OPINION

Crucial momentum

The two separate rallies held by pro-Denktash demonstrators yesterday in Morphou and Famagusta fell short of the human flood created by the biggest gathering ever in the Turkish-occupied section of Nicosia that condemned the Turkish-Cypriot leader’s policy on the Cyprus question. Rauf Denktash failed to score points. And not only that. US officials, the international press, even UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan turned on the intransigent Denktash with hitherto unheard-of asperity. The secretary-general made some unprecedented remarks: «Obviously it is up to the people to decide who their leader is and up to the leader to decide whether to persist or resign. But whether a leader resigns or stays on, I think the people are speaking, and it is very difficult not to listen to the people when they come out in those numbers.» It’s not hard to decipher the political message of Annan’s comments. He effectively called upon Denktash to resign. The momentum on the Turkish-Cypriot part of the island in favor of reunification on the basis of the UN blueprint is of immense political import. It would be a grave error to let it pass by unexploited. We cannot underestimate the opposition by Turkey’s bureaucracy. But we should bear in mind that political change always comes through the exploitation of such opportunities. Satisfaction over recent developments in northern Cyprus is justified. Cyprus, however, consists of two communities and any solution requires a similar momentum in both. Although the spokesman of the Cypriot government sees «precipitous developments» and claims that we are very close to a solution, developments in the Greek-Cypriot community ahead of presidential elections on February 16 and 23 suggest otherwise. The camp of those favoring Annan’s proposal is split between two candidates and it is not certain that either current Greek-Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides or Attorney-General Alecos Markides will be president on the night of February 23. The camp of Tassos Papadopoulos, a skeptic, has been strengthened by the decision of social democrat Yiannakis Omirou to back Clerides’s opponents. The Turkish-Cypriot movement in favor of the UN plan rests on the prospect of EU accession rather than its provisions. Should the Republic of Cyprus enter the EU alone, this drive will falter and the de facto partition will continue.