Options for Cyprus

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and US President George W. Bush will meet in Washington on Thursday and efforts to solve the Cyprus problem will be high on the agenda. But the political leadership in Cyprus itself appears to be divided on how best to go forward after Greek Cypriots rejected a UN blueprint for reunification in a referendum on April 24. The Greek Cypriots have three different opinions as to how to proceed from here. Cyprus joined the European Union on May 1 but, because of the Greek-Cypriot vote, Turkish Cypriots will not enjoy the benefits of membership. The Cypriots are now waiting to see what the fallout will be at the level of the EU’s and the United States’ relations with the Turkish-Cypriot breakaway state, as Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the UN plan. President Tassos Papadopoulos is said to be among those who believe that Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan has to undergo critical changes which will make it more functional and acceptable. A second school of thought is said to reflect the thinking of Parliament Speaker Dimitris Christofias, who is president of the Communist AKEL party, which is Cyprus’s largest and which supported the center-right Papadopoulos’s candidacy for the presidency. This approach is less demanding in that it seeks guarantees that the Annan plan will be implemented. Unless the mood among Greek Cypriots changes, this approach appears likely to be supported by most of them. This is most probably also the only viable choice as the Turkish Cypriots disagree with any new negotiations or changes to the Annan plan. A third approach demands new negotiations from scratch. Supporters of this include those who (with minimal support) want no discussion on the issue of reunification. Those who want changes to the Annan plan want Turkey to be stripped of the right to intervene in Cyprus, a withdrawal of Turkish troops and a balance between what the two sides are giving up. As Papadopoulos said in the speech with which he called on Greek Cypriots to vote «no,» Greek Cypriots should not have to dissolve the Republic of Cyprus immediately in turn for the expectation of benefits of the Annan plan to come from 3.5 years to 19 years down the road and only if Turkey shows the necessary good will. It is not clear how the Greek Cypriots’ differing approaches will be reconciled.

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