Common Senseness & Sell Outs!!!

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It was around 1988, Conway Hall London, and the newly elected President of The Republic of Cyprus, George Vassiliou was going to make his maiden speech to the London Cypriot community. As a then student activist I found myself in venue putting out the chairs. As soon as they had been laid out a group of around 5 people had littered each chair with a vitriolic leaflet denouncing a ‘Federal Solution’ and opposing the peace talks. It did feel banal, and still to this day, many people that oppose a federal solution seldom have an alternative approach which will be acceptable to all the communities of Cyprus.  There are slogans of course, and everyone has slogans. ‘Unitary state’ and ‘European’ political parties who once demanded a ‘European Solution’. A few fanatics, who may have increased lately use the most cowardly one ‘draw a line and build a wall’. But no one has yet to come up with a feasible alternative to a Federal Solution to the Cyprus Problem which would be acceptable to all the communities in the negotiating process. Although the ‘Unitary State’ advocates think they have an alternative, reality is they do not and they know it because it takes two to tango. The ‘European Solution’ supporters, now a bit of a cliché/passing fad, realized that and even changed the name of their political parties.

All of this is all well and good up until a Greek academic finally gave us the answer, the alternative to a Federal Solution. Angelos Syrigos is an Associate Professor of International Law & Foreign Policy at Panteion University Athens. He recently spoke at the memorial to honour Tassos Papadopoulos, the man who partly/allegedly negotiated The Annan Plan and then buried it in the referendum of 2004. Syrigos is also an expert on the said Plan, having written a book on it.  So the alternative posed would be to accept Turkey annexing northern occupied Cyprus as opposed to negotiating a Federal Solution. In other words, to spell it out, the assimilation of the north is actually one step further than Partition. This was said at the 8th memorial of Tassos Papadopoulos, a former President of Cyprus, elected to solve the Cyprus Problem on the basis of a Federal Solution. It is good to see the masks finally come off. And the furor from the little party of the centre, the empty-space-between-party-lot, DIKO, following critique on this stance by President Nicos Anastasiades, the reaction. Remarkable echoes of those dark times when they were in power and that post-2004 ambience of constraining any form towards critical thinking. They were in power then, and thankfully now, they are not. What we have yet to realize about DIKO is they want to hold on to power for the sake of it. They want to always be the party of power, in power. Whether they do this alone or with others is immaterial. They will oppose a solution ad infinitum because their power will be eroded and they will have nothing else to talk about.

There is also a common senseness, that everyday allure of DIKO’s position on Cyprus which appeals to people like nicotine to a chain smoker. As an allegedly ‘in-between’ party (whatever that means nowadays) they have naturalised an anti-federal solution through just being obstinate. It’s that everydayness, that routine of their arguments that is disturbing. You switch on the TV and some news presenter probes with a naive question like ‘aren’t we better off, them over there and us over here’. It does sound sweet to some ears, this unofficial DIKO like position which you can probably hear in some coffee shops where usually old men gather to reason on the days events. But whatever way that common senseness is phrased, whether it’s from a coffee shop or from a tie wearing Greek Academic (in a more convoluted way) the bottom line is partition, which is where all these years of deadlocks and dead-end blame games in The Cyprus Talks will eventually take all of us if we pursue the path of pessimism.

So I ask myself, as a refugee without refugee status, as someone born in Marathovouno, who is this Greek academic to tell me and anyone else in Cyprus that the annexation of the north is better than a Federal solution. For over 42 years successive politicians have told us we will ‘go home’. For 42 years you have been lying to the voting public, hiding behind empty slogans, posing you want progress. For 42 years you have hidden your pathetic agenda, herding voters like sheep so you can give part of Cyprus to Turkey so we can be what, ‘united with a Greek motherland’? Is that your next move, stalwarts of DIKO, to proclaim Cyprus is actually Greek and we should just be done with it, side by side with a 150 mile border with Turkey, one side Greek one side Turkish – no more negotiations – a new cold war era?  And no doubt, you will all go on, singing the same negative tunes, bellowing the same rejectionist bile, when all people want, at the end of the day is simple, a solution based on what was agreed all those years ago, a Federal State of Cyprus. We cannot carry on fooling ourselves, each other and the world, we agreed on a Federal Solution as far back as 1977 and 1979, either we do it now, or face the realities that Syrigos so poisonously advocates. If the north is assimilated with Turkey, a new chapter begins, but we certainly will not be as relieved as the Greek academic that fears a solution, because sitting in his office from Athens, he will be a lot more comfortable than us.


Too Much Words Are Poverty


As my mum often says “too much words are poverty” and what a fine vernacular snippet it is. Too much words for too many decades and so little action. On all fronts excessive verbal has dogged our lives and dragged us down like quicksand. And as The Cyprus Problem enters yet another stalemate, another impasse, one wonders not so much where it will lead to, nor when it will end. I used to think that way. Nowadays, I really think what we should be saying and showing is when will a solution begin.

Now before every one jumps to the conclusion that I have lost my marbles completely I must declare some very subjective evidence. As a refugee with no refugee status, I am not asking for a belated hand out as I am not a refugee in an absolute sense. Our double standards on who is a refugee and who is not simply sicken me. So I want play the refugee ticket.  I am simply like most people affected by The Cy Prob getting real. Here we are with a scenario whereby Eroglou’s two state vision totally contravenes everything the UN is supposed to stand for on Cyprus and yet the UN are not saying a thing. Instead it appears December is our new dread line and we re back in Wal-Mart land. A place where the very undiplomatic tactics of give and take may force electorates in Cyprus to again vote on plans unknown, negotiated in haste behind closed doors. The rush is as always determined by Turkey’s apparent willingness to join the EU, as if Cyprus is the one and only benchmark.

So by December will  history be repeating itself albeit partially. Instead of the Cy Prob always being solved by forces and factors beyond our control a different kind of process could be facilitated. The UN, with all their good intentions should assess what the basis for the negotiations actually is and by practical example  a real process for solving the Cyprus Problem must start. Key to this is simple. Cypriots should simply be left alone, by everyone who is interfering in Cyprus, to solve our differences with mutual understanding and by actually living together peacefully. That is what the real meaning of a made in Cyprus solution is. A solution made by all the people for all the people. And until that is taken into account we will all face many more December dread lines that are doomed to fail, because the people that made these decisions and set  unachievable benchmarks, never took into account one simple factor, the dynamics of the popular will for or against a specified solution.

UN Special Envoys come and go. UN General Secretaries, the same but not with the same frequency. Presidents, leaders, mouthpieces, nationalists, crypto-nationalists, communists, liberals, conservatives, Greeks, Turks, Cypriots, come and go, live and die, generation upon generation and the different dimensions of a political problem called Cyprus remain unresolved.

Love Thy Neighbour…

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Its  notable that Dervis Eroglou, the new Turkish Cypriot leader issued a plea for a solution with the added baggage that ‘we’ meaning Cypriots of course, could live together, side by side, as two separate states, with clearly defined borders, as distinct entities. some people are labelling this idea as The Mediterranean Velvet Partition. Seeing as we cannot solve the Cyprus Problem, why not shelve it eternally and just go our separate ways through a mutually agreed divorce.

The biggest areas of contention however will remain. What happens to all the refugees, their property rights? Have they just been strung along all these decades to now be  sold out completely? Does The Republic of Cyprus in the EU now become defunct or does a new entity in the ‘north’ simply join as the bother half and we start trading and existing as if we were EU partners? And if this new hypothetical entity joins, how will it happen? Does the ‘north’ actually meet all EU entry criteria?

There is also another more ethical issue that relates to political honesty. Mr Eroglou came to power on this platform but how can it be trusted when just one day before his election groups of his over fanaticised supporters attacked Talat voters physically, telling them that after Eroglou’s victory any one who voted Talat should ’emigrate south’ and that there was no place for them in the newly declared one party/divine leader kind of state .

So how can any one trust a politician whose supporters egged on by their leader slander 43% of the population. Where does the ‘love thy neighbour’ tagline fit in the picture. Clearly one cannot love thy neighbour unless one first loves oneself!

“Talatification” – I remember it well

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2010 is the year of “Talatoboiisi” or “Talatification”. Previously we were bombarded with other carefully constructed political demonizations but this one topped the lot. Basically the accusation goes like this. Talatification of the Cyprus Problem relied on obscuring a clear difference between Mehmet Ali Talat as a Turkish Cypriot negotiator and his predecessor. Rauf Denktash. Talat was likened as simply just another mouth piece – a next puppet of Turkish diplomacy.

Thus when President Christofias simply said ‘I hope to see Mehmet Ali Talat after the elections at the negociating table’ all hell broke loose. Some argued the statement weakened Talat as a candidate. Others called it shameful, almost accusing the President of selling out. I could not see the harm of such a simple comment. But for about two weeks  most of the media kept harping on about it, giving a soap box to any politician who wanted to spout their expert theories on the ‘T Syndrome’.

The elections, like them or loathe them, real or not, came and went. Eroglou, standing on a two state solution slate just to win votes from reactionary Turkish settlers  won by a slimmer margin than predicted, 50.3%. Some had placed him at over 60% in the polls. No one really batted an eyelid about what he was saying just to get elected or indeed that his statements actually contravened UN resolutions on Cyprus. Talat, despite all the odds,  got just under 43%. When one considers key electoral demographics, such as 60% of the voters actually hail from Turkey Talat’s percentage was commendable. Talat did better in Nicosia, where more Turkish Cypriots live. Eroglou took most of his votes from villages and towns such as Morphou, Famagusta and Karpasi, where more Turkish settlers live.

The result is clearly depressing.  Democracy for Turkish Cypriots is back in the middle ages and  hope for a solution has suffered a major blow. It could even be argued Eroglou has an inbuilt majority given the rigged demographics and how Turkish settlers vote so unless he messes up badly while in power, which is always possible given the unpredictability of politics, Eroglou could stay “in” for decades.

He is however as subtle as a brick in the face. Even before winning he was insisting on not only back peddling but re-inventing the wheel  of the negotiations. The ‘two states good neighbour’ type agenda as espoused for so long through the jaded tactics of Denktash Snr has resurfaced. There is a huge difference though. Denktash, a highly educated man and cunning but somewhat dated ‘cold war’ statesman, is a different calibre and class from Eroglou, who cannot even speak English fluently.

No surprise then, after two days of coming to power, Eroglou hinted he would add Denktash Snr and Jnr to his negotiating team, making the circle around him in the talks with Christofias far more hard-line and intransigent. Remember Denktash advocated voting ‘No’ in the referendum, much to the Turkish government’s dislike. So much so that they side-lined him completely and backed Talat. One wonders then if Turkish diplomacy will now turn in on itself. Ever since 2004’s referenda all Greek Cypriots have been tarnished as negative ‘No’ voters, as the side who turned its back on a solution. Shouldn’t the same now apply to Rauf Denktash who rejected ‘The Annan Plan’ the moment it was given to him. For instance in March 2003 when the then talks collapsed in The Hague, Denktash insisted, in his usual rejectionist and authoritarian manner that he would not even be willing to hold a Referendum.  Having such a negative person re-emerging in the negotiations as an adviser will inevitably lead to yet another collapse in the talks. It will also be  clear evidence of the dishonesty of Turkish diplomacy on ‘The Cyprus Problem’. Ankara, may possibly block such a move, given that they want to supposedly play a squeaky clean cat and mouse diplomacy game. Its such hypocracy. How can a country aspire to want to enter the EU still occupy part of another country actually in the EU and say at every opportunity that they want a solution based on UN Resolutions, when in fact the new possible Eroglou-Denktash negociating team wants a two state partition of the island and a continuation of the occupation?

The dynamics of the negotiations has also changed due to the closeness developed by  Talat and Christofias on a political and human level. Despite over 18 months of negotiations they did not however meet the lasting goal of a mutually agreed solution. There are many reasons for this but I want to focus on a key strategic aspect of their failure.

 They have repeated  a simple mistake that has been made for decades.The problem lies in the way the Cyprus Problem is discussed. It is a very elitist process with very limited collective public awareness and engagement. Opponents of a solution, and there are many, always have such an advantage in this sense because they have  cultivated a hardy climate against reconciliation, peace and co-existence.

 It’s not that Talat and Christofias did nothing. They did a lot but usually their efforts did not extend beyond preaching to their own converted ideological camps . Simultaneously, when efforts were made to raise awareness about a solution, efforts which are long overdue, the media and many politicians in power and outside it tried to eat Christofias alive.

Take for example the pamplet distributed in the media on a federal solution. No one has ever explained things in this manner before. We have just been bombarded with different shades of competing political interpretations by politicians who merely profit from making ideologicial capital out of a non-solution. Think about it. How complicated is it to agree on what federation means.

Imagine if a course had to be taught on the subject at a University, which government would be able to agree on a common syllabus? Would the course outline change every five years based on who got elected? Federations exist the world over. In fact about 40% of the world is governed through federal models. So why can’t Greek Cypriots agree on what it means?  And why can’t Turkish and Greek Cypriots also reach a common agreement based on federalism?

A solution made in Cyprus, with Cypriots playing the lead historic role cannot be achieved without  a public sphere kind of dialogue on what a solution means. This has to be a  broad, multi-ethnic and internationally based solidarity raising and  pro-solution process. This is the best antidote to fanaticism, nationalism and foreign intervention in Cyprus.  Dialogue is the most vital ingredient to building an organic, grassroots, bottom to top, catalytic pro-solution movement. Now more than ever, despite all the odds and the allure of partition, this movement is needed just as much as  oxygen is to life itself.

Eroglou can come and go just as much as weak hearted terms like ‘Talatification’ but until Cypriots realize they breathe the same air and share the same skies, there is no solution.

Politics Kills!


Politics divides, politics kills, and politics hides all the things we will never know but have been decided on our behalf behind closed doors. More than anything politics is such a painful business not only to be in but also to observe and bear witness to. During my life time I have heard lies made into myths with almost legendary status. I have seen missiles that never arrived, people shot and killed on flag poles and in fields live on TV and yet their slayers still walk free, espousing even more hateful speeches and actions. Thus when a politician or political party changes their tune overnight I stand to attention.

Simultaneous to my cynicism to most politicians having the ability to travel the world, meet people and see how things are done or not done elsewhere, makes me at least from a philosophical sense be more enlightened. On a recent trip to conference in Durban South Africa I heard former Chief of Justice Albie Sachs speak and felt an illuminating sense of awareness emanating from every vowel, every word and image he portrayed. It’s that vision that most of our politicians lack. They are in the main only concerned with one thing and that is power – the seat – the victory for the presidential palace.

Take Nicos Anastasiades and the party he leads, DiSY as a prime example. The party that brought those illusive missiles I mentioned earlier that never came. The same party who decided to vote ‘yes’ in 2004 but the vast majority of their supporters voted ‘No’. For the last 18 months they have been the formal opposition to President Dimitris Christofias. He has also had internal opposition from EDEK and DiKO, the former having now exited from government the other remaining albeit still with hints of departure. Anastasiades has in his own words developed a policy of ‘constructive criticism’ which in the main has been baffling many of us but there you go, now that he has come  out openly against Christofias policy on Cyprus there is nothing to be confused about any more. Perhaps that in itself is a miniscule issue. What is more worrying is the timing for all this. Anastasiades may hide behind ‘elections’ and their outcome in the ‘north’ but in reality there is far more to his change of tune than a looming deadlock in the peace talks.

Anastasiades in a nutshell wants to be President. He also wants his party to win the next Parliamentary Elections. These two things will happen in 2012 and 2011 respectively. It is no coincidence that a few weeks ago Christofias announced rather bravely that if there was no solution to the Cyprus Problem he would not be standing again. In my interpretation of this scenario the President was simply saying I am in power on a pro-solution ticket and if I fail, I will stand down. Now that in itself is a very humble and honest approach. It seems however since this happened Anastasiades and DiSY have flicked the script and gone into full speed ahead pre-election mode. All of a sudden Christofias policy on Cyprus was deemed a failure.  Soon the centre-right party will start to flirt with other smaller parties like EDEK for a new power sharing alliance. Greek Cypriots are not alone in this of course. Turkish Cypriots face even worse scenarios. Mehmet Ali Talat elected on a pro-solution ticket has not delivered and Dervis Eroglou his nationalist opponent wants to go back to the drawing board and start the talks all over again with a divisive and different agenda. In doing this Eroglou should just come out of the closet, oppose all UN Resolutions on Cyprus and negotiate on his own for the establishment of a con-federal partitioned Cyprus.

It does often surprise me that all of these scenarios, players, shakers and movers could not simply share a vision, sit down and work it all out. So instead of selling to their respective herds of political sheep the same worn out brand of ideological feed every election time, they could all come to a constructive agreement to solve the once and for all unsolvable Cyprus Problem. As one generation passes and outgrows another, we all end up becoming like a distant echo of the past resonating in the present. “There will be no army when you grow up” or so I was told when I was about 14…The sad thing is I told my son the same thing on his 12th birthday….Mean time Mr. Anastasiades can scheme to become president and Mr. Eroglou has apparently planned the wall paper changes in the ‘pseudo’ Palace.

You can also download this blog as an audio podcast, along with a great song by Manu Chao @ http://www.sendspace.com/file/o5zy0n

Memories of Ban in 2030



Cyprus is perhaps one of the few places on earth where a UN General Secretary’s presence can have the opposite effect. Ban Ki-Moon’s recent visit ended on a stormy note when he met with Turkish Cypriot Leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, in the presidential palace that Greek Cypriots, and the majority of the international community, excluding Turkey, consider as ‘illegal’. Now one could ask if he had done otherwise, would the same people who are making a meal out of this seemingly naïve diplomatic hiccup, have found something else to pick out, to pick up on and criticize. Would they have condemned the UN General Secretary for referring to Talat as ‘his Excellency’? They could have even picked out the flag fluttering on the car carrying his Exohotatos Mr. Talat.  

Quiet how far we all want to go with these issues has dumfounded me today. One politico with an exaggerated rhetoric called it a ‘act of war’ and another accused Ban Ki -Moon of violating UN Agreements. Watching the news tonight one felt the end was nigh again. That is was an issue of us against them and yes, another UN Gen Sec hath declared us as persona non grata. We seem to forget that he flew to Cyprus via Larnaca and that his special envoy on Cyprus, Alexander Downer even stated word for word that the meeting with Mehmet Ali Talat at aforementioned place was not intended in this way. But many of us are stubborn enough to believe otherwise by voting with knee-jerk reactions and spur of the moment emotions.  

So until such time as some one tells us where it is totally politically correct for officials to hold meetings with any Turkish Cypriot leader – and please not the coffee shop or his house – then I am perhaps one of the few Greek Cypriots who does not react in the aforementioned spontaneous way. In addition until such a time when the Cyprus Problem is once and for all solved, these kinds of issues will only get worse, deepen and become more irreversible. 

 Imagine if the current situation, which some politicians in both communities thrive on as a safe pursuit for power, remains as is. Who I ask myself would a future UN General Secretary be holding a meeting with in say 2030? Where will such a meeting take place? Won’t the venue be completely irrelevant, just as it is today? Because by 2030, like it or not Cyprus without a solution will be a partitioned island and the then UN Gen Sec will be meeting the representative of North Cyprus (please note the capital N and C and no inverted commas) who will more than likely be Turkish and not Turkish Cypriot. The main issue will not be how can we solve the problem but how can we physically divide the island once and for all. 

And if we ever reach this very fateful day I will remember a humble Korean gentleman, who was once UN General Secretary, a Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, who came to Cyprus in 2010 and due to naïvety, and our stubbornness, left the island somewhat disappointed.

The Good, The Bad and The Pusillanimous

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For every one person in the media in favour of a solution you will always find an uneven amount of people against. No mater what epoch we are talking about, the voices of freedom always seem to be those who militantly oppose any move forward. For example The Archbishop, Christodoulos Christodoulou (formerly head of The Central Bank and Interior Minister) and broadcasting empires (private and public). A plethora of books, pamphlets distributed at The Church’s expense in Phileleftheros Newspaper, and far right organisations emerging from nowhere with plush offices in Makarios Avenue.

Dialogue it seems is not the answer for all of these very establishment people as they favour a different more aggressive approach which will lead us into chaos. Now that however is a great buzz word, chaos. It’s the essence not of uncertainty but the certainty of provocation, the kind of instability that nationalism thrives on and in. Chaos means action – action sells newspapers, keeps people glued into their TV screens and locked onto radio stations. It also keeps people engaged in mindless cyber warfare on the semantics and legalities of flags, who was here first, and who shot the first deadly bullet.

When these very established forces of chaos link with big capital, an interesting thing happens. Things become so powerful. The hoteliers, although none would admit this publicly do not want a solution, especially those in places like Paphos, Limasol, Ayia Napa and Protaras. They are all way too provincial. Thinking only about their turf and not the future of the collective, they loathe a solution just as much as a competitive overseas tourist destination. Famagusta has always been the key to a solution. It’s the point where high level agreements in 1977 and 1979 could have led to, if the politicians in Cyprus were brave enough to engage in a real dialogue. And its that Famagusta, and its people, along with all the refugees, whether they are Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot, whom these people are willing to sacrifice – just for the profitability of their existing second rate (compared to Famagusta) tourist enterprises.

So here we still are, its 2010, and the people who openly and covertly oppose a solution have yet to tell us is if we adopted their option, what would happen. Forget all the silly talk from some two bit politicians who think they will corner Turkey and eventually liberate Cyprus. They cannot even sort out their own highly divided political ‘churches’ so how will they take on the wrath of the deepest state on earth. Also forget all the empty winded promises of a ‘European’ solution as realistically the only solution the EU accepts is a federal one, and any one who says anything else is just using this as a disguise for peddling myths. I also feel that the option of a more hard line stance will not in itself lead to partition; it will simply sow the grounds for it to happen. Partition is a stark reality, but if it happens, and I would dread and oppose it on all counts, it will happen over generations.

What all of the big small time hustling nationalists should be saying is what they want  and a word that they do not have the courage to say  is – war! Their tune has never changed; it’s just become more muted over the last decade.

A while ago I met some one who advocated the great orthodox alliance between Greeks, Serbs and Russians, to liberate the enslaved lands of Cyprus from the ‘dreaded Turks’. It did sound rather extreme if not vain but this young church worshipper believed it.

I really wish The Archbishop and all his followers and devoutly funded authors and worshippers would finally come out of the closet and really tell it like they believe it. And in doing this people would have a clear choice to make between dialogue, inaction (staying as is) and declaring an orthodox jihad. In that case the ultranationalist orthodox tribe would not have their anti-federalism or Talat bashing discourses to hide behind – they would simply say what they believe and people could see them for what they really are – a bunch of racist, pusillanimous war mongers.

Worse still, what is bad about these kinds of people is they never fight the wars, they just start them. It’s the people who die and suffer.

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