19-11-2014 Al Sharq – Samir Al Hijawi Cyprus is waiting the impossible solution (1) I spent several days in the Turkish Republic of Cyprus, which occupies the northern one-third of the divided island of Cyprus and is inhabited by approximately 300 thousand citizens, all of them are Muslim Turks with the exception of 500 Greek Orthodox and very few of the Jews. I had a tour in the island and I met a number of officials, intellectuals and university professors. In fact, we in the Arab world know a little about Cyprus and its problems, despite the importance of what is happening there. It is just 96 kilometers from Syria, it is also adjacent to Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine; therefore it has a great contact with the Arabs and has actual borders with the Arab world. We, the Arabs, are busy in a lot of internal problems and crises that seem to keep us far from thinking about the problems of the neighbors, even though they affect us directly or indirectly. The evidence is the problem of drilling for oil and gas in the Mediterranean, where Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and the Israeli entity are affected. Before talking about the current situation of this divided island and analyzing the political conditions, there must be a quick and concise historical view about Cyprus, but I will not go far away in history. Ill start from the middle Ages when the Ottomans conquered the island in 1571 and expelled the Venetians. Cyprus was under their rule as a center for the Eastern Mediterranean piracy that threatens the commercial ships, especially the Ottoman ships. After two centuries of the Ottoman rule specifically in 1777, the number of Muslim Turks exceeded 47 thousand people out of 84 thousand people inhabit the island. The Ottomans did not proceed to expel anyone from the islands population. The Ottomans brought stability and prosperity to the island and effectively curbed the piracy which was threatening the trade in the Mediterranean Sea and the Christian people became rest of the feudal system which was run by the Venetians. The Bishop became recognized as an independent figure and was granted administrative authorities. The Orthodox was allowed to practice their rituals. But this harmony did not last as the Ottoman authorities have accused the Cypriot Orthodox Church by supporting the rebels on the Ottoman rule and isolated the Bishop which sowed the seeds of discord between the two sides after a long period of harmony. In 1878, the Ottoman Empire which started to weaken ceded the right of Cyprus management to Britain while retaining the rule of the Ottoman Empire by a financial amount paid by Britain. Also the people of Cyprus continued paying the tribute and the help of Britain for the Ottoman Empire against any Russian attack. The Greek Orthodox Cypriots welcomed the agreement believing it as an important step to enable them to join Greece. However, the Ottoman Empire ceded Cyprus to Britain in 1923 under Lausanne agreement where Britain declared it as one of its colonies two years later, which led to a decline in the number of Turkish Cypriots in the island. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War and the establishment of the Turkish Republic and dropping the Caliphate State, most of the Turkish Cypriots returned to Turkey and the Greek Cypriots became 80% of the population of the island, which tipped the demographic scales there. It opened the door on a conflict that Cyprus Island is still living in its shadows until now, creating a state of hostility and hatred between the two main elements who have lived together for hundreds of years. 21-11-2014 Al Sharq – Samir Al Hijawi Cyprus is waiting the impossible solution (2) In August 1960, the reunited Cyprus had its independence from Britain with the consent of the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots after the approval of the Greek side to cancel the plan on uniting with Greece or the so-called enosis. It was agreed that Cyprus will be controlled under the Constitution which divides the cabinet positions, the parliamentary seats and the civil service jobs on agreed rates between the two communities. But during three years of the rule, the tension between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots began floating on the surface. The Greek Cypriot President Makarios amended 13 articles of the constitution in 1963, which was rejected by the Turkish Cypriots submitting a complaint to the Constitutional Court alleging that the amendments were “illegal”. But the Greek Cypriot President insisted on it, which led to the resignation of the President of the Constitutional Court. The division process, after the government which was dominated by the Greek Cypriots agreed a plan called Akritas” plan, agreed to dislodge the Turkish Cypriots from the government completely, subjecting them by force if they refused the union with Greece, which led to an escalation in tension between the two parties. On 21 December 1963, members of the private police related to the Greek Interior Minister Lior Gajas and Greek Cypriot militias attacked the Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia and Larnaca, 700 hostages from Turks were taken including women and children. In 1964, 193 Turkish Cypriots were killed and other 209 were missing; the Turkish villages were looted widely prompting 20 thousand Turkish Cypriots to leave their areas and resorting to the armed enclaves of Turks staying there for 11 years, relying on the medical and food aids coming from Turkey. Hence the Greek Cypriot administration seized control on all the state institutions in the island, prompting the Turkish Cypriots to form a paramilitary militia to defend themselves after the island effectively split into two litigant camps. In 15 July 1974, the Greek Cypriots made a military coup backed by the military board in Greece. They isolated President Makarios from his position and Nikos Sampson took the power, prompting Turkey to a military intervention to protect the Turkish Cypriots after five days from the coup. Turkey seized control over 37% of the island area, which led to the failure of the coup and reinstalled Makarios to power. The Greek Cypriots and the Turks exchanged of their respective populations under the auspices of the United Nations in 1975, the Turkish Cypriot federal State was declared in the same year as a prelude to demand the establishment of a federal state consisting of two countries, one for the Turks and other for the Greeks which was rejected by the Greek Cypriots and the United Nations. After 8 years of failed negotiations, North Cyprus officially announced its independence unilaterally on 15 November 1983 by the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This issue was rejected by the Greek Cypriots, the United Nations and the European Union, and no one recognized this state except Turkey. All Arabs and Islamic countries did not recognize such a nascent state in spite of all the efforts made for that. A political deadlock dominated on the island since then, all negotiations to reach a solution were failed even though the United Nations has submitted a settlement in 2004 based on the referendum of the two sides. This settlement was approved by most of the Turkish Cypriots and was rejected by most of the Greek Cypriots. In an escalatory step, a European Union uncaring to the demands of the Turkish Cypriots, allowed the Republic of Cyprus into the Union. That deepened the division of the island between the two parties, creating a complex political reality and instigating the dispute between two parties. 23-11-2014 Al Sharq – Samir Al Hijawi Cyprus is waiting the impossible solution (3) Britain planted the seeds of discord between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots in Cyprus after granting the island its independence in 1960. Soon the mines planted by the British occupation were exploded after only three years and the fighting between the two sides erupted. Then the Greek Cypriots tried to annex Cyprus to Greece which led to the invasion of the island by the Turkish troops on 20 July 1974 and control over 37% of the land. Accordingly the declaration of the federal Turkish Republic of Cyprus was announced on 2 August 1975 according to the convention on the exchange of populations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots under the auspices of the United Nations, as a step towards the unification of Cyprus in the framework of a federal state. A marathon of failed negotiations lasted eight years until the declaration of unilateral independence of the Northern Cyprus on 15 November 1983 establishing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. The situation continued unchanged until Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, submitted on 13 November 2002 a peace plan aimed at resolving the division of the island between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots over 28 years, through creating a confederation like the Swiss model which could also access to the European Union. He handed the text of the plan to the Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and to Turkish Cypriot President Rauf Denktash who was lying in the hospital after undergoing a heart surgery in New York and to the representatives of the member States in the UN Security Council. Other than a summary of ten pages, the text consisted of 9,000 pages and was considered as a document that touched upon all dimensions of the crisis. Annan document stated to establish an independent state of Cyprus as a partnership (that cannot be resolved between the government of a joint state) and two constituent peoples, one is the Greek Cypriot and other is the Turkish Cypriot, after the referendum on the plan in the two parts of the island. In April 2004, referenda were conducted at the same time in the two parts of the island and the result was that the Greek Cypriots rejected Annan plan by 76%, while 65% of the Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the plan, a result that led to the failure of the unification of the island. The Greek Cypriots abandoned the plan of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and returned to the initial position, therefore the division of the island became a reality accepted implicitly by the two parties without the official recognition of the Greek Cypriots. Here we must mention that the Turkish President Rauf Denktash had opposed Annan plan because he was skeptical of its objectives and that it will intensify the problems between the two parties leading to social problems because Annan scheme included the transfer of residents from their places without any regard to humanitarian considerations. He said there should not be any uncertain state as a result of futile attempts to force non-homogenous parties to unite. After the support of the majority of the Turkish Cypriots for the settlement proposed by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Denktash declared his non-candidacy for the elections after he ruled the north of Cyprus for more than 30 years. Then the Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Talat won the presidential election, stressing on his determination to unite the island under one federal state. He requested the lifting of the international penalties imposed on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as its population voted in favor of the reunification of the island, but instead of rewarding the Turkish Cypriots for their support for Annan plan, the European Union opened doors to the Republic of the Greek Cyprus South Cyprus and ignored the Turkish Cypriots in a clear bias for the Greece and the Greek Cypriots. 25-11-2014 Al Sharq – Samir Al Hijawi Cyprus is waiting the impossible solution (4) It can be said that Cyprus Island is a victim of geography and the civilizations clash. It enjoys a dangerous location which is a gateway for the Arab Islamic region and at the same time the gateway of the east with the west, in addition to its positioning in the Mediterranean, which was shifted from the Christian Roman Sea to the Arab Islamic Lake later, then its return again to the arms of the West as a European lake. This strategic location has made Cyprus Island as a border to the civilized contact or the cultural friction between the Islamic East and the Christian West, making the island as a perpetual conflict land between the two parties that makes the solution between the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots is extremely difficult, if not impossible. From the practical side, I cannot absolutely say that the northern part of the island or the Turkish Republic of Cyprus, is a land controlled by the Islamic characteristic. During my roaming in the northern Cyprus and among different cities, I noticed that there are no veiled women, a small number of mosques and the absence of anything that indicates to an Islamic place, except some minarets scattered here and there noting that I saw much more than that in Blackburn city in Britain, making it more Islamic than the Turkish Republic of Cyprus in terms of form at least. When I asked the vice president of the Cypriot Middle East University about this phenomenon, he replied that he would prefer to have the number of schools more than the number of mosques, which means that religion is a minor issue in life there; when I asked a Cypriot governmental employee for the lack of veiled women, she was surprised from my question considering it strange and told me simply: No need for that and changed the subject. I noticed that the uniforms for a number of schools consists of short skirts for girls. It can be confirmed that the religion in the Turkish Cypriots doesn’t have any role in their struggle with the Greek Cypriots, who are affected significantly by the Orthodox Church, but it played a pivotal role in the failure of the settlement efforts in the island. The famous cleric Makarios, president and head of the Archbishop of the Cypriot Church, pledged in his inauguration speech as the leader of the church in 1950 to put the union with Greece project in his top priority, a project that sparked the crisis in Cyprus; he was the first president of the independent Cyprus from 1955 until his death in 1977. In the opposite side, the secular case which was away from Islam was the dominant in the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots didn’t use the religion in the conflict, using the Turkish nationalism instead of it making them in a conflict state with the Greek Cypriot Orthodox, where religion is mixed with nationalism and the cultural conflict and even with the remains of the Crusades on the Arab and Muslim world. This national conflict between the Turks and the Greeks is the most prominent situation in the island. At the time the Christian West support the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots do not find any Arabs or Muslims allies except Turkey, which they belong ethnically or culturally and historically, leaving the Turkish Cypriots totally exposed in front of their opponents or their partners in the island, who enjoy international recognition, legal and diplomatic prestige, and membership of the United Nations and the European Union; this narrows the ways to reach a solution to the division in Cyprus.
Posted on: Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:39:08 +0000
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