Cyprus: How to win the lasting peace?

Last April two separate referenda were held in Cyprus, in the Turkish North and in the Greek South of the island over the Plan put forward by UN General Secretary Koffi Annan for the settlement of the Cyprus issue. The Annan Plan (AP) was presented as a unique 'balanced plan' for the reunification of the island, after the 1974 war when Turkey occupied the northern part of the island, and that such a settlement could bring about peace and prosperity in the island.

The outcome was that 65% of the Turkish Cypriots voted YES while 76% of Greek Cypriots voted against and the plan was rejected.

The way with which some people interpret this result is that the Turkish Cypriots' YES vote in favour of the AP expressed an 'internationalist' vote while the NO vote by the Greek Cypriots presumably expressed their chauvinism and their refusal for a solution and for peaceful coexistence between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

However the reality is different.

The majority of the Greek Cypriots who rejected the AP did so because they did not trust that G. Bush the butcher of Baghdad and his accomplice Tony Blair they were concerned about promoting peace in Cyprus but that they were only interested how to promote their own plans that want Cyprus as the 'unsinkable aircraft-carrier' in the region.

Imperialist Plan

The AP is part of the imperialist plans which have to do with the balance of power and the control of oil and natural gas resources from M. East and as far as Central Asia. The plans have to do with the reaffirmation of USA's role as a world superpower, with USA's imperialist rivalry with Russia and China and their relations with Europe, the enlargement of NATO and the E.U.

Given today's explosive situation in Iraq and in Palestine these imperialist plans have been redrawn by the Pentagon under the name of Greater Middle East Initiative.

Imperialism and the role of Cyprus

Since 1960 Britain maintains two sovereign military bases in Southern Cyprus and further fifteen reserved areas covering a total 10% of the island's area.

The bases include a naval station and an RAF military airfield and garrison troops, infantry battalion and reconnaissance squadron units. Even nuclear weapons were installed in the past something that the British Authorities never denied.

The most important role of the bases is the espionage and the electronic intelligence gathering through the ECHELON system. A system which intercepts aircraft and ship communications, as well as email, telephone conversation and faxes as far as Pakistan. The Information so acquired is shared with the United States.

Also there is the giant PLUTO antenna installation, part of a system of monitoring and guiding missiles, aiming at the countries of the Middle East region and farther away.

In the recent war on Iraq the British bases were used extensively for the air raids and for the fuelling of the US and British bombers and the supply of aircraft carriers.

The British bases provided also logistic support for imperialist attacks by US and British forces in the Middle East: in Lebanon in 1982, in 1991 during the first Gulf War and during the war in Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan in 2001.

The Annan Plan

In this way Cyprus is integrated in the wider plans of imperialism in the region. Revealing of its importance is the fact that the right of Britain to retain perpetually her bases is entrenched in the first article of the AP so that any change of this provision is prohibited while any dispute about the interpretation or application of this provision 'should not be referred to any international tribunal or third party for settlement'.

With the AP, US and Britain hoped to ease the 'tensions' between Greece and Turkey, aiming to involve their two main allies in the policing of the wider region of M. East.

However, the AP instead of weakening the antagonisms between Greece and Turkey, in essence, it will recycle and intensify these antagonisms. And this because the Plan involves Greece and Turkey together with Britain as Guarantor Powers in Cyprus as was the case back in the 60s and 70s. All these 3 countries have a very bad record of interference and interventions in Cyprus. According to the Plan, Greece and Turkey have the right to intervene unilaterally outside their respective 'national' constituent states of a Federal United Cyprus.

By that, all the sides involved can use this complicated and contradictory plan to sabotage any prospect of peaceful coexistence of the two communities, should things would not develop according to their 'national' interests.

The rivalry between the two communities

The AP would also set up a complex federal system of government and a political structure of a protectorate akin to the Bosnian 'model' with an extremely complicated administrative system, with 4 legislative bodies, 3 governments, four to six presidents, 3 police forces, three flags and national anthems.

The Supreme Court that will be a political rather than a judiciary body - it can even vote for the budget - would comprise 9 judges, 3 Greek Cypriots, 3 Turkish Cypriots and 3 foreigners.

The Central Bank of the new state would be managed by three-member committee, one Greek Cypriot, one Turkish Cypriot and one foreigner.

In reality the Plan is based on policing segregated communities and has the preconditions for the resurgence of nationalistic differences in the island.

Instead of bringing the 2 communities close the Constitution provides that there will be internal borders, perpetuation of the dividing lines, quotas of the number of Greek and Turkish Cypriots that will be allowed to reside in the constituent state of the 'other side'. There are limited rights for staying or establishing residence in the 'other constituent state'.

It is easy to imagine how these regulations and arrangements can strengthen national hatred and allow any interference by the 'Great Powers'.

Similar plans

As far as the imperialists are concerned they never cease to draw 'Peace' plans in order to secure every time their own strategic, political and economic interests.

In this respect the AP is no different than previous plans.

A similar 'balanced plan' for the settlement of the Cyprus issue was the Zurich-London agreements in 1959 by which the first Republic of Cyprus was founded in 1960. While Britain as colonial power withdrew from Cyprus, according to that Agreement, retained two bases and at the same time became Guarantor Power together with Turkey and Greece.

The Constitution provided for a common state with a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice president. However, in 1963 the Greek Cypriot side unilaterally revised the constitution and revoked the "privileges" for Turkish Cypriots. When the Turkish Cypriots reacted it led to the 1963-1964 war with hundreds of innocent victims, missing persons and refugees mainly Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Cypriot rulers being the 'victors' pushed the Turkish Cypriots into enclaves until 1974. Britain, 'exercising her right' as a Guarantor Power, intervened and drew the 'Green Line' which divided for the first time the two communities.

In 1974 after a military coup in Cyprus instigated by the Military Junta in Greece, Turkey as a 'Guarantor Power' invaded and occupied the northern part of the island. As a result thousands were killed or went missing while hundreds of thousands of Cypriots became refugees and a new diving line was established.

We had similar "Peace Plans" for Palestine, Oslo Agreement (1994) and the Road Map (2003) but also the Plan for the so called regime change in Iraq that led to today's bloodbath.

The present situation

Seeking to get the Cypriots to accept the AP the Great Powers, US, Britain but also the E.U. exercised tremendous pressures on both sides. In the poverty-stricken North they attempted to turn to their advantage the mass movement of the Turkish Cypriots against their regime but who are also desperate to break the isolation due to the embargo imposed by the Greek Cypriot side for 30 years. At the same time all these 'Peace mediators' tried to use the objective and the desire of the Greek Cypriot ruling class in the rich South for accession into EU.

The ordinary people of Cyprus have more things in common than things separating them.

This was shown when the Government in the North opened the borders in April 2003 and hundreds of thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots crossed the dividing line after 3 decades. We witnessed the fantastic way of ordinary people expressing their mood for reconciliation and fraternization and their willingness for peaceful coexistence and for a common future.

The real concern and fear of the ordinary Greek and Turks in North and South is a replay of the 60's and the "protection" of their "motherlands" and imperialism.

One should not see however any fundamental contradiction between the NO vote of the Greek Cypriots with the YES vote of the Turkish Cypriots.

Today in the South the Greek Cypriot CP for the first time in its history is in a coalition government. Likewise in the North its equivalent Turkish Cypriot party of the Left is also in a coalition government.

However, both these two parties which are in power follow a "national" policy of their corresponding ruling classes.

A movement from below

The majority of the people who either reject or support the AP assume that after 50 years of war and conflicts, a just solution and a lasting peace in the island can only come through 'Peace Initiatives' by US, Britain, the EU or UN proposing another improved version of the rejected AP.

However this is not the only choice available for the ordinary Greek and Turkish people of Cyprus.

In order to achieve a lasting peace in Cyprus we have to look towards building a mass movement from below with the participation of the mass trade unions that exist in North and South.

What we need is a movement that will take into account the interests and concerns of ordinary people and will fight against nationalism.

We speak about a movement that will take initiatives to demand the closure of British bases, the withdrawal of all troops from Cyprus, the lifting of the embargo on the Turkish Cypriots and demand the complete opening of the borders.

Such initiatives were organised for first time jointly by Greek and Turkish Cypriot Youth organizations and peace activists, like the joint Mayday celebration, the joint memorials in memory of the innocent victims of wars in both sides, the bi-communal demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq and Palestine and against the British Bases.

Such a dynamic movement from below will have the support of the workers movement both in Greece and Turkey, the resistance movement of the Iraqi and Palestinian people and the support of an international anti-capitalist and anti-war movement; a movement that discusses, organizes and acts as is the World Social Forum and the European Social Forum which takes place this weekend here in London, in one of the great centers of world capitalism and imperialism.

Phaedon Vassiliades