Cyprus: Is Peace ever Possible?
Last week the All Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues, held an event in Westminster.
BY BARONESS HUSSEIN-ECE OBE | JULY 17, 2012
The meeting introduced a new concept where a network of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot civil society organisations (CSOs) were calling for a shake-up of the Cyprus peace process. They made a strong case to include a more central and active role for civil society, woman and young people to work in tandem with negotiations between the leaders of the two communities.
Their argument is that experience from other conflicts shows that widening the dialogue to include a broader range of opinion, especially from relevant civil society groups, can loosen negotiating log-jams.
Since the beginning of the Cyprus conflict, there have been a large number of direct and indirect negotiations between the two sides to reach a solution.
After 44 long years these have been unsuccessful in formulating an answer to satisfy, or to bring the two sides together in a lasting agreement.
Like many of us from a Cypriot heritage, who have been directly affected by decades of unrest, and conflict, we have gone through the various stages of emotion: fear, despair, loss, hope, and then more despair. There was a time a few years ago, following the failure of the biggest opportunity – the Annan Plan and ensuing Referendum that I effectively gave up, and simply wanted nothing more to do with the ‘Cyprus Problem’.
It would never be resolved, so why expend energy only to be rewarded by more frustration and disappointment?
But on entering the House of Lords in 2010, and observing the various groups who purported to represent the interests of all Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, I changed my mind.
I realised it has become something of an industry. For some factions the Cyprus problem, and political lobbying methods here in the UK, it has become a campaign to preserve the status quo – to keep the focus on the past, so that there is no solution. I must stress these groups are in my view, a minority, but nonetheless, they are a vocal minority, who are adept at lobbying Parliamentarians who usually have little background knowledge and experience of Cyprus, and simply listen to the loudest voices.
This is not helpful, and only seeks to polarise opinion and reinforce divisions. I decided I should use my role and position as a Parliamentarian, being the only person from a Turkish Cypriot background, to attempt to bring about more light and less heat. Like others I have direct experience of the conflict – relatives that are missing; my family’s property lost.
I have endeavoured to bring more equality and justice to the discussions. All Greek and Turkish Cypriot people have suffered in some way. There are victims on all sides.
Cyprus is not currently at the top of any international agenda, since there has been relative peace for a long time. There are more pressing problems in the world.
But at a time when both national and international interest on the Cyprus Problem appears to be waning, in lieu of presumed deadlock ahead of the Cyprus EU Presidency due to start in July, perhaps the time is ripe for the adoption of a more participatory framework to include a wider group of stakeholders in the peace process; an approach which could inform efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement.
The ‘Cypriot-led, Cypriot talks’ have failed. They have resolved nothing. If anything they have retrenched divisions. Since the latest round of UN sponsored talks in January held in Greentrees, the Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has announced the talks are over for the foreseeable future.
The Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus, will have a very busy and eventful year, with the end of talks, assuming the EU presidency in July, and the presidential elections in early 2013. The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias said that he would not seek re-election if he cannot bring peace to communities of Cyprus, and recently in a televised address to the nation, he admitted that he “sees no solution to the Cyprus problem in sight”, and since then has announced he will not seek re-election as president.
We are back to the status quo.
With the failure of these latest reunification negotiations, which have been under way since 2008, we are at an impasse. Many of us now believe that dramatic and creative steps are needed. As the stalemate continues, the costs for Greek and Turkish Cypriots, are growing.
Neither Greek Cypriots nor Turkish Cypriots can fulfil their potential on an island whose future is divided, uncertain, militarised and facing new economic difficulties.
Published as TURKEY FOCUS POLICY BRIEF No: 1