President Tassos Papadopoulos has been in New York this week, attending the opening of the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly, where he told a virtually empty auditorium that Turkey’s aim in Cyprus remained political and military control of the island.
While in New York, Tassos also had the chance to meet – for 20 minutes – with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, who since succeeding Kofi Annan has shown little interest in becoming involved in the Cyprus issue – no sign that he is readying a Moon Plan to supersede the discredited Annan Plan.
Tassos also met with the Greek and Russian foreign ministers Dora Bakoyiannis and Sergei Lavrov as well as Nicholas Burns, US undersecretary for political affairs – who surprised Tassos by insisting that the USA was pressing the UN to appoint a special envoy to Cyprus to speed up ‘the process for peace’ on the island. Why the sudden American interest in a settlement – especially when there appears to be no Turkish will to settle and there are presidential elections in Cyprus in five months? Bemusement all round.
Back in Cyprus, and staying with the presidential elections, an opinion poll for RIK on Wednesday showed Tassos’ support slipping while the communist leader, Comrade Demetris Christofias, has moved into second place and is now only one percentage point behind the incumbent. Indeed, Tassos’ critics, who claim his policies are leading the island to permanent partition, have had plenty of ammunition this week with which to attack him.
First, there have been problems with our friends and neighbours, the Syrians – who appear to have struck a deal with the occupation regime to operate a ferry service between Latakia in Syria and the occupied port of Famagusta in Cyprus, which the Cyprus government has declared a ‘closed access point’. The Turkish occupation regime made a song and dance after last weekend’s first sailing, proclaiming their ‘isolation’ was ending and the sovereignty of the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ was being recognised. Our friends, the Syrians, are playing innocent and have told Nicosia they don’t know what’s going on and they’re investigating.
Second, there has been increasing anxiety that the European Court of Human Rights is about to wash its hands of the hundreds of Greek Cypriot refugee property claims before it and refer the cases to the occupation regime’s ‘Property Compensation Commission’.
This appalling scenario has arisen because refugee Mike Tymvios, having initially won his case against Turkey at the ECHR in 2003, has accepted an offer by the ‘property commission’ to swap his land in the occupied village of Tymvou with Turkish Cypriot property in Larnaca, plus additional compensation of $1.2m.
The ECHR is indicating that it will regard this as a ‘friendly settlement’, thereby accepting the Turks’ ‘property commission’ as an effective remedy for Greek Cypriot refugees – i.e. the European court will refer the victims of crime to the criminal to seek restitution and justice – and simultaneously throwing into doubt the legality of the Guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties, established by the Cyprus government after the Turkish invasion in 1974 to manage Turkish Cypriot land and houses left abandoned in the free areas of the island with the intention of returning the property once an overall Cyprus solution is reached.
Third, Turgay Avci, the Turkish Cypriots’ so-called ‘deputy prime minister and foreign minister’ has been in Rome to meet MPs from the Transnational Radical Party – part of Italy’s governing coalition.
Following discussions with Emma Bonino (Italy’s minister for international trade and European affairs), Maurizio Turco and Marco Perduca, it was agreed that the TRP’s 2008 general assembly will be held in occupied Cyprus while Turco and Perduca, having previously expressed their desire to become TRNC ‘citizens’, were presented with TRNC ‘passports’.
At the press conference where he received his ‘passport’ and called on the European Union to end the ‘trade embargo’ on the Turkish Cypriots, Turco said Greek Cypriot claims that there was an occupation in Cyprus were false.
‘During our recent visit to the TRNC,’ Turco said, ‘we witnessed a democratic state with democratic institutions. The EU must keep its promises to the Turkish Cypriot people,’ he added.