Greece, Greek Cypriots in quandary over new UN plan for Cyprus
Greece and Greek Cypriots are worried about the latest United Nations plan for a solution to the division of Cyprus. The source of this unease lies in recent statements by UN officials, British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe, and United States Secretary of State George Shultz, implying that time may be running out. These officials have all suggested that a new framework put forward by UN Secretary General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar -- the third since January 1985 -- may be the ``last'' and ``best'' chance to reach a settlement.
Cyprus has been divided into Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot sectors since a Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. The invasion was provoked when Greek-Cypriot supporters of the military dicatorship in Greece and Greek troops then stationed on the island launched a coup against then-Cypriot President, Archbishop Makarios.
Greece has made a solution to the Cyprus problem the key to opening a dialogue with Turkey, its rival NATO ally. In turn, Greek sources say, a Cyprus solution and a US role in helping obtain it will be vital in determining how far US-Greek relations will improve and whether Greece's ties with NATO will be normalized. Greece refuses to participate in NATO maneuvers in the area because of unresolved disputes with Turkey.
At the core of Greek and Greek-Cypriot objections to the new plan is the view that it does not go far enough in resolving what Athens and Nicosia consider the key issues: withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus; freedom to move and settle anywhere on the island; and guarantees against any future Turkish invasion.
A diplomatic source in Athens confirmed Turkish and Cypriot press reports that Mr. de Cu'ellar has unofficially asked the Greek and Turkish-Cypriot communities to give a ``yes or no answer to the whole document as a unit'' by April 21.
``This sounds too close to blackmail for comfort,'' the source said, adding, ``If we turn this down, we will be condemned. If we accept it, with all its flaws, we will be condemned by our people.''
In January 1985, Greek-Cypriot President Spyros Kyprianou and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash met at the UN to discuss a solution. The talks broke up in mutual acrimony. The failure was attributed to Mr. Kyprianou's refusal to sign the framework document. In the Greek view, the plan addressed only the simpler territorial and consitutional issues and ignored the key matters.
The result was a propaganda coup for the Turkish Cypriots, and in the view of Athens and Nicosia, an opportunity for Mr. Denktash to consolidate his ``independent state in the north'' -- the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Greek and Greek-Cypriot officials are eager to avoid a similar occurrence. Yet they say the new framework closely resembles the January 1985 version, which they do not consider balanced and just.
According to Costas Calligas, a political editor and a Greek expert on Cyprus, ``This document puts us in an extremely difficult position. . . The main issues are dealt with vaguely or not at all, both substantively and procedurally.''
Greece has recently made clear that it regards the Cyprus issue as a fundamental security problem. An unjust solution, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said late last month, would only legitimize the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and set a precedent for other Greek islands, that Greece says Turkey covets.
A Cypriot official, who asked not to be identified, said recently that Cyprus may involve the Soviet Union more closely in the search for a solution if it feels unduly pressured to accept an unjust settlement. Such a move ``would balance things out.''
The Soviets, who have been trying to make diplomatic inroads in the region, recently proposed calling an international conference to resolve the issue. Nicosia praised the plan as ``constructive.''