AHI LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST RESPONDS TO EDITORIAL ON FORTHCOMING APRIL 24, 2004 ANNAN PLAN REFERENDUM
WASHINGTON, DC—On April 7, 2004, AHI Executive Director, Nick Larigakis, sent a letter to the editor responding to a Washington Posteditorial titled, "A Mediterranean Endgame" (April 7, 2004; Page A30), which calls for Greek Cypriots to vote "yes" to the Annan Plan. The text of the letter appears below, followed by the Washington Post editorial to which the letter responds.
April 7, 2004
Letters to the Editor
The Post’s editorial of April 7, 2004 "A Mediterranean Endgame," states that the Greek Cypriots vote "yes" on the forthcoming April 24th "Annan Plan" (Secretary-General Koffi Annan’s plan for uniting Cyprus) referendum because the "one obstacle" from preventing Turkey from joining the European Union, "long advocated" by the United States, is the division of Cyprus. Oh really!
I guess Turkey’s undemocratic government, continuing horrendous human rights record, continuing illegal occupation of Cyprus, poor economy, and overall bad neighborly gestures regarding Greece’s territorial integrity, to say nothing of not having fulfilled the Copenhagen Criteria, has no bearing? And should the Greek Cypriots simply succumb to unreasonable ultimata and demands just so Turkey gets a date for EU accession negotiations? Just last week after the talks in Switzerland, Reuter’s news agency reported that a Turkish diplomat told reporters, "We cannot imagine a solution more marvelous than this, we got everything we wanted. [The Greeks] lost, it’s that simple."
The Post advocates rewarding the aggressor, Turkey, and to punish the victim, Greek Cypriots, for the sake of political expediency. Even the editorial clearly states that the division of Cyprus dates to "Turkey’s invasion of the northern part of the island three decades ago" and that the Turkish Cypriots object to the Annan Plan because it involves "returning some 50,000 properties by the Turks to their original Greek owners."
President Bush on April 1, at a ceremony at the White House, when asked about Cyprus stated that they will be voting on the Annan Plan on April 24th and that "we’re not going to tell them how to vote." I trust that those who carry out the President’s policy got the message.
The Annan plan, as currently written, is undemocratic and unworkable and needs serious changes in the interests of the U.S. as well as those of Cyprus, the UN and the EU. It also violates key UN resolutions and the EU’s democratic norms and acquis communautaire.
The U.S. position in support of the Annan Plan and of the threatening tone from State Department officials regarding consequences in the event of a "no" vote by the Greek-Cypriots is, frankly, an embarrassment to our foreign policy. And to suggest that the U.S. should "urge" the newly elected government of Greece to support a "yes" vote is outrageous. Greece is a loyal ally of the United States and has always been there when needed. Have we forgotten that Turkey last year refused to assist the U.S. regarding Iraq?
On April 7, 2004, EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen cautioned against any kind of pressure or intervention on the Greek Cypriots, pointing out that the democratic process in Cyprus should be respected. That’s what President Bush said, in effect, on April 1.
The U.S. in its own interest of providing peace and stability in the southeastern Mediterranean needs to support a solution for Cyprus that has a real chance for establishing a long lasting peace on the island. Not ill conceived short-term band-aid solutions.
We can begin by applying the rule of law.
/s/ Nick Larigakis
The Washington Post
A Mediterranean Endgame
Wednesday, April 7, 2004; Page A30
TO STRENGTHEN Turkey, a key ally and an Islamic democracy, the United States has long advocated its accession to the European Union. One obstacle has been the division of Cyprus, which dates to Turkey's invasion of the northern part of the island three decades ago and which has poisoned relations with Greece, an EU member. Now there is a chance to resolve the Cyprus question, which would relieve the United Nations of the job of patrolling the buffer zone that traverses the island and would defuse a confrontation that has in the past driven Greece and Turkey to the edge of war. On April 24 the Turkish and Greek parts of the island will vote in twin referendums on a peace deal devised by the United Nations.
The Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come out in favor of the U.N. deal, despite opposition at home. Many Turks believe that the continued division of Cyprus is the only guarantor of the rights of the Turkish minority on the island, and they object to a deal that would involve returning some 50,000 properties seized by Turks to their original Greek owners. Mr. Erdogan has defied this obstructionism, which includes powerful segments of the Turkish army, because he wants EU membership. He has been helped by the fact that the Greek part of Cyprus will join the EU on May 1. If the U.N. peace deal is endorsed in the referendums and the island is reunited, Turkish Cypriots will get the benefit of EU membership as well.
The chief threat to the peace deal comes from the Greek half of the island. Since it is guaranteed EU accession, it has less incentive to vote for the U.N. compromise. Polls suggest that most Greek Cypriots oppose a deal: Opinion is apparently more swayed by the concessions (for example, that 60,000 properties seized at the time of the Turkish invasion would not be returned) than by the gains (which include the economic benefits of a de-escalation of tension as well as the return of 50,000 properties). Avoiding a "no" vote will therefore take determined campaigning from the Greek Cypriot leadership. Today, Tassos Papadopoulos, the Greek Cypriot president, is due to lay out his position on the peace plan. Other political leaders, including the heads of two parties larger than that of the president, will pronounce on the deal over the next days.
The United States and the leading European powers have urged Mr. Papadopoulos to consider the consequences of a rejected peace deal—suggesting that, although the Greek part of Cyprus will accede to the EU anyway, Mr. Papadopoulos will arrive in Brussels as a pariah if he has scuppered the compromise. Still, there is more that could be done to put pressure on the Greek Cypriot leadership.
The Bush administration and its allies should urge Greece to take a clear public position in favor of a "yes" vote. If Turkey's government has weathered domestic criticism for its strong endorsement of the U.N. compromise, it is not too much to demand that the Greek government do likewise. The Greeks need to recognize their own interest in drawing Turkey into Europe as part of the larger project of spreading prosperity to Islamic countries. The old blood feud over Cyprus should not impede that larger objective.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
AHI Letter to the Washington Post Responds to Editorial on Forthcoming April 24, 2004 Annan Plan Referendum