AHI Letter to The New York Times Responds to
WASHINGTON, DC—On January 9, 2003, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) sent a letter to the editor responding to a New York Times editorial titled "Ending the Cyprus Conflict" (January 7, 2003, p. A22). The text of the letter appears below, followed by The New York Times editorial to which the letter responds.
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January 9, 2003
Letters to the Editor
The New York Times is to be applauded for its forthright editorial ("Ending Conflict in Cyprus," January 7, 2002, p. A22) which sheds additional light on the protracted conflict in Cyprus and insists that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash heed the calls for change emanating most notably from his own side of the bargaining table—the Turkish Cypriot population itself and the new leadership in Ankara.
However, while The New York Times notes that there are problems with the U.N.'s settlement proposal, it does not recognize or analyze the extent of these problems. If adopted, the plan's provisions are undemocratic at their very core and create the conditions for continuous squabbling, disagreements and deadlock between the two communities.
Most notably, while President Bush promotes the idea of democracy abroad, this U.S.-backed proposal is undemocratic in the very structure that it lays out for Cyprus' legislative and executive branches. In effect, the structure of the parliamentary system and of the Presidential Council creates minority vetoes for the 18 percent Turkish Cypriot minority over the 80 percent Greek Cypriot majority.
A number of other provisions in the plan must also be further examined and seriously modified in order to assure that the proposal becomes democratic, workable and fair for both Cypriot communities. For example, the plan fails to demilitarize Cyprus by allowing Turkish and Greek troops to remain on the island. Cyprus is also precluded from participating in a future common European Defense Policy, which automatically prevents it from enjoying the rights of the other EU members. Further, property rights provisions are complicated and ambiguous, and the problem of illegal Turkish settlers is not addressed satisfactorily. These are just a few of the troubling holes in the U.N.'s proposal.
Especially now, when our war on international terrorism makes it tempting to subordinate timeless principles to immediate needs and to a speedy resolution of this long-standing conflict, we should be wary of elements in the Cyprus proposal which elevate expediency over the rule of law.
The New York Times
The divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, long contorted by tensions between Turkey and Greece, can look forward to a more promising future if the Turkish Cypriot leadership accepts a United Nations peace plan. Under the plan, already welcomed by the Greek side, a united Cyprus could join the European Union next year. That would benefit Cypriots from both communities and open the way for early Turkish admission to the union. If the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, succeeds in blocking the agreement, the pain and unfairness of Cyprus's armed partition could be locked in for years to come.
Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Turkish Cypriots favors the U.N. plan. Last month tens of thousands of them took to the streets demanding its acceptance. As important, the Turkish political leadership in Ankara on which Mr. Denktash's power ultimately depends is also pressing for a swift negotiated settlement. Unfortunately, Mr. Denktash refuses to get the message. Concerted diplomatic pressure, including Washington's, is needed to end his destructive opposition.
The obvious basis for a solution is a plan proposed by the U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan. It provides for a loose confederation of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, with the presidency rotating between them and refugees from the 1974 fighting that divided the island eventually being allowed to reclaim their homes or receive compensation. Glafcos Clerides, now running for re-election as president of the Greek sector, has accepted this plan as the basis for a negotiated compromise. But Mr. Denktash remains opposed. The U.N. has a deadline of Feb. 28 for both sides to reach agreement. Mr. Annan's plan may not be perfect, but rejecting it would be a worse alternative for both Cypriot communities.
One important new element is the changed position of Ankara. For years Turkey's political and military establishment unswervingly supported Mr. Denktash. In a welcome change, the leader of Turkey's new ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, forcefully criticized Mr. Denktash last week for ignoring his constituents' desire for a negotiated peace. This enlightened stand demonstrates how far Mr. Erdogan has moved from the narrowly Islamist politics he emphasized earlier in his career. When Ankara speaks, Mr. Denktash needs to listen. Only a few weeks remain to help him recognize this truth.
AHI Letter to The New York Times Responds to Editorial on Ending the Conflict in Cyprus