Monday, December 12, 2016
“The role of Famagusta Initiative and other civic initiatives…”
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Dr. Cemal Mert, an activist of the Famagusta Initiative, a paediatric doctor and a columnist on a website called "Gazete 360" believes that civic initiatives can play a very important role in reconciliation.
According to Dr. Cemal Mert, since 1963, Cypriots have been locked down with the lack of a solution to the "Cyprus Problem" and we have spent the most considerable amount of our intellectual and communal energies on this subject. "Negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem" that has been continuing for half a century can be messed up in a moment due to the search for hydrocarbons or a "dinner crisis" in Istanbul even though there might be talk about a solution and referenda at the end of the year.
According to Dr. Cemal Mert, each crisis continues to erode the feeling of trust among the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and disperse hopes…
I asked him to write for this page in POLITIS, his ideas… And here is how he continues his article that he wrote for you:
"Neither the endless negotiations by the leaders of the two communities, nor the tens of decisions of the UN, High Level Agreements, Good Will Proposals and Confidence Building Measures have been sufficient for reaching a solution to be endorsed by the two communities.
Finding a solution only through the negotiations of the leaders and reaching peace seems to be a weak probability.
So how will the lock of the Cyprus problem be opened?
We know through our historical experience that foreign powers have been effective in the Cyprus problem. But exaggerating this and ignoring the internal dynamics would also be an exaggerated result. Such an exaggerated result creates communal inertia…
Giving proper attention to the internal dynamics that would help the bringing closer the psychology of the communities must be in the forefront. Having the two communities meet in their common living areas must be a target from now…
If we look at the historical experience of Cyprus, there are countless examples about how local forces have been just as effective as forces from outside in both positive and negative events…
The most recent example for Turkish Cypriots is the process of the referendum for the Annan Plan. The role of masses and the success of the local political leadership during that process are undeniable. In that process, the status quo in the northern part of the island took heavy blows and for instance the legendary leader Rauf Denktash could be sent to retirement.
We have seen countless times through our life practice that the Cyprus problem is too important to leave it to the leaders to carry out negotiations behind closed doors. Apart from the other leaders of communities, we have also learned this through our experience during the negotiations of Talat and Christofias who had been comrades. Afterwards neither Eroghlou and Christofias and Anastasiades or Akinci and Anastasiades could not produce results from the negotiations they have held.
What is missing in the negotiations is the "breath of the communities…"
The greatest victims of the intercommunal problem in Cyprus and those who will benefit most will be Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and they have great tasks to fulfil.
Without the mass energy of "Cypriots", the Cyprus problem cannot reach a lasting solution.
The main factor that would mobilise the leaders carrying out the negotiations of the Cyprus problem, the guarantors Turkey, Greece and England, the EU as almost an internal factor in Cyprus and the UN as the coordinator of the negotiations would be the positive mass actions of the Cypriots.
In this sense, there is great value in the local initiatives that developed during the recent years. And they give us an idea about the way of the positive mass action to follow for the peace process.
Some of those civic initiatives that come to my mind are: The Famagusta Initiative, the Limassol Cultural Foundation, the Association of those from Silikou and the initiatives of those from Paphos. These civic initiatives point the real role of individuals and masses of people in the process towards peace and a solution in Cyprus.
The Famagusta Initiative had begun as an initiative of Turkish Cypriots from Famagusta and over time took on a bi-communal character. Work on the primary concepts of closed Varosha, the Famagusta Port and Famagusta within the walls soon started bearing fruit.
Greek Cypriots with the aim of holding religious mass started coming inside the walled city of Famagusta for the first time since 1958 and the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot mayors of Famagusta, Kayalp and Galanos made a declaration to have common actions for the reopening for settlement, Varosha… Due to this, the representatives of the international community and primarily the EU officials started taking an interest in the Confidence Building Measures. The sea fair organized every year, the religious and cultural activities, the bicommunal action to demand the opening of the "Dherinia Gate", the feasibility study prior to the settlement of Varosha, the activities in order to convince UNESCO to include the walled city of Famagusta in the cultural heritage list, producing architectural, city and environmental projects for the coordinated and joint development of Famagusta-Varosha town in case of a solution, producing of bi-communal social media pages and tens of similar activities like these…
That is why the Famagusta Initiative was the only Cypriot civic initiative that was visited in its own place by Mr. Eide, the Special Advisor on Cyprus of the UN. And last but not least, at a ceremony on the 2nd of June Thursday, the Famagusta Initiative was awarded by the University of Cyprus for its cultural and communal contributions. And the local and international media who is following the Cyprus problem is quite often publicising the views and declarations of the Famagusta Initiative.
The activities in both parts of our island of the Limassol Cultural Foundation, the Association of those from Silikou and Turkish Cypriots from Paphos not only strengthen the communal memory that is being erased but also contribute to the breaking down the ice between our two communities.
With the active support and help of Mr. Andreas Christou, the Mayor of Limassol, Turkish Cypriots are making visits en masse to Limassol quite often. And with the initiative of the Limassol Cultural Foundation and the great contribution of Mr. Christou, the restoration of the graves of Turkish Cypriots who lost their lives in Limassol between 1964 and 1974, has been deeply appreciated by the Turkish Cypriots.
Cypriots, both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots must take to the streets for a solution and peace within the European Union context and make efforts for strengthening bicommunal local civic initiatives…
The negotiations need the breath and the kiss of life of our communities…"
Photo: Another activity of the Famagusta Initiative...
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 11th of December 2016, Sunday.