Excerpts from the speech of Andros Kyprianou, General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL, at a book presentation
“When Spring comes”, Georgos Kaskanis, 3/2/2016, Nicosia
First I want to congratulate George Kaskanis for the publication of his book. Thank you for the invitation to attend and introduce its presentation. Whether one agrees with the political dimension of the texts in the book or not, one cannot but admit that it is a book with an entirely humane discourse, a bold and penetrating book. Our country on both sides is burdened by this human suffering described in several texts of George’s book: tears as a result of the uprooting, pain for those who were lost, betrayed dreams, memories of the years of innocence from a generation of Cypriots who thought it could build on ruins; burdened by the tears of anticipation and the bittersweet moment of those who, now as visitors, years afterwards, saw their house, backyard, and plot of land, their lives, which froze that summer of 1974.
Our country is full of people who carry that look of heavy burden with the grief for all that has happened, for all they have lost, for those who were lost, but it is a country bright in the hope for the birth of a new day. Only in this case, Cyprus’ dawning of a Spring is not given. It is not the natural outcome of time passing by. In the case of Cyprus, we are not waiting for time to bring us a new day. In Cyprus’ case we are waiting for the spring of the poet Elytis; the spring which “if you do not find it, you create it, either you battle the storm or you drown.” That is the issue for us. We can’t wait without acting for a New Day to dawn for Cyprus out of the blue – nor can time bring us this day, given that in our case time is working against us. But we should struggle for it and devote all of our forces to realize it. Will we come up against storms? When such a small people as our own are standing up to the powerful of the world, they certainly are battling with storms. But if we don’t struggle, we will drown.
Some would have expected AKEL would yield after the election of Mr. Anastasiades to the Presidency; that we would have rested on what had been achieved during the D. Christofias administration in Cyprus and we would wait to see how Mr. Anastasiades would handle the storms to judge him from a distance in safety. Or even worse, we would create thunderstorms to gain petty-party points. Maybe other parties operated exactly like this, but AKEL doesn’t act so.
Our vision for Cyprus goes far beyond the next election or any election. We envisage a united Cyprus, a common homeland, the common home of Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins, resulting in a solution based on the agreed framework. We envisage a bi-communal, bi-zonal federal solution that will liberate us from the occupation and from the interventions in our internal affairs; a solution that will isolate any fascist and chauvinist elements, not allowing them to undermine it. The transformation of the Republic of Cyprus must lead to a united state based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation; a solution that will safeguard a single and indivisible sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality, with political equality; a solution without guarantees and rights of intervention, with human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed for all.
Our support to the negotiation procedure from the outset aimed to keep the prospect of a solution alive and utilize all the positive coincidences that exist currently in order to achieve our collective goal: the liberation and reunification of our country. Of course we haven’t given a free hand and a blank check to President Anastasiades. All through this period we have exerted criticism where and whenever we considered that he was operating in line with criteria other than the achievement of progress. At this moment negotiations are ongoing, after a long period not only of stagnation, but also regression. We are following developments and will judge accordingly. But we never will do a favor to those who are flirting with idealist solutions, but neither also to those circles and forces who want to cultivate illusions among the people.
Our people have had enough of empty rhetoric and big words for too long. Our people are thirsty for the truth. It is true that progress has been registered as a result of the utilization of the Christofias- Talat convergences. But we still have a steep hill to climb ahead of us. If substantive progress is recorded on the property issue, then we get within range of an agreement on the issues of the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem. We will subsequently enter into the last phase which is the chapters on the territorial issue, security, the guarantees and demilitarization. This is where Turkey must prove that it wants a solution of the Cyprus problem. We will not rush to say whether they were sincere or not in the discussions we held recently with leading Turkish officials. We will wait to see in practice Turkey’s desire for a solution.
It is true that certain circles and forces have chosen to attack us about our trip to Turkey. The irony is that they are the very same circles who for so long were underestimating the role of Mr. Akinci, saying that it is Turkey that decides on the Cyprus problem and that we should talk with her. When we had talks with Turkey they made accusations against us. If ultimately what we are seeking is not to talk to anyone, not to discuss the solution of the Cyprus problem then these circles and forces must say this openly to the people of Cyprus. This would be more honest than searching for a thousand and one other ways and reasons to attack the AKEL. It is obvious to us that some forces want to undermine AKEL’s credibility, the credibility of all those who are working for a correct solution so that it will not be able to influence public opinion. I will only remind them that this is precisely what others, much stronger and more capable than them, attempted to do in the past as well and they didn’t succeed.
Reading George Kaskanis’ book every objective reader ends up wondering. Have we really learnt any lessons from Cyprus’ recent history? Have our eyes been opened by all that has happened? Have we realized that for the sake of the desirable we sacrificed the feasible and with it, half of Cyprus? When Archbishop Makarios had spoken back then about the “feasible” (solution), they refused to listen to him and did what they could to kill him. They knew that the overthrow of Makarios would open the door to Turkey to invade Cyprus. But they planned and executed the coup d’état, blinded by their hatred and fanaticism – obedient to foreign dictates. When Cyprus – as a result of their actions – sank into the tragedy of being uprooted, refugees and the occupation, Archbishop Makarios had the strength and political courage to proceed to an honest and painful compromise of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. He had the vision and foresight to comprehend that time could not turn back; that the restoration of all that was created by the coup d’état and the invasion, could only occur through a federal solution. Is it possible today, forty years onwards, to turn the clock back in time? Is it possible today to assert something similar or better than we had in the ’60s? How is it possible for some not to comprehend this simple truth? If they can’t, then perhaps they might have a mitigating circumstance. But if indeed they can do so, but deliberately close their eyes because they want to “save their party”, to “build” careers, want the Cyprus problem to remain at mercy of the petty-party and political business, then we are worthy of our fate.
The book of Georgos Kaskanis reminds us with its immediacy and vividness those days of 2003 when the myth propagated by Denktash that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots cannot live together collapsed like a house of cards. The years passed by and this myth was forgotten by the day-to-day routine itself, by history itself. We, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, can live together. We see it happening every day. The older generations of the Cypriot People’s Movement of the Left remember that in the past parties Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot parties had to go abroad to hold meetings. They remember that in the bi-communal events we were waiting for the occupying army to permit the Turkish Cypriots to cross the check point so that we could meet. However woe if someone says that the Cyprus problem was solved in 2003, because now we can come and go from the occupied to the free areas. Woe if we consider the non-solution as a solution and the current status quo as some kind of a solution.
Woe if we also admit that history ended in 2004. The first thing we should all admit is that during that period we did not manage to talk calmly. This is what Georgos points out in an astute way in his texts. From there on, anyone is entitled to their opinion on what happened in 2004. But it makes no sense today to discuss “how would things have been like if…”, but instead how we, today, can work to finally vindicate our country. This is precisely what we have to do by rising above petty-party expediencies and considerations. I say this because the domestic internal front has literally suffered from the war that was waged during the previous five year term against the proposals that were submitted by Demetris Christofias; proposals evidently improved than the corresponding provisions of the Annan Plan. Regretfully however they were attacked, also by those who had supported the Annan Plan…
If anything, the value of all the discussions that took place over the past five years opened the debate and at long last truths were heard for the very first time, even though they had a cost for us. As the Left, we had the strength to say these truths, defying the cost. I am referring to issues and questions that were discussed in public for the very first time, such as the informative material circulated about what federation is, the changes in education and much more. I am referring to things that were said in public for the first time. I am referring to the then President Demetris Christofias when he talked about the crimes committed by Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot nationalism and the strength he had to defend this truth, no matter the ferocity of the attacks against him. I am also referring to the boldness of AKEL to point out that in a reunified Cyprus the confrontation will be political and class, rather than ethnic. The attacks against these positions were wide-ranging back them, but today a large part of society recognizes their value and historical significance.
We must however admit that all these issues aren’t clarified impulsively. Every truth that we must acknowledge today is rooted in the deep wounds of the past. However, the time has come to be bold and courageous. We must clearly tell the people of Cyprus that we do not expect anyone to save us apart from ourselves; that what we are seeking is an honorable compromise with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots – not with the occupation, or with powerful interests. We must talk openly about the crimes committed by chauvinism against both communities.
We must renounce nationalism and fanaticism; stop pursuing a double-faced policy based on two different polices and perceptions. That is to say, the double-faced policy that on the one hand lays wreaths and glorifies all those who brought destruction to our people and on the other a policy that states that we want to cultivate a culture of reunification. The appeasing and tolerance of the monster of neo-fascism must stop, because in doing so it won’t be tamed. Instead at the critical moment it will show its true face.
We should the future to the young generation, talking about historical facts, not about myths distorting history. We should do whatever is possible to write the epilogue of the drama that is unfolding every day in the halls where the remains of the missing persons are being identified. As AKEL we are making daily efforts using all the connections we have within the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities so that those who know any information about missing persons give it. Our wish is that we all united around this goal to put an end to the tragedy of hundreds of families and to heal the wounds.
Finally, an equally important part is to stop thinking we are the only ones in this country; stop thinking that everything in the Turkish Cypriot community “froze” in 1974 and that the Greek Cypriots are the “rulers” of the country and that the Turkish Cypriots are some “sympathetic minority” with its own characteristics. It is true that the Turkish Cypriot community has been waging for some time a struggle for its own survival. An article published in the press not long ago is characteristic. A Turkish Cypriot woman spoke with indignation about how Nicosia has changed since the settlers began to arrive in Cyprus. In its own way this says it all. However, it’s not just this. Life and developments themselves have shown that the occupied territories are being incorporated daily in Turkey, at all levels. The Turkish Cypriot community is currently facing the real danger of political and cultural extinction. It is true that it is putting up resistance. Brave resistance and in many cases more advanced than perhaps the Greek Cypriot community would have put up accordingly. I recall only the Turkish Cypriot’s various protests about the loudspeakers at their places of worship which certainly had a deeper meaning. I recall the resistance to the partitionist framework that Turkey as an occupying power is trying to impose through religion. I recall the courage of Derya Dogan when she talked about the atrocities that were committed by the Turkish army. But no one can speak with certainty about the endurance of these voices; about how even a small community can stand up to a big power; about how much longer can it exist without a peculiar Turkish Cypriot nationalism prevailing which distances itself both from Turkey, but also from the Greek Cypriot community. The Turkish Cypriot community after decades of living separately from the Greek Cypriots is now facing a new dynamic, even more intense and dangerous. So long as the Cyprus problem is not resolved, these dangers will multiply and because of their reactionary character it will exacerbate the problem rather than solving it. The Greek Cypriot community must not for a single moment ignore this.
I congratulate George Kaskanis again for the publication of his book.
I assure that we will not stop struggling so that the future generations can live in a better Cyprus; a Cyprus that will erase from its body the barbed wires, the refugee settlements and the tears for the unjust dead. Let’s put in their place our own Spring so that the fruits of the liberation and reunification of our people will bloom.