Cyprus: referendum on the Annan Plan

Justus Leicht
World Socialist Web Site

On April 24 a referendum will be held in Cyprus over the plan for the reunification of the island put forward by UN General Secretary Kofi Annan.

There will be separate votes in the Turkish north of the island and the Greek south. Should both halves of the island accept the plan, a united Cyprus will take up membership in the European Union on May 1. Should either the north or the south, or both parts of the island, vote no, then only the Greek half will join the EU.

According to the latest opinion polls a majority will vote for the plan in the Turkish north, while it is expected that a clear majority will vote against in the Greek south.

In Northern Cyprus only President Rauf Denktash and a minority of extreme right-wing nationalists, much of whose support comes from settlers from the Turkish mainland, are campaigning publicly for a rejection of the Annan Plan. Thirty years ago Denktash and his clique established the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus and have dominated politics there ever since. The republic has been officially recognised only by Turkey. In parliamentary elections last December the nationalist parties close to Denktash suffered a devastating defeat against a background of a series of mass demonstrations demanding the reunification of the island.

Recently Denktash’s support in Turkey has been limited to Bülent Ecevit’s Democratic Left Party (DSP)—which in 1974 ordered the intervention of Turkish troops in Cyprus—and the Islamic fundamentalist Felicity Party (SP) led by Necmettin Erbakan, which in 1974 sat in the ruling coalition headed by Ecevit. Denktash also has the support of a handful of fascist groups. None of these organisations currently has representation in the Turkish parliament. For its part, the Turkish military has made known its reservations about the Annan Plan, but has not officially rejected it.

The head of the Turkish government, Recep Tayip Erdogan, leader of the moderate Islamic AKP (Party of Justice and Development), supports the Annan Plan in order to improve Turkey’s own chances of entry into the European Union. He expressed his annoyance with a recent tour of Turkey made by Denktash, saying that the latter should say what he wants to say in Cyprus. This was the first time in 30 years that Denktash has had to face such a negative reaction from a Turkish prime minister.

Following considerable pressure from both Washington and Brussels, the Greek government and opposition have also spoken out in favour of accepting the plan. In southern Cyprus, on the other hand, President Tassos Papadopoulos, a majority of the media and parties, including (after initial wavering) the Stalinist AKEL, the Greens and the right-wing DIKO, are all campaigning for a rejection of the plan. The Greek Orthodox Church has gone so far as to designate the plan as “the work of Satan.”

Should these different positions be confirmed in the election it would mean the transformation in a short period of time of the usual state of affairs: until now Turkish-Cypriot opposition was always regarded as the main obstacle to reunification. Hopes of overcoming deeply rooted social problems, widespread unemployment and poverty have proven in this case to be more powerful than all forms of nationalism. On the other hand, in the Greek south, chauvinist arguments appear to have the upper hand: the rejection of any sort of guarantees for, or concessions to the Turkish minority, and diffuse worries about the costs involved in the economic development of the poverty-stricken north, which has suffered decades of international isolation. Additional concerns revolve around the perceived threat of Turkish cheap labour.

The Annan Plan

The World Socialist Web Site decisively rejects the chauvinist arguments used by reactionary forces in the north and south to oppose the reunification of the island. The Annan Plan, however, does not represent an alternative. Despite all propaganda to the contrary, the plan will only serve to increase and not weaken chauvinism; it will cement rather than overcome divisions on the island—dividing rather than uniting the different communities. Its real aim is to exploit Cyprus’s location at a strategic intersection in the eastern Mediterranean, and establish stable relations for the development of the island as an economic platform and military base for interventions by the US and EU in North Africa and the Near and Middle East.

The name proposed for the new state is the “United Cyprus Republic,” but a more appropriate name would be the “Divided Republic of Turkish and Greek Cyprus.” While the island will have a common national government with its own flag and national anthem, it will in fact consist of two sub-states which will be empowered to carry out their own economic and foreign policy, as well as determine their own forms of separate citizenship.

Article 3 of the constitution expressly stipulates that the exercise of political rights is tied to ethnic identity—to the so-called “status of internal partial state citizenship.” The article further states: “Other than in elections of senators, which shall be elected by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots separately, political rights at the federal level shall be exercised based on internal constituent state citizenship status. Political rights at the constituent state and local level shall be exercised at the place of permanent residency.” No one, therefore, can undertake political activity as a Cypriot, he must first identify himself as Turkish or Greek.

The right of residency will also be tied to ethnic origin: “Cyprus may limit the right of Greek nationals to reside in Cyprus if their number has reached 5 percent of the number of resident Cypriot citizens holding Greek Cypriot internal constituent state citizenship status, or the right of Turkish nationals to reside in Cyprus if their number has reached 5 percent of the number of resident Cypriot citizens holding Turkish Cypriot internal constituent state citizenship status.

“…for a transitional period a constituent state may, pursuant to constitutional law, limit the establishment of residence by persons hailing from the other constituent state. To this effect, it may establish a moratorium until the end of the fifth year after entry into force of the Foundation Agreement, after which limitations are permissible if the number of residents hailing from the other constituent state has reached 6 percent of the population of a village or municipality between the 6th and 9th years and 12 percent between the 10th and 14th years and 18 percent of the population of the relevant constituent state thereafter, until the 19th year or Turkey’s accession to the European Union, whichever is earlier. After the second year, no such limitations shall apply to former inhabitants over the age of 65 accompanied by a spouse or sibling, nor to former inhabitants of specified villages.”

In this respect it is important to recall that historically Cyprus was not always divided into a “Turkish north” and a “Greek south.” This first came about as the result of the expulsion and flight of hundreds of thousands from both communities in the 1960s and 1970s. The conflicts at that time were actively encouraged by both the Turkish and Greek governments, and tacitly supported by the US and the “guarantor power”—Great Britain.

Further passages in the Annan Plan stipulate how many seats in both chambers of parliament can be taken up by deputies of different nationalities, and what proportion of votes from both national groups is necessary to arrive at decisions: “Each Chamber shall have 48 members. The Senate shall be composed of an equal number of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The Chamber of Deputies shall be composed in proportion to persons holding internal constituent state citizenship status of each constituent state, provided that each constituent state shall be attributed no less than one-quarter of seats.

“Decisions of parliament shall require the approval of both chambers by simple majority, including one-quarter of voting senators from each constituent state. For specified matters, a special majority of two-fifths of sitting senators from each constituent state shall be required.”

Even more complicated is the regulation regarding the “Presidential Council,” which is to exercise executive powers and will, in practice, have a right of veto in both the subordinate states.

Officially it has been stated that the constitution has been drawn up along the lines of those of Switzerland and Belgium, but in fact it has more in common with that of Bosnia or the Good Friday agreement in Ireland: every citizen will be forced to define himself in terms of a nation determined by race or religion. The nations which have then been determined in this fashion will be played off one against the other—and when necessary kept apart with military force.

Imperialist interests

There are press reports in circulation which state that the US is checking the possibility of sending “peacekeeping troops” to Cyprus. An analysis of the Cyprus situation in the Asia Times states: “Now Washington wants to upgrade its half-century intelligence presence on the island into a full-fledged army base when—and if—the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides agree on reunification. The Pentagon might begin by establishing a ‘bare-bones’ military presence on the eastern Mediterranean island, following the possible reunification of the divided country, according to strategic analysts…

“Using Cyprus as a logistics base would allow the Pentagon more flexibility in planning interventions in the Middle East and give it firmer control over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East, North Africa and the Caspian Sea, especially at a time when Libya’s rehabilitation within the international community is gathering momentum. In addition, it would allow easier supervision of regional sea routes and complement the US presence in Djibouti that guards the southern access point to the Suez Canal, by establishing a presence near the canal’s northern exit.”

An additional factor is that the northern extremity of Cyprus is only 70 kilometres from the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan—the final destination of a US-backed pipeline which begins in Baku on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Two pieces of land in Cyprus—Akrotiri and Dhekalia—have for some time served as British military bases and are in fact under British sovereignty. Akrotiri is one of the biggest British airbases in the world and US intelligence services have been active in Cyprus for decades. From Cyprus the CIA coordinates its activities in Africa and the Middle East and conducts surveillance of Arab radio transmissions.

The Annan Plan not only involves the retention of the British bases, but also preserves the status of Great Britain, the former colonial master of the island, as “guarantor power” alongside Greece and Turkey. A reduction of the Turkish and Greek armies is planned that will mean, in the long term, that the only significant military presence on the island will be American and British.

It is these two countries which bear the main historic responsibility for the sufferings endured by the Turkish and Greek communities.

The British colonial authority on the island reacted to the struggle for independence in the 1950s by deliberately recruiting Turkish Cypriots as reserve police and then employing them against their Greek compatriots. When the Turk nationalist TMT, which had been built up by the Turkish mainland intelligence service, began attacking Greek Cypriots, the British turned a blind eye. The British then went on to tolerate the TMT as it extended its campaign to systematically terrorising the Turkish working class, murdering the leaders of the workers movement and intimidating its members—above all, to prevent all attempts to establish solidarity with Greek workers.

The colonial power was assisted in this respect by the policies of the Stalinist AKEL, which was the biggest single party at that time in Cypriot political life and dominated the trade union movement. Taking up the nationalist battle cry “Enosis” (unity with Greece), the AKEL even went so far as to collaborate with the bastion of reaction on the island—the Orthodox Church.

The most determined protagonist of Enosis was the EOKA, led by Georgios Grivas, a fanatically anticommunist and nationalist army officer who undertook a terrorist campaign against the British, the Greek left and Turkish Cypriots. On the basis of its anticommunism the EOKA received protection and assistance from the US. Until 1967 Washington favoured a “solution” on the basis of Enosis, at the same time allowing Turkey to get a military base on the island. Later, as the strategic value of Turkey grew, it was assured a more extensive role.

It is regarded as highly likely (a number of authors have assembled considerable relevant material) that the right-wing putsch in 1974 (the year of the island’s division), which briefly brought EOKA gangster Nikos Sampson to power, and the subsequent invasion by Turkish troops, received the green light from Washington. In any event, the result was entirely in the interests of the US and Britain: a division of the island between right-wing, chauvinist and anticommunist forces, who were nevertheless pro-Western and prepared to allow effective control to remain in the hands of the two NATO countries.

Cyprus can be free, united and a part of Europe only when working people overcome religious and ethnic barriers, and according to the original ideals of the Cypriot workers movement join together and fight for a socialist Cyprus as part of the United Socialist States of Europe. The Annan Plan must be rejected with a clear “no” vote in the referendum. At the same time, working people must reject all forms of Greek and Turkish chauvinism and demand that all foreign troops be withdrawn from the island and Western military bases closed.


  1. “Cyprus: An Assessment of the Annan Plan–Prospects for a Solution”

    by Professor Van Coufoudakis

  2. It should be noted the vast majority of the voters in the North are not of Cypriot origin. They were actually brought across illegally by the invading force into Cyprus with the aim of demographic change to the island. At the same time, those who were made refugees by the Turkish invasion and who found refuge in other countries, were and are, not allowed to vote

  3. Due to the overwhelming result of the referendum (76%) rejection by the population of the proposed plan, the ongoing negotiations are not only immoral for it mirrors most of the principles of the failed Annan Plan, but skates on the border of illegality as it pays no respect to the wishes of the inhabitants of the Cyprus people.

    It is obvious that a forced application of such a plan would have no chance of a peaceful outcome, in fact it would have the opposite effect

  4. The proposed plan similarly to the rejected plan, is lacking legitimacy, since it is an apartheid style model, which contradicts the principles of international law on which the very foundations of U.N. are based, as are all respected international bodies and courts..

    • International law regulates relationships between states, and international organizations not individual rights, which are the competence of the legislative, executive and judicial authoritiesin in each state. International law comprises agreements based on reciprocity. In general most states pursue peace, justice and co-operation, but this is not the norm between Cyprus and Turkey as you very well know.
      Also, do not forget there are two instances of jurisdiction only. For example, the European Court in Strasburg examines the decision and not the case itself to the decision of which the states undertake to comply.
      Moreover, referring to International Law in an abstract way, does not help at all. One
      should cite, the relevant agreement and the provision which is binding and in what way it is binding and the state or particular organ of the state.

  5. The UN and their representatives are acting illegally and immorally in the case of Cyprus because their proposed ideas and the methods used for promoting them are not based on the rule of international law and do not respect the rules of democracy i.e. the will of the people.

    • The name of the game is ‘state of law': constitution, legality and independent courts plus the principles of representative government, consent and trust. Constitution means protection of individual and citizen rights and the safeguarding of the separation of powers: legislative, executive and judicial. The problem with the UN is that they do not take me and you as concrete persons, as a subjects or bearers of rights and obligations. As you know, slavery was abolished in the US in 1865. In Cyprus it was abolished by the Abolition of Servitude Law passed on December 27 in 1879. Now, if you read this law, and if you apply the provisions of this law, you will instantly have no problem. The law is in force on the basis of Article 188 of the Constitution.

  6. The international body that one would have expected to guarantee freedom and democracy to the Cypriot peoples is the very organisation which threatens their very existence.

  7. The issue is an inter-national and not inter-communal one. Therefore, the negotiations will remain fruitless as long this fact is not addressed. The problem is not taking place between two of the multiple communities living in the republic of Cyprus but between the invading force and the victim i.e. the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus.

  8. Professor Coufoudakis says it all in his comprehensive expose of the Cyprus issue.
    He is correct when he states that the wound remains as the U.N. has shown the inability or the lack of will to act on its own resolutions concerning the problem.

  9. I am very glad to have read Jim Williams’ comment.
    I wish leaders both in Cyprus and Greece could understand this very simple fact and act accordingly.
    Since they obviously fail to do so, I hope that people will force their corrupt and ineffective present government and party mechanisms out of office. The sooner the better!

  10. The professor describes the U.N. as “The Good Offices” of the U.N.

    He does this quite facetiously as there is nothing good about the law disregarding, plan, it wants to hoist on the Cypriot people.

  11. The so called Annan Plan was a crime against humanity. It was a plan devised by the British Foreign Office (over the years, at least following the two bloody Turkish invasions of the island, starting from 16 August 1974 and which culminated with the so called the Annan Plan) with the consent of the American State Department in order to satisfy Turkey over its long standing ambitions to take over Cyprus. The plan was devised in such a way so as to cover all Turkish demands and military requirements in total disregard to the Greek Cypriot refugees and their rights, the Republic of Cyprus and its interests.
    There is no better way to confirm this than the statement made by Turkish journalist (a mouthpiece for the Ankara government) Mehmet Ali Birand. who on Thursday 1st April, 2004 wrote in the Turkish Daily News:

    “Can we imagine any better plan?”.
    In that article he listed 10 reasons the Annan Plan was superb for Turkish ambitions over Cyprus which included the disappearance of the Republic of Cyprus as we know it and replaced by two states one being the so called “TRNC” being recognised internationally. “The Turkish Cypriot state will continue its relations with Turkey, the plan secured the transient existence of Turkish troops on the island, restrictions on the number of Greeks (returning to the now occupied areas), Turks would get rid of 4,000 cases waiting a tthe European Court of Human rights, the Cyprus problem that had been perceived as the biggest obstacle ton Turkey’s way to join the EU would be eliminated…”.
    The Greek Cypriot people were asked to vote whether they accept or reject it and they did.They rejected it overwhelmingly on the 24.4.2004.

    To accept such a plan is a clear cut suicide for the Greek Cypriots on their own land. And treason for those who supported it and insisted in promoting it.
    Let us hope our people will not be put in the same position ever again.

  12. Professor Van Coufoudakis paints a clear picture which, for those of good will, would find it hard not to accept. The fact that this dispute has raged for so many years shows me that the will for fair play and justice to prevail is lacking in this instance. All the meetings and conferences on the subject are useless with this attitude.

  13. Politics and sentiments aside, The Annan Plan was legally flawed in fundamental respects. It contradicted well known and basic principles which go to the core of International and European Law regarding briefly:
    1.the rules regarding peaceful settlements of disputes:
    2.the sovereignty, independence and equality of states:
    3.the prohibition of aggression and the non recogntion of its “rewards” and
    4 the respect for human rights,democracy and the rule of law..
    An objective and scholarly analysis of the Plan and its deficiencies is contained in a paper written by an independent panel of jurists: see
    Any proposals for a solution which are legally defective will not result in a lasting settlement.
    George P Georgiou