New book’s analytical look at the partition of Cyprus

One day after the arrival of Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides in Athens for talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis on the ongoing peace process, the French Institute of Athens yesterday held a presentation of a book by a leading French writer that offers a fresh look at the Cyprus problem. «It is an issue that very few people in my country have approached,» Pierre Blanc, author of «The Partition of Cyprus; The geopolitics of a divided island,» told the audience. «This conflict… is far from being solved and this has been forgotten, not by you, since you are directly involved, but by others.» His book, which has only recently been translated into Greek and come onto the Greek market, has arrived to fill a gap by offering a new understanding of the dynamics of all sides. «This is a geopolitical study, not a historical one,» Blanc noted, explaining that he was not interested in giving a historical overview, but in offering an account of the current history. «I was interested in the historical present… and speculating about possible future scenarios.» Christophe Chiclet, a journalist with Le Monde Diplomatique, praised Blanc’s work, saying, «He doesn’t use wooden language and presents the nationalism of both sides.» Chiclet said that what happened in 1974 – when Turkish forces invaded the island in the wake of an abortive coup by the Greek military then ruling Greece aimed at joining the island with the country – was «ethnic cleansing, with people disappearing and a change of borders.» «In the Balkans, we saw the replication of it with the Yugoslav crisis,» Chiclet told the audience. «This means that we didn’t learn our lessons… (Bulent) Ecevit is not in The Hague – like Slobodan Milosevic – he is prime minister in Turkey.» The two said there are people in the Balkans today who still envisage creating a larger state entity by means of armed conflicts. «Today we have a few mad people working for a Greater Albania,» Chiclet declared, adding that «nationalism in the Balkans has devastated the region.» Niyazi Kizilyurek, a Turkish-Cypriot professor at the University of Cyprus, hailed Blanc’s book as a noted departure from the «customary conspiracy theory of foreign powers.» «The author here tries to trace the relations between the two communities and with nationalism,» Kizilyurek said in his address, which was delivered in Greek. Commenting on the dynamics of the two communities on the island, the Turkish-Cypriot professor noted that «there are ethnic identities, but not citizens who identify with a state entity. I find this a very powerful understanding.» «The Turkish-Cypriot community is not a monolithic community,» he declared, adding that settlers from the mainland have changed the dynamics and cohesion in the north. This view is also shared by Blanc. «There was an exodus from the occupied territories in the 1980s, for economic reasons mainly, as well as for reasons of insecurity due to the growing presence of the Turkish mafia,» he said. «There is also a social issue, that of the settlers and the competition for jobs.» According to Blanc, the settlers came from Anatolia in two waves. The first was in the 1980s and consisted mainly of farmers, while the second, in the 1990s, was composed of people seeking jobs in the tourism industry and the financial sector. «It is not clear how many they are, but according to the statistics that I have included in my book, in the early 1990s there were some 80,000 settlers out of a population of 200,000 people,» Blanc said. «Their relations are not good due to the competition and differences in cultural identities.» The author also noted that the settlers have gained significant influence in the territories, having joined forces with political parties that support the division. Kizilyurek added that while settlers were entering the north, Turkish-Cypriots were leaving their homeland, also in two waves. He said that as many as 7,400 left the island in the 1980s, followed by another 28,174 the next decade, while their total number today is estimated at 50,000 people. Kizilyurek conceded that the acceptance of Cyprus’s candidature for EU membership is a huge foreign policy success for Greece, as it created the momentum to end the present division and bring the sides back to the negotiations table. He was quick to point out, though, that reunification is a complex issue. «Is reunification one of land or of people as well, and how will this be achieved?» he asked.