The Conference on Cyprus in Switzerland earlier in the summer had caused reason for optimism that a breakthrough could be found in the elusive search of a reunification settlement, with Turkey agreeing for the first time to discuss the intractable issue of the island’s future security arrangements. But the issue proved to be exactly that, even at this advanced stage: intractable.
“Of course we Cypriots in the UK share our compatriots’ disappointment with the outcome at Crans Montana,” says Christos Karaolis, the recently reelected President of the UK Cypriot community’s umbrella body, the National Federation.
“At least the Conference made clear for everyone else to see what we had already known, that Turkey is the obstacle,” adds the first third generation UK Cypriot to lead the populous community.
Despite the wasted chance and the betrayal of expectations, Mr Karaolis doesn’t lose faith. “I can’t see Turkey succeeding in their quest to create a permanently divided island. I think they will return to the negotiating table at some point and we need to be ready.”
By ‘we’ the Federation President means both the Cypriot politicians and the UK Cypriot community. The UK being one of the guarantor powers it is one of the parties involved in the talks over the future security.
Despite initial signs at the Crans Montana talks that London might be taking a step further in pressing Turkey over its occupying troops in Cyprus and the guarantees, with the word “anachronistic” uttered by British lips at the beginning of the Conference, in the end the British position proved to be closer to the Turkish insistence on not including a ‘sunset clause’ on removing troops.
“We need to talk even more to our (UK) Government so that they exercise real pressure on Turkey to return to the negotiations and to be logical and constructive” says Mr Karaolis.
Getting the UK to change tack would be a tall order, given that London insists on a seemingly “neutral” stance of “equal distance” between the Greek and the Turkish positions.
Two-and-a-half weeks after Crans Montana, in a response letter addressed to a number of Cypriot refugees that have for more than four decades now made London their home, a Foreign Office official made sure she repeated the UK Government’s position on security and guarantees.
“On security and guarantees, we have always made clear that we are open to whatever arrangements the two sides and the other Guarantor Powers could agree on in order to meet the security needs of a reunited Cyprus,” the letter read.
Still, a determined Federation President is carefully and methodically planning his strategy. Over the next two years of his second term in charge he plans to get more MPs on board and have these MPs be even more vocal in Parliament.
In order to achieve that he is reaching out to even more people: “We are in the process of getting as many Cypriot and Greek voters in the UK to become politically engaged and active. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people, living in constituencies around the UK. We want to get them to speaking to their MPs about Cyprus, to ask their MPs to support our just cause and ask their parties’ leadership to demand that Turkey respects the international law and the integrity of Cyprus.
“We’ve already seen the positive results of community activism. I have had MPs, even from outside London, coming to me saying they have started receiving emails from voters of Cypriot descent asking them to attend our events and to express their support for Cyprus. It does work and hopefully it will make our community an even more influential group.”/IBNA