Greek and Turkish Cypriots want a lasting solution for divided isle

A new bicommunal poll conducted on Cyprus underscores the gap dividing Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Published simultaneously yesterday in Kathimerini, the Greek-Cypriot Politis and the Turkish-Cypriot Kibris, the poll also demonstrates the potential for bridging that gap by satisfying concerns on both sides and re-establishing trust between the two communities. Cymar Market Research in southern Cyprus and Kadem Social Research in the Turkish-occupied north surveyed 1,000 Greek Cypriots and 1,000 Turkish Cypriots in May. The results showed significant differences between the two sides but also elements of convergence. Differences The tables clearly show that each side has a different motive for settling the Cyprus problem. Greek Cypriots tend to see the solution as a reunification on the ground, an end to all residential limits, unified administration of the whole island by the state of Cyprus, and canceling out the consequence of the invasion with the withdrawal of the Turkish army and the return of all refugees. In other words, Greek Cypriots are motivated both by past woes and a vision of the future – a vision of a united, free, sovereign island. On the other hand, the Turkish Cypriots see a solution mainly as bringing an end to their economic and political isolation, a return to a legitimate regime and autonomy in administering their own affairs within the framework of a Turkish-Cypriot federal state. The only priority both sides have in common is security – averting the threat of another war. But perhaps even the notion of security may mean something different to the two communities, since Turkish Cypriots seem to base their feeling of security on the presence of the Turkish army, while Greek Cypriots base theirs on the withdrawal of Turkish troops. The gap between the two sides is evidently not limited to the political leadership, but can be found in society in general. This underlines the importance of the UN secretary-general’s aide Sir Kieran Prendergast’s comment on the need for «each side to think about how to achieve a majority acceptance of the plan, not only in its own but in the other community. Only then will the gap be bridged so that we can arrive at a plan that will satisfy basic concerns of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.» Convergence Is it possible to formulate such a solution that will gain majority acceptance by both communities? The answers to some of the questions in the poll led the researchers to the conclusion that it is possible to redraft the UN peace plan in such a way that it would be acceptable to both sides in future referendum. For instance: – On security, both sides seem to agree to the proposal of a Euro-Cypriot system with implementation guarantees by the European Union. – On property rights, they agree on «the right to a new residence in the same town or village» for refugees who do not have a right to their former home. – On the residence rights, they agree there should be no restrictions, but that Greek and Turkish Cypriots should vote separately. – As to the settlers from Turkey, both sides agree that citizenship should be given only to those who grew up in Cyprus. Their parents, however, should receive permanent residence permits. The agreement on security, as well as the lifting of bans on residence and the limiting of the political influence of settlers, are significant reasons for the large number of votes to shift into the «yes» camp. Freedom of movement and the right to a new house would increase consumer buying and bring investment to the Turkish-held north and, thus, a rise in living standards. The final question in the poll asked for respondents’ thoughts on the idea of a new Euro-Cypriot security system based on Cyprus but supported by the European Union. Soldiers from EU countries, as well as Greek and Turkish Cypriots, would be part of an integrated security force. Turkey would have the right to intervene only if the system failed to protect Turkish Cypriots from a specific threat, The proposal for soldiers to be trained together in Europe is aimed at overcoming nationalism, and it was favored by a majority of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the sample. Turkish Cypriots favored it above the equivalent provisions of the Annan Plan, as it would release them from the guardianship of Turkey but not from Turkish protection in a case of extreme need.

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