Sunday 18 June 2017

#UniteCyprusNow is what we want

By Esra Aygin
It all started with an imaginary piece I wrote and shared on Facebook.
It was May 17 – the last scheduled meeting of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders, who had been negotiating for the last two years to find a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem.
They had an excellent personal relationship, trusted each other, believed in each other and, most importantly, could empathise with each other.
The two leaders – Mustafa Akinci and Nicos Anastasiades had made unprecedented progress in the negotiations, unmatched by any previous effort. The chapters on EU and economy were almost closed, while there were significant convergences in governance and power-sharing, property and territory.
The sides had exchanged maps for the first time in the history of Cyprus negotiations.
And, under the contested chapter of security and guarantees, the sides had agreed – also for the first time in history – that the 1960 security arrangements must change to fit the current realities of today, in a way so that one side’s security does not constitute a threat to the other.
They repeatedly spoke of significant progress made in the negotiations, gave much hope to their communities and mounted expectations of a solution.
In the recent months, a cumulation of events had hurt the leaders’ relationship and led them to engage in a blame game, but nevertheless, they were closer than ever to uniting Cyprus.
On May 17, the two leaders came out of their last scheduled meeting with absolutely nothing. No new meetings scheduled, no plan for the future, no explanation to the people, who had so much faith in them.
I was enraged. I felt let down and betrayed.
Worse was the silence of Cypriots. There was no reaction, no sign of defiance or disappointment.
“Tens of thousands of Turkish and Greek Cypriots are out on the streets in every city across Cyprus to protest the failure in the negotiations to unify the island.
“The two leaders, who met for the last time today to determine the fate of the stalled negotiations, failed to take the process to the next final level.
“Both leaders had come to power with the promise of solving the Cyprus problem and unifying the island.
“‘They don’t have the courage to make the final decisions,’ said an angry Cypriot. ‘They kept us hoping for two years, and gave us nothing.’
“The size of the demonstrators chanting slogans ‘We will not accept,’ and ‘solution now,’ and waving olive branches is multiplying by the hour.
“Panicked UN forces are unsure about how to prevent the huge crowds from entering the buffer zone.
“The sweeping demonstrations throughout the island are expected to unsettle the leaderships on both sides and even lead to the postponement of presidential elections in the south, political analysts say.
“‘We are not going home,’ shouted a demonstrator. ‘We are on the street until they announce the agreement.’”
“We deserve this treatment… We deserve worse…” I wrote on Facebook.
And the messages flowed in: ‘Let’s do it!’ ‘What are we waiting for?’
I created an event for the next day – May 18 – when our first gathering took place. And we have been at the Ledra Street/Lokmaci buffer zone almost every day since then.
We have been criticised for shouting empty slogans and not being clear about what kind of a solution we want.
We are very clear: We want the two leaders to finish what they have started. The parameters of the solution they have been discussing for the past two years are straightforward: A bi-zonal, bi-communal federation based on the political equality of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, whereby democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms will be safeguarded.
We are realists. We know that a solution is not possible without compromises and we insist that compromising is honourable in the path towards a common future in a united, stronger, safer, wealthier Cyprus within the European Union.
We refuse to hold our future hostage to our past. We know that the status quo is not sustainable and that its continuation will only lead to increased instability and tension. And we call on Akinci and Anastasiades to be courageous, visionary, true leaders and change the fate of Cyprus!

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