Monday, 20 February 2017

Spectre of enosis casts shadow over peace talks

Esra Aygin

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci says the door is open for Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades to return to negotiations after he rectifies a recent decision to annually commemorate a 1950 enosis petition in schools.

The two leaders had a tense meeting yesterday over the controversial vote by the Greek Cypriot parliament. The proposal was tabled by the far-right Elam, which is affiliated with the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece. Only communist AKEL voted against the proposal. Anastasiadis’ party DISY abstained allowing the proposal to be approved.

It is understood that Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades left the meeting room in fury during yesterday’s face-to-face meeting. Akinci in turn, stormed out of the building and returned to his office.

“Today we were told that we were exaggerating the issue and overreacting,” Akinci told journalists. “I believe that we even underreacted. There is no logic and no explanation to take a decision during the most critical period of negotiations to add Enosis, which is the reason for all this pain and tragedy, to the list of memorial days for schools as if it is something to be blessed… Instead of understanding us and correcting this step, the Greek Cypriot leader shut the door and left. “When they correct what they created themselves, the door is there for them to open and come back in.”

Last week’s vote by the Greek Cypriot parliament led to a collective hysteria and backlash among the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots, who consider the Enosis aim as the reason behind the inter-communal clashes in the 1960s that saw them withdraw from all state organs and move into enclaves throughout the island. A Greek-backed coup aimed at Enosis resulted in the Turkish military intervention in July 1974.

“Raising the issue of the Enosis petition now, serves nothing but to multiply the anxiety of the Turkish Cypriot community, which lived the most part of the 20th century with the fear of Enosis,” said Niyazi Kizilyurek. “In the eyes of Turkish Cypriots, Enosis is an existential threat.”

In an open-book petition in January 1950, 96 percent of Greek Cypriots had given their signatures in favour of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots had boycotted the petition with only about 45 participating.

According to Prof. Ahmet Sozen, the crisis arising from the vote highlights the lack of understanding between the two communities and the grave need for actual peace building in Cyprus.

“The majority of Greek Cypriots including the political elite don’t know the effect of the word ‘Enosis’ on Turkish Cypriots,” said Sozen. “They have past traumas and dominant narratives that lead to an existential anxiety in relation with Enosis… For Greek Cypriots however, Enosis has nothing to do with Turkish Cypriots. It symbolizes a communal struggle against colonialism, against the British rule… The majority in both communities is not in touch with each others’ fears, traumas and concerns.”

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