A People's Decision

A People's Decision

The rejection of the Annan plan is no victory for anyone.

The rejection of the Annan plan is no victory for anyone. I regret that the Plan presented to us did not allow both communities to respond positively. It is no secret that the United Nations, the European Union, and other countries want a solution [on Cyprus] as quickly as possible. But this solution is to be judged by the people here - we will live with it. All of us want a solution, but we want in addition [it to be] a viable solution.

I should emphasize that the Greek-Cypriots have not rejected the solution of the Cyprus problem. They are not turning their backs on their Turkish-Cypriot compatriots. They have rejected this particular solution on offer - for obvious reasons. But mainly because, among other things, they did not believe that this solution provides the necessary safeguards for its full implementation in the depth of time; or is the best for the common interest of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, ensuring a functional and, therefore, viable solution. The only real beneficiary of this plan would have been Turkey.

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. They disapproved of a Plan according to which the right of refugees to return to their homes in safety should be denied to the great majority of displaced persons; they did not consent to a Plan which contains provisions inserted without the agreement of both sides that will have the effect of perpetuating ethnic divisions; and they rejected a Plan imposing a liability on them to pay the large claims for loss of the use of properties in the occupied areas.

Everyone in the world expected an easy passing of this referendum. But while all demands by Turkey were adopted in the final Plan on the last day, basic concerns of the Greek Cypriot side have been disregarded. Everyone involved in the talks were anxious to bring Turkey on board and ensure a "yes" vote by the Turkish-Cypriot community, and ignored the fact that the far bigger Greek-Cypriot community had also to be convinced to vote "yes" on the Plan. Thus, this process has failed in addressing the legitimate concerns, needs and interests of both sides.

In the run-up to the referendum there was a lively debate, where the two sides of the argument were equally represented. 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. 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. At the end of the day people had to choose between "yes" and "no". Under these circumstances why would some circles not accept "no" for an answer? Were the people expected simply to rubberstamp through their vote a decision already taken by others? In a democracy, the sovereign will of the people is expressed through voting procedures and their verdict should be fully respected.

Greek-Cypriots could not understand why more than 45,000 settlers from Turkey were to be granted Cypriot citizenship immediately under the Plan and about 25,000 more within four years. Greek-Cypriots said no to a Plan that stipulated that there may be a permanent flow of settlers from Turkey allowed. People could 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" is not respected in Cyprus and also the precedent applied in East Timor is not being applied in Cyprus.

Over the last year I have made it 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. We want a solution to survive, not just to close up the Cyprus problem. We are going to insist on these changes which are vital to making the plan functional - not necessarily demanding all the changes we wanted during the talks.

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 paralysis. And the distance between paralysis and dissolution is a very short one. For many years, the policy of Turkey, and certainly that of the Turkish-Cypriot leader, was partition - that two separate sovereign states should be established in the small island of Cyprus. This made the Greek-Cypriots who voted in the referendum anxious not to see divisive provisions in the Annan Plan.

I think it is reasonable that we would need safeguards. None of our demands take away rights from the Turkish-Cypriot side. If we ask that there should be one unified economy, one unified monetary policy and one unified public economic policy, is that denying rights for the Turkish-Cypriots? Can a small state like Cyprus or any state, live without having a unified monetary policy? Can one side of one state follow an austerity policy in order to bridge its fiscal deficit and the other follow an expansionist policy, borrowing money, which in addition will be guaranteed by the federal state?

I believe that our decision was not arbitrary or unjustified. People will have to consider and analyze what went wrong in this effort. I am not pursuing a new framework of talks that would be completely divorced from the Annan Plan or would be disregarding the concept and philosophy, the core issues of the Annan Plan. We will be asking that we start negotiations on a limited number of issues. We shall work for a bizonal, bicommunal federation as a solution that will meet the hopes and expectations of both communities.

The result of the referendum must act as a catalyst for unification and not as a pretext for further division. Greek and Turkish Cypriots deserve a better future - a secure future within the European family, as one country, as the one people of Cyprus. I will spare no effort to achieve this goal.


The author is the President of the Republic of Cyprus.