Call for deepening of the reconciliation process
For the first time since 1974, the dividing line in Cyprus the so called 'Green Line` was opened with the decision of the regime in the northern part of Cyprus on 23 April 2003, enabling Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to move around the island on a daily basis. This happened one week after the Republic of Cyprus signed the accession agreement to EU in Athens. The partial opening of the dividing line was a historical moment since after the war of 1974, this was the first time ever that people on both sides of the island were allowed to move in big numbers to `the other side` that was banned to them for the last 29 years. Every day thousands of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots have been crossing the `line` and visiting towns, villages, homes and friends that they left 29 years ago.
The `banned` part of their land is now starting to have a human face; every day thousands of people go in search of the homes they left, in search of their memories; remembering how the `distant` past was like, and seeing for the first time, what it looks like today. There has been many emotional moments when a friend from the distant past knocked one's door or when one went to the Kyrenia harbour for a cup of coffee or visited Paphos to watch the sea. When the old inhabitant came to the door and the current inhabitants of the house opened the door saying `Kopiaste` or `Hosgeldin` (Welcome in Greek and Turkish) these two words also opened channels to the hearts and minds of our people.
This process is showing many things to us and to the world: what is described as the `Cyprus problem` between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots is not something that cannot be solved. The important issue is not the problem but how you deal with it: the reconciliation process, if continued, will have an effect that will last for long years to come in the hearts of the people.
Despite media campaigns painting hostile images of `the other`, despite repression and persecution against those defending peace in the northern part of the island, despite `state policies` against any solution, the two communities very clearly and strongly have shown their wish to live together in a common country in this short period of time. Our communities clearly showed their wish to embrace each other, putting what is called `the Cyprus conflict` aside and creating their own means of communication, taking bolder steps than the politicians of this country ever could. Therefore any provocation to set back this process of reconciliation will not come from within our two communities but will come from outside.
We call on many bi-communal groups of the past and the present to be aware of such provocations and to `take sides` in order to prevent these. We call on thousands of people who had been and who are involved in the conflict resolution and peace activities to consider themselves as important players in this process and be alert to any provocation, not to stay silent but to speak out, to encourage and help reconciliation. We call on the international community, the UN and the EU to help the solution of the problems that exist in the current crossings in order to expand this process.
We suggest that a few practical measures can be taken to improve the situation:
- Currently thousands of people are in long queues waiting for hours to cross. There are only three `check-points` where they can cross from. We demand the opening of new crossing points. We support the existing initiatives to improve this problem.
- While Greek Cypriots are free to take their vehicles to the northern part of the island, Turkish Cypriots are not allowed to go to the southern part with their own vehicles. A formula must be developed for the flow of Turkish Cypriots with their own vehicles addressing the humanitarian issue at hand as well as the car-safety related issues. We welcome the ongoing efforts by Republic of Cyprus to this direction.
- The crossings between north and south can only take place between 09.00 and 24.00 hours. This restriction must be lifted and people should be allowed to stay as long as they like in both parts of the island.
- The local authorities and municipalities on both sides of the island must be encouraged to take practical measures to help to ease the free flow of the people: practical information guides about how to get around in towns and villages, where to eat, where to find hospitals or police in case of emergencies etc must be provided.
- The crossings should become less formal. There should not be visas, stamps or long queues. This should become as close as possible to a crossing within one's own country.
- The international community, especially the EU must encourage the`reunification` of the communication systems. Currently people can call each other by using the telephone lines controlled by the UN , these lines are far from sufficient. The GSM (mobile) systems must be `united` since it is not possible to use the GSM of one side on the other. Local telecommunications authorities are capable of re-opening the existing infrastructure.
- `Reconciliation centres` must be encouraged to be opened on both parts of the island, where those people, including many women and young people, who have been working voluntarily in mediation and conflict resolution for many years, can use their skills for the benefit of our communities. Such centres will be valuable resources within civil society for dealing with any problems that may come up during the process of change.
On longer term, keeping in mind that we consider this as one step in a series of steps for a final lasting solution of the Cyprus issue, we demand that the process be further extended, for example, to the teaching of Turkish and Greek languages must be in the school curriculums on both sides in order to encourage communication among the two communities. Common elements of anti-chauvinist and anti-sexist education for shared citizenship should be devised and introduced to schools, so that our children can grow up in equality and mutual respect.
Cypriots should be able to exercise their basic rights for organization and registration of joint organizations should be encouraged. The international community, especially the EU must encourage joint business ventures on both sides of the island and people must have the right to be able to work on both parts on the island, with social security and other labor rights, including employment equality for women, regardless of where they reside.
Negotiations for a solution of the Cyprus problem have been going on for decades. Despite the efforts of the UN, EU and the international community especially for the last two years, reaching a solution based on the Annan plan has not been possible due to the intransigence of Rauf Denktash, leader of the regime in the north. Many international resolutions, as well as numerous decisions of the EU summits and the European Court of Human Rights have pointed out Turkey's responsibility over the northern part of the island. Therefore we call on the international community, the UN and EU to remind Turkey of its responsibility for a solution.
Fresh efforts must be made for the signing of an agreement before May 2004 when Cyprus will become a full EU member. Until then, we will continue our struggle for peace and reconciliation in a free and united Cyprus.
Platform of Peace Organization
Bicommunal Citizens Movement
Bicommunal Coordinating Committee
Bicommunal Dialogue Forum
Bicommunal Conflict Resolution Trainers Group
Business Womens Group
Citizen's Movement for Re-unification and Co-existence
Cyprus Neuroscience and Technology Institute
Dali Municipality Bicommunal Committee
Hands Across the Divide
Interactive Management Facilitators Group
International Eco.peace Village
International World Affairs (Cyprus and Middle East)
Leaders I Group
Leaders II Group
New Cyprus Association
NGO Resource Center
Platform Solution, Re-unification Now
Reconciliation Now Initiative
Steps For Peace
Technology For Peace
The Association of Management Studies
The bicommunal citizens action group for peace in Cyprus
The Brussels Womens group
The FOSBO Group
The Language Group
The Olso group
The Peace Center
The SIT2002CY group
Westminster Foundation Cyprus
Women for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
Youth Encounters for Peace (15 sub groups)
Youth Promoting Peace
ZEYTIN DALI Foundation