Cautious stand

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s statement on the United Nations plan to reunify Cyprus was the summation of the government’s prudent and cautious stand on the issue. Contrary to hasty criticism – from several sources – that the conservative premier would avoid taking any clear stand on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint, Karamanlis did not hesitate to do so. Rather, he took a clear stance not only in his conclusion that «within the European perspective, the positive aspects [of the Annan plan] can outweigh the negative ones» – in an indirect endorsement of the deal – but also in his remark that there are so many negative elements that agreement (in Lucerne) was impossible and, as a result, it is up to the people of Cyprus to make a decision without any pressure. Stressing that efforts to overcome the division will not be terminated should a «no» vote dominate the pending referendum, and rebuffing widespread scaremongering, Karamanlis followed the only course that respects the right of the Cypriot people to tally a sober and free decision. Respect toward the Cyprus people – and their leaders – has not been the Karamanlis administration’s only goal in this case. His modest endorsement of the Annan plan underscored Greece’s positive disposition toward initiatives taken by the UN and the big foreign powers, while Karamanlis did not avoid mentioning that a more balanced settlement could possibly be hammered out in the future. Furthermore, the Greek leader stated that Athens will remain firm on the policy of detente with Ankara and that it will promote Turkey’s EU membership aspirations as long as the country takes substantial steps to fulfill the acquis communitaire and other European Union standards. Karamanlis’s statement yesterday took care not to undermine the international role of Greece and Cyprus, while at the same time respecting the need for the people to vote without outside pressure. His respect for the will of the Cypriot people was expressed not only in the content of his statement but also in the fact that he waited for the Cypriot leaders to first take a stand so as not to influence the Cypriot people. Karamanlis’s delay underscored what he emphatically noted yesterday. Greece will stand by Cyprus regardless of the outcome of the referendum. Despite the disagreements that should be expected on issues of this nature, we should keep in mind that Greeks will always be united in a common national struggle.

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