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Media Watch 2004

19 February 2004
Source: Cyprus Mail
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 19 February 2004.
Tell us more about the Annan plan
"Cypriots ...are clamouring for information on the Annan plan..."

CYPRIOTS on both sides are clamouring for information on the Annan plan as the reality dawns that there might be a solution to the Cyprus problem within the next five weeks.

Interest in obtaining the plan when it was first handed over by the UN in November 2002 was high, but since talks in New York last week clinched a resumption of negotiations without a ‘get out’ clause, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots want to know what the future looks like.

The most popular version of the plan appears to be the Citizen’s Guide, which was published by the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO) and written by two Turkish Cypriot and two Greek Cypriot academics. The guide spells out in simple terms the implications of the Annan plan, making it accessible to the man in the street.

PRIO spokeswoman Youli Taki said yesterday they had already distributed
10,000 copies on each side, plus 2,000 in English and were entering a new print run to keep up with the current demand. Some will be inserted in Turkish Cypriot newspapers and others will be distributed through bookshops in the south of the island.

“The demand for the booklet just shot up, particularly on the Greek Cypriot side,” Taki said. “What is also evident is that people want objective information. I was surprised that in the end as a group of citizens we have managed to have so much appeal among the people.”

Taki said people were not only asking for the Citizen’s Guide but also The Property Regime under the Annan Plan, a second booklet, which focuses purely on how the property rights of Turkish and Greek Cypriots will be dealt with if the plan is implemented. Taki said 8,000 copies had already been distributed and a second print run was also in the offing if PRIO could secure further funding.

Mete Hatay, one of the two Turkish Cypriots involved in the project, told the Cyprus Mail: “Demand for the book has been very high. The first 10,000 went out straight away, and people are always asking for more.”
Hatay denies the guide is campaigning for the Plan. “What we are providing here is not an advertising service, but an information service. What we wanted was that if a referendum happens people know what they are voting for,” Hatay said, adding that leaving people to wade though 150-odd pages of legalese would have been neither fair nor desirable.

The Citizen’s Guide reduces the Plan to just 48 pages, with each page tackling a different issue, and is boldly illustrated with maps and diagrams.
Hatay added there had been immense interest in the publication from Turkish Cypriot NGOs and in the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot media.

“The Plan is discussed in the media on a daily basis, and Dr Ayla Gurel [the other Turkish Cypriot involved in the project] and myself have appeared on mainstream Turkish television several times to talk about the book. We have also held numerous meetings with NGOs to explain what the book is about.”
Hatay added that the book on property was backed by an interactive website (cyprusdecides.org) that helps citizens understand how they will personally be affected by the Plan’s implementation.

“The site asks questions like, ‘Do you live in a house belonging to someone living in the other component state’. If you answer ‘yes’ you go on to the next question. At the end you should know where you stand,” Hatay explained.

The book and the website site are in Greek, Turkish and English.
Taki said that apart from the interest in the booklets, the PRIO offices had been flooded with phone calls on specific problems as well as requests for PRIO to organise presentations on the plan.

“Since the New York meeting, we have been doing this almost every day,” Taki said, adding their problem now was staffing and finding people who were well informed on the Annan plan but have not taken an active position on it.

“It’s important to us to be able to convey that we are not trying to persuade in favour or against but simply objectively to inform, and people seem to have taken that for granted.

“It’s not only lawyers that can deliver information on the Annan plan. The plan is actually quite understandable by people who have some expertise on the Cyprus problem,” she said.

It’s not only PRIO that is likely to be very busy for the next month as a possible solution draws closer. Many Greek Cypriots have turned to those who were involved in the Cyprus negotiations in the past.

Former government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said he had received numerous calls. He said his party, the United Democrats, would announce a campaign to inform the public on the Annan plan in the next few days; this would include a help line at the party’s offices between 5pm and 7pm, where people could call up and ask questions.

“People who know the (Annan) plan, including myself, will be at the party to receive calls from people who want to put their questions,” Papapetrou said, adding that the party might organise talks and perhaps issue a booklet with questions and answers.

Former Attorney-general Alecos Markides, who was involved in the previous negotiations on the Annan plan, is also in demand.

He said he may launch a series of speeches dealing with aspects of the plan that people could easily understand, but at the moment was busy giving lectures on the plan at various places and appearing on television current affairs programmes.

Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the government would decide in the next few days how to handle the public interest in the Annan plan.

“In any event we shall prepare copies of the plan,” he said. “However, it’s not the final version.”"