Letter to the Editor: Cyprus and Realism

In the December 4, 2002 issue of In the National Interest, Nikolas Gvosdev observed, "In an effort to avert a crisis over Cypriot accession to the European Union, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has put forth a series of proposals that he hopes can l

In the December 4, 2002 issue of In the National Interest, Nikolas Gvosdev observed, "In an effort to avert a crisis over Cypriot accession to the European Union, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has put forth a series of proposals that he hopes can lead to the creation of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation for Cyprus." However, the overall proposal by the Secretary-General, as currently written is undemocratic and unworkable. It also violates key UN resolutions and the European Union's democratic norms and acquis communautaire. Annan's proposal needs a number of modifications to achieve his goal. Both President Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, have accepted the proposal as a basis for further negotiation.

 

The United States should be the champion of democratic norms throughout the world, not undemocratic constitutions like the one proposed. Especially now, when our war on international terrorism makes it tempting to subordinate timeless principles to alleged needs, the U.S. should be vigilant in supporting democratic norms and the rule of law.

 

The United States should seek practical and commonsense modifications to make the proposal realistic as the basis for a compromise settlement of the Cyprus problem. A more detailed description of why the proposal is undemocratic, unworkable, and undermines the rule of law can be found in the statements issued by the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) on December 3 and 9, 2002 (and available at http://www.ahiworld.com/120302.html). The changes we have suggested would make the proposal democratic, workable and fair to both sides.

 

By ignoring these considerations the United States would be actively tolerating for Turkey a standard of conduct the U.S. aggressively condemns elsewhere. The perceived need for Turkey's cooperation in the war against international terrorism does not justify such a double standard. Rather than abandoning the bedrock American principles of democracy and the rule of law, the U.S. should actively propose modifications to make the proposal democratic, workable and fair.

 

Gene Rossides is the General Counsel for the American Hellenic Institute.

 

Nikolas Gvosdev responds:

I would like to thank Mr. Rossides for his thoughtful letter and for alerting our readers to the documents prepared by the American Hellenic Institute concerning the Annan proposals for Cyprus.

My concern is that the perfect not become the enemy of the good. The Annan proposal has flaws, which I hope can be corrected or ameliorated through subsequent negotiations. It is not an ideal plan--and certainly, the Republic of Cyprus is being asked to concede on issues where it is right by principle--but it may be the only basis for a realistic settlement. President Clerides has rightly said, ''Sacrificing the forest for the sake of a tree goes beyond my vision.''

The settlement of the Cyprus problem could have important ramifications for solving other lingering ethno-territorial disputes in the larger Eastern Mediterranean/Black Sea zone. If a workable bi-communal, bi-zonal federation can be created for Cyprus, it could then serve as a model upon which solutions for conflicts such as Nagorno-Karabakh or Trans-Dniestria could be crafted. This serves long-term American interests as well; the existence of unrecognized statelets all along the arc of Eurasia only contributes to continuing instability.

Several weeks ago in our pages, Ioannis Kasoulides, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, expressed the optimistic sentiment that "because of a unique convergence of positive factors-the renewed interest of the international community, the personal involvement and commitment of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the momentum generated by Cyprus' progress toward accession to the European Union-we have finally reached a junction where peace is not only possible, but is within reach." (http://www.inthenationalinterest.com/Articles/Vol1Issue9/Vol1Issue9Kasoulides.html) I hope that his assessment will prove to be correct.

 

Nikolas Gvosdev is the editor of In the National Interest.