Yesterday, April 24th was the 10th anniversary of the Annan plan referendum which was rejected mainly by the Greek Cypriots by 76%, while Turkish Cypriots voted by 65% in favour.
Some Greek Cypriot parties marked that event by praising the people on their decision and issuing a warning about the future. At the same time those who were in favour of the plan said that rejecting it was wrong and an opportunity was lost.
Mehmet Ali Talat, who at the time was TRNC president, told Cyprus News Agency that time has shown how harmful it has been, not reaching a solution.
“Had the referendum been successful ten years ago we would be living in a completely different Cyprus. What I’m hoping for is that the past mistakes are not repeated and for both sides to reach a real solution. The circumstances today are different and a different dynamic encourages us to solve the Cyprus problem”.
Opposition leader Mustafa Akinci of the Peace and Democracy Movement (BDH), said that the Greek Cypriots had prioritised joining the EU rather than focusing on solving the Cyprus problem.
“And Turkey got what it wanted, the status of candidate country to join the EU in 2005, which was achieved because of supporting the Annan plan. After ten years on ice, the Cyprus problem has a new dynamic. What is important is for Cypriots to reach common ground,” Akinci said.
Mehmet Seyis, chairman of the DEV IS trade union said that it seems that both leaders are hard-pressed to remain at the negotiating table. “Opening up the crossings was a very important step, but I don’t trust in the honesty of the two leaders, that’s why the people, the two communities should clearly demonstrate their will for a solution,” he said.
Republican party CTP general secretary Kutlay Erk said that “outside forces are scheming in the area” and therefore Turkish Cypriots should get creative and lead the way in the negotiation process.
“If Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots want a solution they should prove so in the streets and force their leaders to reach an agreement”.
The referendum was the only comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem put to a public vote. On 24th April, 2004, the Turkish Cypriot community supported the Annan plan by 65 %, while 76 %of the Greek Cypriots rejected it. At that time, President Tassos Papadopoulos appeared in a televised address to the nation and urged the Greek Cypriots to vote “No”. He said, “I received a state. I will not deliver a community.”
The ruling Democratic Rally (DISY) was the only Greek Cypriot party that supported the plan, but the current President Nicos Anastasiades has made it clear on several that he will never bring an “Annan-like plan before the people”.
In an announcement on the anniversary, DISY called for unity so that Greek Cypriots could achieve their common goals. “We have to keep trying so as the Turkish side is forced to agree to a deal that upholds international law, puts an end to the occupation and creates the conditions of peace and prosperity for all Cypriots”.
Socialist EDEK revived its demand to redesign national policy on the negotiations of for the Cyprus problem, while also asking the government to better inform the international community, especially the EU, on Turkish human rights violations.
EDEK also urged the government to make it clear to the EU that Cyprus won’t sign off on the continuation of Turkey’s EU membership talks if Ankara “continues to hold the same stance on the Cyprus problem”.
The European Party EVROKO said that the decision to reject the Annan plan was “courageous and credited for saving the Republic of Cyprus.”
The Greens congratulated the Greek Cypriots for “rejecting a plan that would dismantle the Cyprus Republic and subjugate our country and people to Turkey.” They are demanding a new referendum, one that would set “red lines” for the Greek Cypriot side.
DIKO, the party which had been led by President Tassos Papadopoulos at the time of the Annan Plan is now headed by his son Nicholas who congratulated its members for belonging to a party that lead the charge in rejecting the referendum, adding that what the Greek Cypriots rejected then was the Annan plan, not the solution.
Leader of AKEL, and former president Demetris Christofias made no statement.
However, those who voted “Yes” are still regret the rejection of the plan and regard it as a lost opportunity and continue to point out that life would have been different today if the Greek Cypriots voted in favour of the Annan plan.
Asked by the ‘Cyprus Mail’ if he regretted supporting the Annan plan, Takis Hadjidemetriou, author of “The April 24 Referendum and the Solution of the Cyprus Problem” was adamant.
“Of course I don’t. And every day that passes my decision to support the plan solidifies,” he answered, pointing out that developments over the past ten years have made finding the solution much more difficult
“Things today regarding the Cyprus problem are far worse than ten years ago and that’s a fact. The number of settlers has increased, the population of the north has increased, their image has improved drastically in the eyes of the international community and our economy has tanked. Of course things now are worse and any new plan will have to take those new developments into consideration,” said Hadjidemetriou, pointing out that the Annan plan still can’t be properly assessed.
“If we want to see how bad or good the Annan plan was we have to compare it with the next one,” he explained.
He also referred to the Immovable Property Commission, the court in the north that deals with compensating Greek Cypriots – and more recently, Turkish Cypriots – for the land they lost in 1974. “We have failed to solve the Cyprus problem politically. In the aftermath of our failure, the people have decided to solve the problem themselves, by going to court. It was next”.
Hadjidemetriou was an MP for 20 years and founding member of EDEK. However, he left the party in disagreement over its stance on the Cyprus problem.