Solid front

The «no» vote of the Greek Cypriots to the UN plan for reunification did not engender the catastrophic consequences that some feared, but it certainly had its diplomatic side effects. Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and his Greek-Cypriot counterpart George Iacovou waged a joint battle at the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday, and they will continue to do so to stave off unwanted developments. The issue will also serve as the focus of today’s talks between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos with the purpose of drawing a common line that will maximize diplomatic gains. Karamanlis has made clear that «Cyprus decides while Greece supports it.» This dogma never meant that Athens is hostage to Nicosia’s policies. It rather signifies a close relationship that is based on the strong ethnic ties between the two states as well as their common national interest. History teaches us that the idea of a «national center» that imposes its will invites nothing but disaster. This is no doubt a tough period. Athens and Nicosia would both have liked to see a modified Annan plan that would then have been endorsed at the referendum. But things did not turn out that way. Its rejection was neither a result of President Tassos Papadopoulos’s stance nor of Greek-Cypriot intransigence. It was above all because the UN blueprint did not meet their vital need for security and a workable solution. Greek foreign policy is not shaped by some arbitrary decisions made by Nicosia. However, it is natural that Greek Cypriots should have the first say on issues that concern their own future. Besides, the referendum was the democratic verdict of a people which must be respected by all – above all by Greece’s political leadership and the Greek media, some of which hit Papadopoulos below the belt. More precisely, some circles seem inclined to stir up tension between Athens and Nicosia. However, this opportunistic game is doomed to fail. Both the Greek premier and the Cypriot president know that in order to emerge unscathed from this critical turning point, we must set up a solid front. For this reason, today’s talks will be sincere and productive. Each side has its own particular concerns, but this is reasonable and legitimate. Some people have portrayed Athens’s attempt to protect the fragile Greek-Turkish rapprochement from the Cyprus fallout as a foreign policy twist. In truth, this is an obvious and necessary goal. The Cyprus issue must be disconnected from Greek-Turkish relations. Notably, Papadopoulos himself declared in December that Nicosia would back Ankara’s demand for an EU membership talks date.