More than 30 Turkish Cypriot civil society organisations – including some of the most influential – established the ‘Solution and Peace Platform’ earlier this week with the aim of “giving support to a federal solution and encouraging the leaders” during the peace talks.
The platform, which comprises of some of the biggest non-governmental institutions in the northern part of Cyprus, such as European Citizen’s Prize recipient Sener Elcil’s KTOS (Turkish Cypriot Teachers’ Union), Turkish Cypriot Civil Servants Union (KTAMS) and Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Shopkeepers and Artisans (KTEZO), has what it claims to be the potential to pioneer a popular push for solution.
The Cypriot leaders are currently holding intensified negotiations in a bid to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem by the end of the year.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, probably foreseeing the potential influence of the newly established platform, has already scheduled a meeting with its representatives tomorrow.
The platform may well replace the “This Country is Ours Platform” of the early 2000s, which – although initially established for economic reasons – brought together numerous non-governmental organisations and political parties and played a key role in the mobilisation of Turkish Cypriots in support of the Annan Plan.
In its declaration published, the Platform, comprised of a total of 33 civil society organisations, underlined the critical time for Cyprus and stated that it “aims to actively work in both communities to bring permanent peace to our island along with a solution, and to promote a culture of peace”.
Underlining that there is no alternative to a federal solution on the island in its manifesto, the Platform listed their principles as working: a) For a bicommunal, bizonal, united Federal Cyprus that has a single international identity and that is based on political equality b) To support both leaders to achieve peace and to support steps towards a solution c) To bring together all pro-solution and pro-peace organisations and individuals in the northern part of Cyprus d) To work together and in coordination with the solution forces in both communities in the run up to a referendum to ensure the approval of the settlement e) To jointly raise awareness in the society before and after a solution, and to strengthen and perpetuate the culture of peaceful coexistence in a united Cyprus among the citizens of federal Cyprus.”
The Solution and Peace Platform came into being on the basis of two declarations made over the past 15 days by the same civil society organisations, which expressed support for the leaders in their quest to reach a federal solution based on the political equality of the two communities, and called on the sides to respect the traditional balance of Cyprus negotiations which has been based on the formula of ‘political equality and power-sharing in exchange for territory.’
Okan Dagli, an activist of the Famagusta Initiative, which is one of the founders of the Platform, explained that there is a grave need for an organised effort to explain to the community the need for a federal solution, as well as to put pressure on both leaders to come up with a settlement plan that would be acceptable to both communities.
“The negotiation process is cut off from the community,” Dagli told the Cyprus Weekly. “The pro-solution political parties are preoccupied with their own internal problems. There is a big vacuum in the community about the negotiations process. Naturally, the only voices being heard are the voices of the anti-solution circles.’
“There is limited time and we have to initiate a discussion about a federal solution. We will go out there and explain to the people that the status quo is not sustainable, and that there is no alternative to a federal solution. All other options are bound to bring about tension.”
Dagli stated that in contrast to the Annan Plan, the settlement plan is currently being prepared here by the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders.
“Lessons must be drawn from the failed Annan Plan referendums,” he said. “Efforts must be focused on not getting a ‘yes’ from Turkish Cypriots only, but from both communities. So we also have the duty to put pressure on our leaders to take into account each other’s sensitivities and concerns.”