OPINION

Pressure on Greek Cypriots

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s statement on the twin referenda on April 24 reflected a carefully balanced stand, as it recognized and upheld the right of Greek Cypriots to make their own independent decision on the future of the island. His stance was in direct contrast to that of Socialist opposition leader George Papandreou, who tried to push the people of the Cyprus republic into endorsing the UN reunification plan. Calling upon them to recognize the historical significance of their verdict, the leader of the self-styled democratic faction treated the Greek Cypriots as politically immature people who are unaware of their true interests and who are guided by sentiment, not reason. The large foreign powers have escalated their pressure in a similar fashion. Greek Cypriots have become the target of an unprecedented campaign of pressure and blackmail in order to give their consent to a clearly unworkable settlement. At the same time, contacts between Washington (particularly by US Secretary of State Colin Powell) and Dimitris Christofias, general secretary of the left-wing AKEL party, aim at bypassing the president of the Cyprus Republic, Tassos Papadopoulos. In other words, after hammering out a pro-Turkish solution to the Cyprus dispute, the big powers involved in the negotiations are trying to repeat the machinations that resulted in the marginalization of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and certify Christofias as top dog in the southern part, as they did with Mehmet Ali Talat, the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state’s prime minister. The big powers are obviously blind to the difference between an internationally recognized leader like Papadopoulos and the illegitimate premier of a breakaway state. Furthermore, there is neither any time for such machinations nor is Karamanlis going to agree to them. In light of recent developments, it is important that the Greek prime minister made sure to emphasize that «the expression of Cypriots’ popular will must be respected» and, most importantly, that «in any case, putting pressure in order to influence the verdict of the Cypriot people would not serve their freedom of expression and national unanimity.» The discussion about the guarantees that the deal will be enforced and the various statements by Washington and the European Union that were raised by Christofias by no means offset the negative aspects of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint. Moreover, any «commitments» by the UN or the EU will not have a decisive effect in shaping Greek-Cypriot public opinion, as it has become clear than any outside interference strengthens rather than weakens the rejectionist current and consolidates the stand of the Greek-Cypriot president. Karamanlis has been criticized for taking an ambiguous stand on the Annan plan or because he has given a lukewarm or vague «yes» instead of maintaining a perfectly nuanced stance. These objections are all beside the point, as Karamanlis’s top priority was to throw Greece’s weight behind the government in Nicosia and to back any decision by the Greek Cypriots who, despite pressure or blackmailing from foreign powers, have no intention of endorsing an uneven and unworkable solution, regardless of the – doubtful – guarantees that it will be implemented.