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Media Watch 2004

20 February 2004
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Philippos Stylianou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 20 February 2004.
Talks process draws fierce criticism
"...the masses of the Cypriot people would be asked to vote on a huge document of 600-700 pages, which they had neither the time nor the ability to study and understand fully..."

THE procedure agreed in New York on February 13 for the resumption of the Cyprus talks on the basis of the Annan plan has drawn fierce criticism from opponents of the plan in the island’s free areas.

The attacks centre on the Cyprus Government’s commitment to accept an arbitration role by the UN Secretary General in finalising the text of the agreement if the two sides fail to do so by 29 March, and to submit it to simultaneous separate referenda before May 1. The express involvement of Greece and Turkey in the talks for a week has also been seen as a negative development.

Ruling Diko MP and outspoken critic of the Annan plan Andreas Angelides said the legal premise of holding the proposed referendum in the Government controlled areas was not quite clear, as there was no provision for it in the Constitution.

He told the Cyprus Weekly that, despite a 1985 Supreme Court ruling that anything pertaining to the Cyprus problem could be dealt outside the Constitution, holding such a referendum as contained in the Annan plan still raised a fundamental constitutional issue.

“This referendum provides for the dissolution of the Republic of Cyprus, which the President, his Ministers, the House of Representatives and the Attorney General have taken an oath to protect,” he emphasised and expressed surprise at the indifference shown by the Attorney General in particular.

Asked if the holding of the Annan referendum could be challenged in any way, Angelides, who is an administrative law expert and a member of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, said the Constitution could still be used as a safety valve.

He added that there were other means available as well, but declined to elaborate.

Ruled out
A highly-placed government source, however, ruled out any possibility of legally challenging the legitimacy of the referendum, though admitting the Government had not delved into the constitutional questions raised.

Lawyer Achilleas Aimilianides, co-author of a book on the Annan plan, sees adverse effects from the referenda even if they fail to endorse the Annan Plan.

Speaking to The Cyprus Weekly from London, where he is pursuing post-graduate studies, Aimilianides said the very fact that the Turkish Cypriots would be conducting a separate referendum could amount to a separate exercise of the right of self-determination.

“If nothing comes of the referenda, Ankara could still use this in seeking international recognition for the illegal occupation regime,” Aimilianides said, noting that only states recognised by international law could carry out a valid referendum.

He also warned that, as envisaged, the referendum in the occupied areas gave a voting right to all the mainland Turkish settlers, making it more difficult to have any of them removed in case of a solution being reached.

Commenting on Greece and Turkey joining the talks at a particular stage, Aimilianides said this introduced indirectly the notion of “protector states” into the proposed new state of affairs in Cyprus.

“Considering that the effort to solve the Cyprus problem had all along been based on the need to create a new Cypriot identity, the official involvement of the ‘mother countries’ is a mighty contradiction,” Aimilianides said.

Cyprus University constitutional law professor Savvas Papasavvas said it would be rather far-fetched to claim that holding a referendum separately in a specific context gave the Turkish Cypriots a separate right to self-determination.

Huge document
He said what was of more serious concern was the fact that the masses of the Cypriot people would be asked to vote on a huge document of 600-700 pages, which they had neither the time nor the ability to study and understand fully.

“How can the popular will be expressed satisfactorily under such circumstances, this is the real question?” Papasavvas, also the author of a book on the Annan plan, asked.

He also stressed that if the Turkish Government did not honour its commitment to the UN Secretary General to come to an agreement on the defence issue with Greece, the Greek Cypriot side should consider itself not bound to hold the referendum.

“This is an issue of crucial importance cutting through the whole arrangement and should be treated as such,” Papasavvas said."