Turkey and Greece are not only the guarantor powers but key players when it comes to settlement of this issue. The Turkish president while delivering speech on the peace and operation day celebrations sent positive signals to the Greek side that Turkey will support and facilitate a solution that ensures equal rights and guarantees peaceful co-existence of both communities.
Likewise, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoğlu said in a recent statement that it is the first time they have been so hopeful of a settlement in Cyprus and underlined that “this opportunity must not be missed.
Apart from these players, the European Union too has a role to play on this issue because it admitted Greek Cyprus into its fold as a member soon after they rejected the UN plan for re-unification. Greek Cyprus is now a full member of EU despite the fact that Nicosia remains the only divided capital in the world.
North Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey however it maintains its representative’s offices in many countries including Pakistan. North Cyprus enjoys observer status at the OIC as Turkish Cypriot state. One can hope that both sides will not miss this opportunity, which according to Mustafa Akinci, may be a last chance for both the communities to settle this issue once and for all. The guarantor powers and the European Union specifically have an onus on their shoulders to help resolve this issue amicably because a divided island would only add to problems of all these players and the people living on the island.

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