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How could they do this to us?

Byline: Nicos Rolandis

IN SEPTEMBER 1979 I visited Havana, Cuba, together with President Spyros Kyprianou, to attend the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Fidel Castro took the floor. He was reading his speech from a prepared text at the very outset, and he paid tribute to the great leaders of the movement, who had passed away since the previous summit. He made a special mention of Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and of Houari Boumedienne of Algeria. No mention at all of Makarios.

Spyros Kyprianou touched my arm. He was in a state of shock. "How could they do this to us?" he whispered. I went straight to the Cuban delegation, which was seated next to us in alphabetical order and raised the issue with Foreign Minister Isidoro Malmierca of Cuba.

How could there be such an omission? They apologised. It was a lapsus calami of perennially friendly Cuba. They wrote a letter as well but the name of dead Makarios was absent from the eulogies of the conference.

Makarios had rushed to Belgrade in 1961 to attend the first NAM conference and thus render Cyprus one of the 27 founding members. He even acted against the constitution, because Vice President Fazil Kucuk (who had a veto right on the subject) had expressed serious reservations. However Makarios wanted to become one of the historic leaders on the world chessboard.

Spyros Kyprianou and various foreign diplomats had told me that, especially during the initial period after 1974, Cypriot leaders were not treated with the same respect and reverence as in the past. This was my own assessment as well. At the 1975 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in Helsinki, it had proved extremely hard and difficult to arrange meetings between Makarios and European leaders.

Furthermore in New York and elsewhere the foreign ministers of the superpowers insisted (against protocol) to receive the Cypriot president at their office or hotel rather than the other way round.

Meetings with leaders of important countries were difficult -- almost impossible -- to arrange. Such countries, inter alia, did not want to displease Turkey. Even the memory of our friends in the NAM, sometimes slipped.

I have no doubt that after 1974, astute Makarios with his insight, looking through the ruins of the Presidential Palace, could get the hard messages. Before 1974 he thought that he could play risky games of political brinkmanship in the world arena. His stature, naturally, could not be much larger than that of his country but he took the opposite view. He employed Byzantine intrigue. In 1971 he promised the Americans he would espouse their cause on China at the UN General Assembly. But then Foreign Minister Spyros Kyprianou voted in favour of the People's Republic of China, which was the natural option.

Makarios left the impression that Spyros did not follow his instructions. But I know from poor Spyros that was not the case. The Americans held Makarios responsible for many things. They did not like him. The Soviets kept him at bay: they were cautious with us.

In Cyprus in the 1960s, the paramilitary forces were at times stronger than the state itself. Such forces were propped up by state leaders and officials. Civil society was oscillating from one extreme to the other: from "union with Greece" to the theory of what was "feasible".

Greek and Turkish Cypriots had no clear perception of what they were aiming at (do they have such a perception today?). Authoritarian attitudes, despotism, clashes, uneasy relations with the mighty countries were the order of the dayC* until the game was lost in 1974.

Makarios must have then realised the magnitude of the pre-1974 fallacy. He apprehended that, if he kept pursuing the same course of action as in the past, Cyprus might sink. He therefore sought what was pragmatic and feasible. He could not live with myths and grandiose ideas any more. So he signed the High Level Agreement of the February 12, 1977. He accepted two territories, each one under the administration of one community. He planted the seeds of federation, bicommunality and bizonality into the soil of Cyprus.

He also concurred that basic human rights would be open for discussion, with particular emphasis on the "practical difficulties of the Turkish Cypriots". Spyros Kyprianou and Vassos Lyssarides took exception to what was agreed.

Spyros, in July 1977, confessed to me that he wanted to resign from his post as President of the House of Representatives and seek an appointment as an ambassador of Cyprus abroad. But Makarios died a month later. The implementation of the realistic Agreement was left hanging in the air. Silence prevailed. And then, gradually but steadily we came back to the heroic symphonies.

Year after year, inch by inch we have lost -- perhaps for good -- the territory, the properties, the human rights, the new constitutional arrangements, the withdrawal of the Turkish troops, the friendly rapprochement with the other community. We were inundated with Turkish settlers. We lost our way.

My message is to Demetris Christofias: many years ago Spyros Kyprianou wondered "how could they do this to us?". The truth is that they did it. Many countries have done the same and much more in the past and they will keep doing it again, dear Demetris.

At the end of the day, we shall be looking backwards, trying to establish what went wrong. Unfortunately we have not realised as yet, that this is not a world of "principles", it is a world of "interests". But even if principles prevailed on this planet, we have not perceived that we have not always complied with principles in our historical course.

You do proceed with dedication at the table of the intercommunal talks, President Christofias. Past mistakes, however, for which you are responsible as well, are blocking your way.

Six years ago, your deep desire was to get rid of Glafcos Clerides and DISY. You did not want Clerides as President, even if your party had described him in the past as "a good captain". You were not ready as yet to contest the presidential elections yourself, so you turned to DIKO. You considered this as your only option.

However this move of yours led Cyprus to a mentality of "no solution" and to "a no solution President", as your own party described Tassos Ppadopoulos. After all, it was clear to everybody and much more to the party apparatchiks of AKEL, that Tassos' steadfast and unwavering stance on Cyprus was many light years away from a possible pragmatic solution of the Cyprus problem.

Now you are here, a "solution-oriented" President. And I firmly believe that this is exactly the case. However, will you manage to scrape through, when your political allies are going on with their heroic symphonies? Do you possess the courage? Do you have the granite-hard will? Or will you opt for the more quiet and beautiful presidential life rather than the rough moments you will inevitably experience in the quest of a solution? After all, there are so many excuses, if one decides to back out.

My wish and my belief is that you will go on, Demetris. Hold firmly those hands which are willing to support you, whether they belong to AKEL to DISY -- or even to extraterrestrials. Throw into the dustbin of history the theories about "asphyxiating time frames" and "arbitrations" and all similar nonsense. Negotiate with seriousness and respect, in the framework of what is correct and fair. And do not forget during the bitter and hard poker game, that part of the sins of the past were committed by us. If you look forward to a united Cyprus, there is no other way.

Stick to your guns, so that you will not end up with a broken up country, the north of which will be Turkish and the south a Greek-Turkish federation, as you yourself aptly described recently the result of partition.

n Nicos Rolandis was Cyprus' Foreign Minister from 1978-1983 and the Minister of Commerce, Industry & Tourism from 1998-2003


Tel:+357 22 353811/2, Fax:+357 22 353100, P.O. Box 21700 -- 1508 Nicosia. Email:

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Mar 27, 2009
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