Monday, April 26, 2004

No surprises, then, over the outcome of the Cyprus referendum. The only unexpected factor was the size of the “no” vote in Greek Cyprus. The overwhelming margin of the no vote – 3 to 1—means the chances of a second referendum or a new Annan plan seem slim for some time to come.

The international community believes Greek Cyprus has thrown away the best chance for a generation of finally solving the Cyprus Problem.

The UN negotiators here in Nicosia who drafted the Annan Plan are packing their bags and preparing to leave – they’ve tried for the past four and a half years to reunite the island but their efforts have failed. The mood when I visited the headquarters of the UN Force In Cyprus – or UNFICYP – was one of overwhelming disappointment, of high hopes ultimately unfulfilled.

I spent most of yesterday across the green line in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. For 30 years this enclave has been a pariah state, shunned by the international community. Now the international community, and the EU in particular, wants to reward Turkish Cyprus for voting “yes” in the referendum.

At the moment you can only fly into Northern Cyprus via Turkey – the lone country to recognise the TRNC as a genuine state. Senior Turkish Cypriot politicians I’ve been talking to want to see direct flights to other countries within a week. I think they’re likely to be disappointed.

The international community has to tread a fine line -- assisting the TRNC without making it look like it’s recognising it as a legitimate country. Even so, the EU earmarked more than 200 million Euros for the reunification of Cyprus. With the island still divided, most of that money is likely to go to the north – the diplomatic equivalent of sticking two fingers up at the Greek Cypriot president, Tassos Papadopolous.

Turkish Cyprus is looking forward to more prosperous times ahead – trade restrictions with the rest of the world eased a little, an influx of EU money and a chance to attract some investment and tourism. It’s not suddenly going to be welcomed into the community of world nations – but it’s a start.

Meanwhile, Tassos Papadopolous can expect an icy reception when Greek Cyprus joins the EU on May 1st. He’s going to be about as welcome as a case of the clap around the top table of heads of state in the enlarged European Union – but he’s only got himself to blame.

An audioblog – compiled for the PM programme. It’s of a Greek Cypriot woman from the town of Morphou who was forced to leave her home after the Turkish invasion in 1974. It’s her memories of that times and gives a sense of her hope of returning there one day. After the referendum, the chance of that happening any time soon seems very unlikely.

Audioblog: Morphou -- Memories of 1974 (.wma) -- approx 600Kb download

Photo: Crossing the Green Line with Chris Morris
Photo: North-South Buffer Zone
Photo: Vote Yes Poster in Lefkosia


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