CYPRUS: Statement by the President of Cyprus
Tassos Papadopoulus «View Bio

April 25, 2004

Over the last year I have made abundantly clear that I have been willing to negotiate on the basis of the Annan Plan in order to find a functional and viable solution of the Cyprus problem within the parameters of the relevant Security Council Resolutions and in full respect of the UN Purposes and Principles and effective protection of human rights.

It was in the context in these beliefs that I agreed in New York on 13 February to engage in the current process in order to reach a comprehensive settlement to be put to separate simultaneous referenda so as to ascertain the free choice of all Cypriots as to the political, social, economic and constitutional future.

It is in this spirit that I submitted, in the course of the talks, my suggestions for improvements to the Annan Plan. The United Nations have confirmed to me that all my suggestions were within the parameters of the Plan and did not, in any way, take away any rights from our Turkish Cypriot compatriots.

What is more disconcerting, however, is the fact that the United Nations never pointed out to the Turkish side that since their proposals and demands were outside the agreed basis of the negotiations, they should not have been the subject of any discussion.

In spite of a unanimous decision of the National Council, I agreed to the finalization of thee Plan by the UN Secretary General, exercising his discretion, following assurances that during the first two stages of the process serious negotiation would have taken place, thus allowing the two sides to reach an agreement on all key issues. Unfortunately, the prospect of the finalization of the Plan by the Secretary General has proved to have been a counterincentive for substantive negotiations in Cyprus and in Switzerland. Nobody took these talks seriously except me. Everybody else seems to have been bidding their time until we reached the finalization stage.

Thus, throughout the process, no real negotiation took place. Most of the time had been consumed by the other side putting forward suggestions that either were not genuinely within the parameters of the Plan, or were contrary to its fundamental principles, or important "trade-offs" agreed by my predecessor or contradicted its core provisions. Sadly, these demands appear to have been satisfied, almost in total, in the revised Plan of 31 March through the adoption of all 11 demands made by Permanent Undersecretary Ziyal, of Turkey, particularly those in an EU context. Let me point out, that, in contrast, basic concerns of the Greek Cypriot side, within the spirit of the Plan, have been disregarded. It seems that everybody involved in the talks were anxious to bring on board Turkey and ensure a "yes" vote by the Turkish Cypriot community ignoring the fact that the far bigger Cypriot community had also to be convinced to vote "yes" on the Plan. Thus, this process has failed in addressing the legitimate concerns, need and interests of both sides.

In the light of the above, it became necessary for me, as leader of the Greek Cypriot community, to decide whether the Plan, now revealed in all its details, should be recommended by me. Such matters have ultimately to be decided by the people, and in this respect I have, as democratically elected leader, had to give the best guidance. At the end of the day, people had to choose between "yes" and "no". There was simply no other option. Under these circumstances why some circles would not accept "no" for an answer? And if that was the intention (that is, to effectively preclude one of the available options), why a referendum was called? Were the people expected simply to rubberstamp through their vote a decision already taken by others?

In the run up to the referendum there has been a lively public debate conducted in calm and civilised manner with full respect to freedom of opinion and of expression and the right to freedom of information in the media and elsewhere. Never before in Cyprus, a political proposal received such attention, was subjected to such a profound analysis and was commented upon so extensively in the media, where the two sides of the argument were equally represented. Suffice to say that even though six political parties representing 65% of the electorate were for a "no", whilst two parties representing 35% of the people argued for a "yes", both sides shared the television time available on a 50-50 basis, according to statistics released by the independent Radio and Television authority. I, myself, spent, since April 1st, two hours and 45 minutes on television. I did not make any interventions on other TV shows, radio programmes or write any newspaper articles.

Any interventions aimed at influencing the outcome of the referendum did not originate from within Cyprus, but from abroad through statements calculated at instigating sentiments of fear, insecurity and uncertainty among the voters.

In a democracy the sovereign will of people is expressed through voting procedures like the one yesterday. When the people/s verdict is expressed, it should be fully respected. I note with pleasure statements to that effect by the UN Secretary General, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission.

What did the Greek Cypriots choose not to accept in the referendum?

Greek Cypriots did not accept the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus in perpetuity as well as the continuation of the Treaty of Guarantee for an indefinite period of time and the expansion of its scope in comparison to the 1960 agreements. It is this Treaty that Turkey used as a pretext to justify its 1974 invasion of Cyprus.

Greek Cypriots failed to understand why, under the Plan, 45,000 Turkish settlers were to be given citizenship of Cyprus plus a further 20-25,000 (in addition to those who are married to T/Cs or have been born in Cyprus) were to be given permanent residence with citizenship in 4 years. People did not understand why the principle laid down in the judgment of the International Court of Justice "requiring a free and genuine expression of the will of the people concerned" and also the precedent applied in East Timor is not being applied in Cyprus because all Turkish settlers, who constitute a majority of persons on the "electoral rolls of the TRNC" have been permitted to vote yesterday.

Greek Cypriots said no to a Plan that stipulated that there may be a permanent flow of settlers from Turkey due to the right permanently to keep the population of mother-tongue Turkish language-speakers at 66.6% of permanent residents in the T/C state.

Greek Cypriots disapproved of a Plan according to which the right of return to their homes in safety of "refugees" should be denied to the great majority of displaced persons, so that even in 2023, they may only total 18% of the population of the Turkish-speaking area, 50 years after Turkey`s occupation of Cyprus and expulsion in or denial of the right of return to such persons.

Greek Cypriots did not consent to a Plan which contains provisions inserted, without the agreement of both sides, and which will have the effect of perpetuating ethnic divisions both physically and politically in Cyprus, and would have been asking the EU to agree to this.

Greek Cypriots disavowed a Plan that would have established a complicated and dysfunctional state, through continuous deadlocks on clearly political issues unsuitable for judicial arbitration. This would have, with a high degree of certainty, led to a paralysis. The distance between paralysis and dissolution is a very short one.

Greek Cypriots rejected a Plan imposing a liability on them to pay the large claims for loss of use of properties in the occupied area.

I should emphasise that the Greek Cypriots have not rejected the solution of the Cyprus problem. They have rejected this particular solution on offer for obvious reasons.

The Greek Cypriots are not turning their backs to their Turkish Cypriot compatriots. On the contrary, we shall work for a solution that will meet the hopes and expectations of both communities. In the meantime, further to the measures adopted in favour of the Turkish Cypriots last year. We shall very shortly, as soon as tomorrow Monday at the General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg, announce measures that will enable the Turkish Cypriots to enjoy as much as possible the benefit of their country/s accession to the European Union.

I regret that the Plan presented to us did not allow both communities to respond positively so that today we could both be celebrating.

The rejection of the Plan is no victory for anyone. The future of our country belongs to all of our citizens irrespective of the way they have voted today. Any difference of opinion prior to the referendum should be followed by unity in order to secure a better tomorrow in a reunited country. Greek and Turkish Cypriots deserve a better future. A secure future for us and the generations to come. I will spare no effort in order to achieve this goal.