Cypriots give confidence building measures a shot as high-level efforts stumble

Cypriots give confidence building measures a shot as high-level efforts stumble


By Thanasis Gavos –London

Around Europe and at the UN there have been signs of concern that early hopes for progress on resolving the Cyprus problem may be derailed even before the Cypriot leaders properly set off on their new negotiations.

The Cyprus Republic side insists on the importance of a joint statement on the principles of the solution by President Anastasiades and Dr Eroglu as a condition for talks; although the negative stance of the other side has created some tension within the Greek Cypriot camp. Nicosia is now trying to come up with a viable alternative, in the form of a statement differently redacted, which will not however fall short of confirming the federal framework of the pursued solution.

“It is not just a technicality or a caprice of President Anastasiades. This joint statement is a matter of substance. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement on the basis of the Cyprus issue resolution, then what for the negotiations?” remarked the leader of the Democratic Rally Averof Neophytou during a recent visit to London.

But while the high level diplomacy seems to be stumbling along, a grassroots pro-solution movement organised in the UK has been grabbing the attention of British and European officials. Its members’ view is that progress can be encouraged through the adoption and implementation of partial confidence building measures. First and foremost among them is the return of the enclosed city of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants.

Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots representing the Famagusta Association of Great Britain and the Turkish Cypriot Association for Democracy (London) delivered a petition for the return of Famagusta and the opening of its sea port, in accordance with the UN resolutions, to 10 Downing Street. They also delivered their petition with more than 50,000 signatures collected over a six-month period to Brussels, to Messrs Barroso, van Rompuy and Schultz.

“The parties share the same belief that the return of both the town and port to its lawful inhabitants will pave the way for a comprehensive economic development programme to the benefit of both communities. These benefits will strengthen the bond between the two communities which, through socio-economic and cultural co-operation, will serve as a catalyst and the driving force in reaching a final solution to the Cyprus problem,” Dr Vassilis Mavrou, President of the Famagusta Association told IBNA.

The two Cypriot associations asked Prime Minister Cameron to exert all the pressure he can on Turkey so it allows a just solution to the four-decade old problem that keeps an EU member country divided. Although the British government has currently no wish or intention to become more actively involved, it keeps a watchful eye on the developments as two extra factors come in play.

“We personally have always had a keen interest in settling the Cyprus issue. Now the people in charge see a region sustaining historic changes, even some unsettling developments regarding Turkey’s role. Then, of course, every Cypriot official will tell you that the hydrocarbons prospect has shifted the discussions focus,” a British MP told this agency, following one of the frequent Cyprus related political events that have taken place in the British capital in recent weeks.

With special regard to the Famagusta question, the British elite are divided. The Famagusta Association initiative drew many plaudits. Conservative MPs who have pledged their support for the noble goals of the Cypriots hailed the successful signature collection campaign. But at the same time there are voices – very strong voices for that matter – that consider things otherwise. “Anything else than a comprehensive solution will just not do,” said a British veteran politician, with decades of experience on the Cyprus matter. “The diversion towards confidence building measures would be a mistake and would only lead to a partial solution. The only thing that would work would be a UN-led comprehensive solution,” he added.

Such unequivocal views have been clearly stated to younger colleagues interested in Cyprus and have been presented to Cypriot politicians. And at the same time Cypriot officials have been expressing doubts about how likely it would be for Turkey to allow such a historic development regarding Famagusta.

But the citizens, the lawful inhabitants of today’s ghost town, won’t give up and try to keep supportive British, Cypriot and European politicians and citizens on their side. “It is important to me that I see my country reunified. I am convinced that we shall not see that happening in a day’s time. That is not to say that we should not pursue the comprehensive solution we all dream of. But in the meantime we have to show our support towards smaller confidence building measures and the return of Famagusta is the best chance we have,” said Cagri Cosar, a Turkish Cypriot youth living in London.

Cagri accompanied the two associations’ representatives and the British MPs present when they delivered the Famagusta petition to Downing Street. Before everyone left he shook hands with his Greek Cypriot compatriots outside the famous No10 door. If only Mr Cameron was present to see that picture being taken.