Exclusive interview with Toumazos Tselepis for Gnomi Newspaper, member of the Secretariat and Political Bureau of AKEL, International Law expert, Head of the Cyprus problem Office of AKEL, current member of the Support Team to the Negotiator at the ongoing talks and member of the Negotiating Team during the administration of President Christofias, on developments surrounding the Cyprus problem
. How are the concerns of Turkish Cypriots, but also of Greek Cypriots, to be allayed?
T. T.: You put it quite correctly – how are the concerns of both communities to be allayed? Our own concerns, as you understand, are concerns regarding an external danger, that is to say Turkey. These concerns must be put to rest. Consequently we cannot accept Turkey having rights of intervention, whenever it wants to come to Cyprus, supposedly to impose order and all the rest. This is a source of upmost insecurity for the Greek Cypriots.
From there onwards, the concerns of the Turkish Cypriots are different. They are worried about an internal danger. I am not examining right now whether this concern is justified or not. This is a reality. From the moment they are worried that the danger stems from internally, it is clear that a way must be found to satisfy them as well. Not, of course, through a Turkish guarantee and right of intervention, but in some other way for a force other than the internal forces to exist so that, if needed, if the internal mechanisms are not effective, they too can feel safe. The proper balance must be sought somewhere there.
– Might the recognition of the danger for both Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots lead to the stationing troops as was envisaged in the 1960 Constitution? To the stationing of the Turkish contingent of TOYRDYK and the Greek contingent force of ELDYK?
T. T: The Constitution of 1960 provided precisely for the contingents of ELDYK and TOYRDYK, 950-600 troops respectively, if my memory serves me correctly. As far as I understand it, at this moment in time we are not talking about Turkish and Greek troops, but about a force under the auspices of the United Nations for a specific period of time.
WE DISAGREE WITH THE EXISTENCE OF AN ARMY IN CYPRUS
– Sınce we are talking about the military aspect, is the position that we as the Greek Cypriot side remain consistent to the position for demilitarization safeguarded and avoiding accession to NATO from the talks and from what we know so far?
T. T: AKEL has declared stated its position that we will not consent to a solution that provides either for NATO guarantees, or accession to NATO or any other such idea. Furthermore, we disagree with the existence of an army in Cyprus. As far as we are concerned these are fundamental positions and for us to be able to accept a solution, a plan that might be put forth before us, these things must be excluded. The signs we have is that there won’t be such things.
ASSURANCES THAT THERE WON’T BE ARBITRATION
– Five-party or multilateral conference? Does the role of the other UN Security Council members – Russia, China – now and with the discussion for the more, as it is termed, active engagement of the UN Secretary-General refer to processes that may develop into an arbitration?
T. T: The assurances that have been made say they do not refer to such developments, and it would be paradoxical because there is also the negative experience of the recent past. As you know in 2004 one of the main reasons for the failure was precisely that the two sides, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, did not reach a full agreement between them, that the gaps were filled by the UN and that that plan was put directly before referenda.
This time everything must be agreed by the two leaders and with the consent of both leaders be put before a referendum. Which means that whatever plan is put before the people will have the backing of the two leaders. And this is a big difference from the past. Such mistakes must not be repeated.
THE FACTOR OF THE PEOPLE
– How is the factor of the people utilized in the prospect for a solution, mainly as regards the effort of the people’s preparation, because as you know a prevailing atmosphere against the solution has already began to be promoted. Forces ranging from the extreme-right, the “National Popular Front” ELAM to the Democratic Party DIKO and the Socialdemocrats of EDEK are in line with each other. Is the Party with its long-standing policy for rapprochement of the two communities taking activities in this direction? Is it thinking about intensifying such activities?
T. T: Of course the Party is organizing activities in this direction, because a danger has to be addressed – the one that you have just mentioned – that is to say, the danger of having before us a plan for a solution which respects the agreed framework and the principles of the solution, but which will have already been demonized before it has even been submitted. As we say, it has been “burnt”. This danger is always there and must certainly be combated.
In any case however, it is a given fact that any plan for a solution must pass through the test of referenda and this is where the people’s participation comes in. It is the people itself who will decide ultimately, but as you realize that to do so time must also be given for citizens to absorb and understand precisely what we will have before us.
This is precisely the duty of all the political forces. Each political force has its views and these views are respected, it has every right to be promote them – that’s why political parties exist – but none of us has the right either paint a rosy picture, or demonize what we will have before us, with the sole aim of leading the people in the direction that it itself wants.
This would not be an honest approach towards the people. We must explain to citizens what a possible new plan for a solution will really contain and not to add or subtract at will in order to fulfil our objectives. This is unacceptable. It is one thing to promote your political views either in favour of a “yes” or a “no”, or in any other direction each party wants – and it’s quite another thing to mislead the people.
THE “RED LINES” AREN’T BEING VIOLATED
– From what has currently been discussed and from what we know, is the solution being sought in the direction of AKEL’s positions?
T. T: From what we know so far know, that is to say through the National Council and Council of the Heads of political parties, we have not concluded that our side’s “red lines” are being violated. We of course have noted things with which we disagree, arrangements which in our opinion should have been done differently – there are numerous such disagreements – but that is one thing, it’s to be expected and it’s quite another thing to disagree on the “red lines”. We have not to be honest ascertained this. Certainly we do have quite a few disagreements on specific issues.
Let me recall the big disagreement we had with all the other political parties regarding the convergences that had been achieved between Christofias – Talat. We believed that they had to be upheld so that everything could proceed from where we left off. In the early stages of the first years of the Anastasiades government our views weren’t heard. There were certain consequences because of this issue. Currently the President is trying to build on the Christofias-Talat convergences and in this sense we support the negotiation procedure.
– Does the President appear to be accepting the convergence with respect to the rotating presidency and the crossover vote too?
T. T: Not fully. The President has a difficulty here. I have gathered the impression that he accepts the model, that is to say we will have a presidential system of governance, that there will also be cross and consequently a weighted vote. The difference remains with regards the rotating presidency.
We believe that the convergence should have been safeguarded. From there onwards, if the President manages to secure something better, we will welcome it, regardless of what we think will happen ultimately.
– Do you also see any economic interests that want to perpetuate the current partitionist status quo among those who are constantly reacting to the solution?
T. T: Look, as you are aware this depends on each one’s subjective assessment. I cannot get into the minds of how everyone thinks. What matters is that we believe that the policies which certain political forces propose do not lead to a solution, they lead to a consolidation of the current partitionist status quo, which as you realize is not in reality a status quo. With the passage of time it is gradually changing to our detriment. That’s where the policies they are proposing are leading to.
From there onwards, I wouldn’t like to expand on what the motives and goals are, that would be risky. I want to believe that everyone in good faith wants to see the liberation, the reunification of our people and country. We do have different approaches on how this could be achieved. That’s what I want to believe and that there are no other thoughts in their minds.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH IS APPROACHING
– How close or how far are we from the solution of the Cyprus problem?
T. T: This question can’t be answered and the reason is quite simple. We are still not within range of a convergence on the property issue. The issues regarding the territorial issue and security have not been discussed in detail and that’s the reason why no one can be sure what will follow. One thing is sure, that the moment of truth is approaching. It is a matter of a few months, if not several weeks, and when I say moment of truth I mean either in the direction of the solution, or in the direction of the collapse of the current negotiation procedure which is continuing for eight years now and as far as the effort to solve the Cyprus problem is concerned for a total of 42 years. And each and every one of us can reflect on the consequences.
This is the only sure thing. The territorial and security issues are of course issues subject to major policy decisions which Turkey itself primarily is now called upon to take, but these key political decisions are not something complicated. It is not something that takes a long time even if there is a political will for a solution, provided that the decisions are taken, these issues by nature are a matter of a few days to resolve.
– Foreign players that are involved in one way or another, say they have contacts with the Turkish government and are receiving positive messages with regards its will for a solution. I imagine our own diplomacy is briefing foreign players about the issues on which Turkey’s political decisions are expected, namely on the territorial issue, security, as you said previously. Do you think – from the contacts you have with foreign delegations – that they raise these issues before Turkey, and when they receive messages about a will for a solution, will they take a stand on these crucial issues?
T. T: Look. Such messages convey to us that Turkey has the will for a solution of the Cyprus problem. However, as you realize words are one thing and action/deeds are something else. In order to determine in practice whether Turkey really wants a solution of the Cyprus problem or not, there is no other way, given that where Turkey’s will will be tested is with regards the territorial issue and above all on the issue concerning security.
The negative aspect here is that if we don’t get within range of an agreement on the property issue, they aren’t willing to discuss these issues. Therefore Turkey’s assurances that it wants a solution is one thing and what it will do in the end is another thing. We will only confirm this when the moment to discuss these two core issues approaches and especially, I reiterate, with regards the issue of security
– Is the moment of truth approaching and in the event of a collapse of the negotiation procedure would it be the last chance for a solution? Will everything be lost?
T. T: I don’t believe in last chances, but there is the following given fact. Namely that in the event of a collapse of the procedure, that I reiterate has been ongoing for many years, you realize that a long time will pass before a new initiative can be launched. Don’t forget that from the referenda held in 2004 it was only in 2008 that a new initiative was launched. It took four years to begin the effort which is continuing today. This lapse of time operates in a particularly harmful way, primarily with regards the positions of the Greek Cypriot side. This is occurring because such is the nature of the Cyprus problem. The Turkish Cypriots will have return to the state, which can happen even in a thousand years, that’s no problem but we want the return of properties as well.
You understand that the longer time passes by the more difficult this is happening because properties are destroyed and altered, because we also have the infamous Demopoulos case of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which says that you may apply to the property commission in the occupied territories, which basically offers some form of compensation and if the negotiation procedure collapses, it’s logical that we should fear that appeals to the property commission would also increase.
So it is possible that a time will come when they will say to you that they are the ones who have these properties with the blessings of the ECHR and that as their children and grandchildren were born here it’s no longer an issue. You then comprehend that it’s not easy to persuade at an international level that these are settlers.
Therefore at some stage they will come and tell you that they have the properties legally with a decision of the ECHR, with a voluntary sale by the owners, that “besides we have a population that is approaching your own, that it’s no longer a 4 to 1 but a 4 to 2 population rate, thus why should we give back territories” and of all this can happen.
So, although on the one hand there are no last chances, the quality of the solution we want however is being eroded. And this is the reason why we cannot but take this into consideration, without, of course, this meaning that in weighing heavily this fact we can accept any solution. This is out of the question.