David Hannay: The future of Cyprus lies in the hands of its people

From a speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs by Britain's former special representative to Cyprus

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Anyone who had overlooked the fundamental intractability of the Cyprus problem will have got an unpleasant shock from the results of the twin referendums in the north and south of the island this last April. It was indeed a sad day for the island, for the two motherlands, Greece and Turkey, and for the international community when the good news that Turkish Cypriots had voted to accept the Annan Plan by 2:1 was matched by the bad news that Greek Cypriots had voted to reject it by 3:1.

Anyone who had overlooked the fundamental intractability of the Cyprus problem will have got an unpleasant shock from the results of the twin referendums in the north and south of the island this last April. It was indeed a sad day for the island, for the two motherlands, Greece and Turkey, and for the international community when the good news that Turkish Cypriots had voted to accept the Annan Plan by 2:1 was matched by the bad news that Greek Cypriots had voted to reject it by 3:1.

For the Turkish Cypriots their brave decision to turn their backs on thirty years of denial remained unrewarded, as they were left in a kind of limbo when Cyprus entered the European Union. Even the palliatives of a substantial European Union aid programme and the resumption of preferential trade with Europe have been slow in coming and are being contested every inch of the way by a Greek Cypriot administration which seems locked in a time-warp of negativism.

What is surely needed now is a whole network of informal contacts between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot politicians designed to build up familiarity and mutual confidence. Any outsider, particularly any British outsider, soon becomes conscious of the fact that anything he says about he Cyprus problem is minutely examined by critical audiences on both sides. Accusations of partiality fly, hidden agendas are lovingly created, conspiracy theories abound.

To tell the truth, I was sometimes tempted to live up to people's prejudices, to pull out of my pocket a piece of paper and announce that here I held the secret British blueprint for the future of Cyprus. But there was no such blueprint, nor will there be. The future of Cyprus lies in the hands of Cypriots, although they are often reluctant to believe that.

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