Written evidence submitted by Constantis
I have read in the Cyprus press that the Foreign
Affairs Committee of the House of Commons will look into the Cyprus
problem and to that effect it would welcome any reports and evidence
from Cyprus that could be of assistance. Should this be the case,
I set out below my own views and experiences on this issue.
I have always tried to follow developments on
the Cyprus issue closely, and have done so particularly since
the arrival of the De Soto team in Cyprus. Since then and throughout
this period I was able to maintain close contact with a member
of that team, who had extensive responsibility for the drafting
of the successive versions of the Annan plan. I have supported
the efforts of the De Soto team from the beginning up until the
very end at the time of the referenda.
In order for someone to understand what has
happened in Cyprus during the last two years, it is I believe
imperative that one should also examine closely the various polls/gallops
carried out in Cyprus from the time of Annan plan I, until the
carrying out of the actual referenda (on the basis of Annan plan
V). One will then have the chance to observe that
the majority of the Greek Cypriots
were ready to accept Annan plan I, and as time went by this readiness
diminished to reach a disappointing 26% on 24 April 2004 at the
actual referendum itself (actually the day that details about
Annan plan IV were disclosed by the media, support for the plan
within the Greek Cypriot Community reached an all time low, an
impressive 0%). It is interesting to note that this decline in
the willingness of the Greek Cypriots to accept the plan was steady,
and it diminished with the progress of the talks.
the majority of the Turkish Cypriots
were not willing to accept Annan plan I. Even as late as December
2003, when elections were actually held among the Turkish Cypriot
community, the outcome was a split down the middle between the
forces supporting the plan as it then stood and those who opposed
it. It was a 50-50 split and Mr Talat in the end had to co-operate
with Mr Serdar Denktashh.
It is also interesting to note that the Greek
Cypriots were already convinced to vote "NO" much before
the President's address to the people in early April. To suggest
that Greek Cypriots voted "No" because of the President's
urging them to do so, is either a rather simplistic approach to
the matter, and would involve a refusal to deal with the real
issues involved, including the UN's handling of the whole affair.
Greek Cypriots eventually did not support the
plan because of the following reasons:
1. the impact that the behaviour of Mr Rauf
Denktashh throughout the negotiations, but especially in February
and March 2004, had on them;
2. the plan itself, especially changes effected
in the provisions relating to property and security matters, as
well as the behaviour of the De Soto team in Cyprus and the UN
in general; and
3. events during the 10 day period prior
to the referenda.
1. the impact the behaviour of Mr R
Denktashh throughout the negotiations, but especially in February
and March 2004, had on the Greek Cypriots;
Since the beginning of the talks in Nicosia
on February 19th, 2004, and contrary to a public statements embargo
imposed by the UN on the two sides, the Turkish Cypriot leader
made daily public statements. I set out here below a few, randomly
on February 25th Mr Denktashh complained
to Mr Papadopoulos about comments the latter had made in the press
inviting Turkish Cypriots to take part in European Parliamentary
as was also reported on Thursday,
February 26, 2004, by Jean Christou in the Cyprus Mail, Mr Denktashh
had said that he wanted a new Cyprus application to the European
Union or a postponement of its accession so the EU and all its
members could re-ratify the Treaty for the new state.
as was also reported on Wednesday,
March 17, 2004 in the Cyprus Mail, Mr Denktashh made an issue
out of the fact that the red stripe representing the Turkish component
of the new state had been placed at the bottom of the proposed
new Cyprus flag that had been approved the previous week by one
of the technical committees involved in the negotiations. Mr Denktashh
said the flag was "not the flag of Turkish Cypriot people"".
He said the "Turkish red colour is at the bottom while Greek
blue colour is above it"".
Mr Denktashh also claimed that
the Turkish Lira should be adopted
as the new currency so as not to negatively affect the standard
of living of the Turkish Cypriots,
the Turkish army should remain in
Cyprus permanently and indefinitely, and
that no settler should be made to
It is clear that these statements had no other
possible purpose than to alienate Greek Cypriots and induce them
to reject the plan. I repeatedly expressed my concerns about this
to the member of the UN team I maintained contact with, who brushed
my fears aside, also adding that "no one is taking these
statements seriously and Mr Denktashh knows it. In the negotiations
he is a completely different man he is very constructive. He has
never put forward these demands during the negotiations".
To my question "why then do you think he is making these
daily statements on television?" I received no answer. But
the question still remains, why did Mr Denktashh come out with
these daily statements? Did he believe that it was likely that
Mr Papadopoulos would accept to go through with a new application
for Cyprus to join the EU, or accept the Turkish Lira as the new
Cyprus currency? Or is it conceivable that he expected that these
publicly made demands would somehow find their way to a new modified
version of the plan?
The answer I believe is clearly a negative one.
Perhaps it should be recalled here that the plan provided for
a one year transitional co-presidency between Mr Denktashh and
Mr Papadopoulos in a transitional period after the republic of
Cyprus had ceased to exist. When Mr Denktashh was making these
statements he was addressing neither his people, nor the other
negotiators nor the International Community. He was addressing
the Greek Cypriots. Mr Denktashh's statements revealed an attitude
that would inevitably result in an unworkable situation and a
total collapse of any new state of affairs that may have resulted
from the negotiations and referenda, if he were to be a co-president,
whoever the other co-president might be.
And this was where the tides begun to turn.
It was at this point that public opinion within the Greek Cypriot
community begun to turn.
2. the plan itself, especially changes
effected on the provisions relating to property and security matters,
as well as the behaviour of the De-Soto team in Cyprus and the
UN in general
In trying to understand the "No" vote
of the Greek Cypriots it is also important to try and understand
what Greek Cypriots expect from a solution. Legitimising the north
or "bringing the Turkish Cypriots out of isolation is not
the Greek Cypriots" top priority. Among other things and
of course including creating peaceful conditions, Greek Cypriots
look forward to;
(i) the return of some land under Greek Cypriot
(ii) having their properties returned,
(iii) the right to settle freely and safely
anywhere in their country, just like anywhere else in Europe and
of course last but not least
(iv) a solution with which they can feel
As I mentioned above, it is reflected in the
early gallops at the time of Annan plan I, that Greek Cypriots
were ready to accept the proposed plan as it then stood. There
was noone who could claim that it was an ideal or even fair plan,
at any stretch of the imagination, it was however something that
Greek Cypriots believed at the time that they could live with.
As time went by, the changes effected were perceived to be so
one sided and unfair that they rendered the plan in the feelings
and understanding of most Greek Cypriots as totally unfair and
2.1 The properties issue
Much as it is difficult for Greek Cypriots to
accept the fact that a Turkish Cypriot, a settler or even a complete
foreigner will have priority rights over their own properties,
they were ready to accept Annan plan I which more or less provided
that, (leaving aside land that would be exchanged with land in
the south, and also land that has been improved and would thus
not be returned but compensated) their land would either be returned
to some extent (to reach a total of a 10% maximum) or the owner
would also have the option to lease it at current value to a Turkish
Cypriot for a period of 20 years and then, at the end of the 20
years, would have it back. Though the 20 years period was perceived
as a very long one, it gave people a prospect; at the end of this
period their properties would be reinstated.
Annan plan V took this prospect away. Turkish
Cypriots, settlers and foreigners would still have priority claims
over Greek Cypriots' properties provided these were either improved
or could be exchanged with land in the south. As far as the rest
of the land was concerned theoretically people would be allowed
to have a third of that reinstated.
(a) People who only had a house would get
their house back provided,
they had built the house themselves.
What if they had bought the house, or what if the house had been
built by their parents? The answer was no. Or
they had lived in the house for
at least 10 years. So anyone born after 1964 would not qualify.
Given the economic growth in Cyprus from Independence in 1960
until 1974, one can hardly find many people that did not move
to a better house between 1964 and 1974.
So in reality very few, if any, would qualify
to get their houses back.
Agricultural land would be reinstated
provided that the one third entitlement would amount to at least
five donums, which means that the original property must have
been at least 15 donums. This immediately disqualified most people
as most agricultural holdings in Cyprus were small ones with many
if not most holdings nowhere near the 15 donums requirement. The
same applied to irrigated land, though the one third entitlement
here was two donums.
In effect the new provisions took away any and
all prospects from most people of regaining their land.
2.2 The right to settle freely and safely
in the Turkish component state.
This, after security, was perhaps the factor
that determined most what Greek Cypriots eventually voted for.
Going home. Everybody wants to go home. But the idea is to go
home under conditions of safety and be in a position to enjoy
basic human rights.
Greek Cypriots did not have to look far to see
what life would be like living in the Turkish component state.
There are Greek Cypriots who now live in the north, forgotten
by God and everyone else, people who have been living there since
before 1974. It is an accepted fact that things have changed.
We should not look into the past to see what the future may be
like. There is the present time, there is today.
These people, the enclaved Greek Cypriots, living
in the occupied area, are not allowed to build a house on their
own land. They are not allowed to build an extension even. Should
one of their children get married they all have to live together.
They are not allowed to start a business, they are not allowed
to open a restaurant or develop their land outside their village.
This is a right only reserved for the settlers. They do not cultivate
their land as one day they would go to their fields and there
would be nothing there. And there is no-one to complain to.
After all these years the secondary school will
start operating again. It has just been announced that a quarter
of the books were not approved by the authorities in the north.
Including books on music and art .
This is what is happening today, not what happened
many years back. It is what is happening today.
A few months ago an attempt was made to take
a theatre production to Rizokarpaso village for the benefit of
the enclaved Greek Cypriot people living there. A permit was finally
granted and just before the actual performance the people were
told that they could not watch it. Only their children could.
And it was just a theatre production of Pinocchio.
When the gates were opened and people were allowed
to cross to the north
a young man was arrested in possession
of "antiquities". He was put in prison for three days.
It was finally proved that the items were not antiquities;
a young man went fishing. He was
arrested and put away for two days;
a young boy had a car accident. He
was put away and was not released until after the full amount
to repair the Turkish Cypriot's car was fully paid. No trial,
no investigation, no one will ever really know how blame should
have been attributed.
These are all incidents of the present. Not
of many years back. And the obvious question is why should any
one of us expect to be treated any differently should we decide
to return home? This is what is happening today. They are not
recollections from a distant past that should be well forgotten.
It is what many Greek Cypriots, again rightly or wrongly is inconsequential
here, believe they would have had to face if Annan plan V was
2.3 The behaviour of the De-Soto team in
Cyprus and the UN in general
Just before the referenda Mr Didier Pfirter,
a member of the De-Soto team, gave an interview and said that
should the outcome of the referendum in one of the communities
not be a positive one, then it would be repeated in a few months.
As a result, and even though it was later denied by the UN that
this would happen, many people who would have reluctantly voted
"Yes" in the end voted "No" in the belief
that they could make their decision later, probably with an improved
At the time when Greek Cypriots believed that
at least some of the settlers would have to go, the same Mr Pfirter
was reported to have told an audience in Istanbul that no settler
would be forced to leave the island.
But what actually played a vital role in determining
the final outcome was the fact that the UN, even though it had
invited the two sides to come to the FebruaryMarch negotiations
with constructive proposals that
on the one hand would be within the
spirit of the plan, and
on the other were of a kind that
could be acceptable to the other side,
accepted on the negotiating table Mr Denktashh's
proposals, all of which changed the balance of the Plan in substantial
ways, and could certainly not be expected to be acceptable to
the Greek-Cypriot community.
The fact that the UN allowed this to happen,
together with the fact that no comment was ever made by the UN
(in an effort to discourage Mr Denktashh from making his daily
inflammatory public statements), left Greek Cypriots with a feeling
of uncertainty, insecurity but most of all mistrust.
Halfway through the talks, I was asked by the
member of the De Soto team I maintained contact with, whether
I could help him arrange a meeting with the president of the Democratic
Rally, Mr Nikos Anastasiades. I was told that the De-Soto team
was frustrated and in despair with Mr Papadopoulos's destructive
techniques and general attitude displayed at the negotiations
and he wanted to report this to Mr Anastasiades. At the time I
felt as if one student was reporting another's mischief to their
headmaster, so I responded by saying `What nonsense, if this is
the case why don't you make a public statement to expose him.
Why doesn't De-Soto show him his teeth. The people will not have
this.' The response I received was the following: "De-Soto
is afraid of him, he is like a rabbit in front of a snake. Denktashh
he can handle. Papadopoulos he cannot." Of course if that
was the case then the UN had obviously sent the wrong people here.
I have no personal access to Mr Anastasiades but through a friend
the meeting was arranged. I have no knowledge of what was said
at this meeting other than what I have stated above.
Just before flying off to Burgenshtok Mr De-Soto
stated on television that in summary he could say that the Turkish
Cypriots wanted increased bizonality while the Greek Cypriots
were predominantly concerned with issues of functionality. This
sounded very weird but again my UN contact assured us that the
one would not be traded in for the other. In the end this is exactly
what happened. Greek Cypriots felt betrayed and abandoned. Somehow
they found no consolation for the losses suffered on property
and safety issues, from the fact that the number of the members
of the Presidential Council was increased from six to nine. Nor
from the fact that the co-presidency period was decreased from
a year to a month.
2.4 The safety factor
With the original plan people felt that it was
an established fact that Turkish troops have no place in Cyprus.
Yes there would be a transitional phasing out period, but the
fact remained that it was an established fact that eventually
they would have to go. Upon Turkey's accession to the European
Union the last troops would have to leave the island.
Annan plan V provided for a 19 year phasing
out period, a period considered by practically every single Greek
Cypriot as excessive, and then provided for the permanent presence
of a force of 650 men. They would only go if and when this was
agreed so by both communities. Rightly or wrongly, in the eyes
of Greek Cypriots this was legitimising the presence of the invading
To my question why such a clause, that would
obviously provoke the negative reaction of Greek Cypriots, was
included, I got the reply that it was to satisfy a psychological
need, the fears of the Turkish Cypriots. The UN team must have
felt at the time that Greek Cypriots had no fears relating to
the presence of the Turkish army.
Much later, in his report to the Security Council,
Mr Annan made a point that the Security Council must address the
issue of security of Greek Cypriots. The De-Soto team was in Cyprus
Why had this issue not been addressed in the
plan it self?
3. events during the 10 day period prior
to the referenda.
The Referenda were carried out on April 24th.
Whatever chances, admittedly very remote, of Greek Cypriots voting
`Yes' were dispersed by events of the 10 days prior to the referenda.
The streets in the north of Cyprus were inundated with `Grey Wolves'
from Turkey as well as north Cyprus. Key junctions like the roundabout
at the entrance of Kyrenia were taken over, cars were intercepted
and damaged, drivers and passengers were attacked, peoples' homes
were broken into and people were sent to the hospital. At the
same time planes of the Turkish air-force were daily violating
Greek airspace. This was what Greek Cypriots were watching on
their TV screens day in day out, for days up until the referenda.
To have expected that under these conditions your average Greek
Cypriot would have voted `Yes' at the referendum only suggests
that one is not really in touch with reality on the island.
What about our fears? Are we not allowed to
There are not many Greek Cypriot refugees, that
even today do not feel tears in their eyes and butterflies in
their stomach at the thought of some village or a humble house
somewhere in the north. To suggest that Greek Cypriots have made
too much money to want a solution is an insult that commands no
response. But for us, just like with the Turkish Cypriots, I am
sure, this is a matter of survival. Most of the Greek Cypriots
that voted `No', did so because they felt this was the only way
On Tuesday, 13 August 1974, early evening, my
family, which then consisted of my sister, my two parents and
myself, got in my mother's car, and drove away. Not for a moment
did we believe that never again would we return home; that we
would not return to Famagusta. At the time I was eight.
I have spent the next thirty refugee years of
my life in the south of Cyprus. I am a practicing lawyer, occasionally
I write and I live in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. I am now
For as long as I can remember I wanted to return
to the areas occupied by Turkey in the north of Cyprus and of
course my home town of Famagusta. As from April 23, 2003, Greek
Cypriots are allowed to cross the dividing line into the occupied
north of the island, always subject to their producing their passports
at the checkpoint. Mine must have been the second or third car
that crossed into what had hitherto been our neverland. And suddenly,
quite unexpectedly, I was, at the age of 37, driving my own car,
in the occupied areas of my country, to the place I had been forced
to abandon 29 years earlier. I was driving home. I needed no map,
I stopped to make no inquiry. And it felt then that I was driving
the road that led to peace and reunification.
Time has since passed. I am not at all sure
how close we are now to a solution. The impressions of that first
day have to some extent been changed. I have since made it my
life's purpose to meet and get to know my fellow countrymen. To
know them and to understand them. Events vaguely known by all
of us, little, if at all, understood by most, with the exception
perhaps of the ones that experienced them. I have opened my house
and my life in a way I hitherto considered impossible. It is a
painful journey. A deep dive in peoples' emotions, longings, expectations,
disappointments, fear and lack of trust, the lost wasted years,
personal ambitions, the endless missed opportunities, the unbearable
grief, the hope for a place in the world and of course Europe.
We want a solution. We all want to go home.
It is interesting to read an article of a leading
Turkish Cypriot journalist, Mr Sener Levent, published just before
the Referenda in Politis newspaper on Thursday, 1 April 2004.
I set out here below only a short passage that I believe is highly
". . . Why should I rejoice, since it is
obvious from now, that this plan is sure to be rejected, that
has been prepared and presented to us with the sole purpose not
to be disagreeable to Ankara and Denktashh? What is the use of
a single `Yes' other than the prolongation for many more years
of the status quo? Was it perhaps their true aim to force the
Greek Cypriots to say `No' after which to let Turkey be, and put
the dying TRNC on a life support machine? Is it really possible
for Greek Cypriots to say `Yes' to this plan? Would Greek Cypriots
accept to have the road to the European Courts closed, to keep
a Turkish army on the island for ever and for all those that were
brought to the island from abroad to become citizens of the state?
These things are not accepted by many Turkish Cypriots even
This is how Greek Cypriots came to vote for
`No'. I personally voted for `Yes'. A few days before the referenda
my UN contact came to my office. I expressed the view that after
saying `No' Mr Papadopoulos would have to run after the UN to
get things rolling again, only to be told that `he can run until
his feet are bleeding, we are not coming back'. So with all this
in mind I made my free choice of saying `Yes' to the plan.
And the question is, what now?
It appears that the International Community
wants to reward the Turkish Cypriots for saying `Yes' to the plan.
It also appears that this reward will take the form of "bringing
the Turkish Cypriots out of isolation".
There is no doubt that many Turkish Cypriots,
perhaps the majority, want a solution. Some want to reunify with
Greek Cypriots, others want to enjoy the E.U. benefits others
want to end their isolation and dependency on Turkey. The 76%
however is misleading. I have spoken to a great number of Turkish
Cypriots, `No' people, that weeks before the referenda switched
to `Yes'. `You will vote `No', we will vote `Yes' and then they
will have to recognize us'; from Soukrout Atamen, their representative
to what would have been the new Central Bank, to men in the streets.
The issue now is whether the International Community will continue
to help in seeking a solution . I have no doubt in my mind that
should Mr Talat get what he is asking for now, it will be the
end of the Cyprus question. For good. Turkish Cypriots will no
longer have an incentive to work or vote even for a solution.
But even if our new partners in Europe do decide
to proceed with these measures, they should also consider whether
they should give them away for free. Both sides should be encouraged
or even pushed to work towards a solution.
Nothing has changed in Cyprus:
the Turkish army is still there;
we are only allowed to visit our
homes, but only from a distance and can only go in if the current
user, be it a settler or a foreigner, will allow it;
Famagusta, a ghost city, held hostage
and even though it is there empty and uninhabited its' citizens
are not allowed to go back, a gesture that could show the other
side's good faith and can provide an arena for real cooperation
between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots;
the enclaved people are deprived
this very day of basic human rights, at the same time when Mr
Talat wants to open a window for his own people to the world;
the north is a safe haven for all
sorts of fugitives from justice in the U.K. and else where;
Mr Talat wants trade, but only one
sided; we are allowed to buy but we are not allowed to sell.
Is this the message that Europe wants to give
to the Turks and the Turkish Cypriots? That things come for free?
That because Greek Cypriots have said `No' to the Annan plan they
can now legitimately keep it all?
During the summer a bi-communal event took place
in Morphou in the occupied north. Both ex presidents of the Republic,
Mr Clerides and Mr Vassiliou attempted to cross via the check
point at Ledra Palace. There, waiting for them, was Mr Erk, mayor
of north Nicosia, perhaps the most popular and prominent politician
in the north after Mr Talat himself. They were refused entry by
the Turkish army and the Turkish Cypriot politicians could do
nothing about it.
A few weeks later Mr Talat invited another Greek
Cypriot politician and he went to the checkpoint personally to
make sure he would be allowed to pass. He was. The policeman in
charge however is now undergoing an investigation within the army.
The fact that he was ordered to let the guest cross by no other
than Mr Talat himself was no defense.
Back in May it was announced by Mr Talat that
European Citizens, including Greek Cypriots, would be allowed
to cross by showing only their I.D. cards. The Turkish army did
not share the same opinion. When I tried to cross I was turned
back. This was sorted out only a few days later after a big fuss
was made on the island.
The point I am trying to make here is that much
as we are ready to become partners with the Turkish Cypriots,
we are not ready to become partners either with Turkey or the
Turkish army. And the fact remains that the Turkish army is all
powerful in the north; and Turkish Cypriots, even today are completely
and helplessly at its mercy.
The Annan plan, as it stands today, and its
provisions about the presence of the Turkish army in Cyprus after
a solution is reached, cannot inspire Greek Cypriots any confidence
that any new state of affairs will have any chance to survive.
The events of the last few months have only enhanced this conviction.
Thanking you in advance for taking the time
to read this, please note that I remain at your disposal for providing
any clarification that may be required or giving oral evidence
even, in person, should this be considered at all necessary.
Constantis A Candounas
26 September 2004