A cynical cliche says that “the Cypriot issue does not sell – if you put it as top story you will sink.” For me, it was never like that. My first story was about the proclamation of the Turkish-Cypriot pseudo-state – I will avoid mentioning the date because many years have gone by. The first moment I felt moved doing this work was when I heard the voice of a muezzin as I closed the heavy wooden door of Kyrenia Castle while preparing a documentary. The first time I felt fascinated by history was when I started to hear the stories of those who lived the Cyprus issue firsthand: Greek diplomat Angelos Vlachos describing the meeting between Greek Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis and Archbishop Makarios in the former’s apartment immediately after the signing of the London and Zurich Agreements; former Cyprus president Glafcos Clerides narrating many lost opportunities and former ambassador Andros Nicolaides describing wild moments which he had distilled wisely over time.
The history of the Cyprus issue has always had the elements of a thriller and intense “Byzantine” color. Events were rarely what they seemed and the same is true for the role of the protagonists as initially recorded in history. The way we have recorded the Cyprus issue in our collective subconscious is, in many ways, far from reality.
It took me, for example, a long time to understand how the vision of the union of Cyprus with Greece sank and why the cynical but practical plans of former US secretary of state Dean Acheson did not bear fruit. I have not yet found the answer as to whether and to what extent it was premature and wrong to shake up the Cyprus issue in the 1950s, which led to the British decision to increase Turkey’s involvement in the issue. Few people are concerned with all this, but these questions will find answers as history develops.
Cyprus has found its way. Together with Greece, it achieved the biggest and most ambitious goal – entry into the EU. This was not self-evident, nor was it easy, and we must pay tribute to the realists who achieved it. Today, Cyprus is at a crossroads. No easy solution seems to be on the horizon and nor would any plan be approved by the Cypriot electorate without great difficulties.
Turkey, on the other hand, is clear on what it wants and will start to assert this more forcefully. The division seems to be consolidating, the moment of truth has probably arrived. Cyprus and Greece must devise a strategy that will avoid pitfalls in the coming months and respond to the harsh dilemmas that arise. As for the historian of the future, they will be called upon to respond to whether and what opportunities to solve the problem were lost.