Cyprus and the Alliance of Civilizations

Now it is time to act and do something both concrete and symbolic. The UN, EU, Turkey and Greece can come together and agree on ending the isolation of the KKTC as part of the Alliance of Civilizations project.

Cyprus and the Alliance of Civilizations
By İbrahim Kalın, Today's Zaman

For those who are serious about the United Nations Alliance of Civilization initiative chaired by the prime ministers of Turkey and Spain, I have a suggestion: Give a new start to the initiative by lifting the sanctions on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). This will send a powerful message to the Turkish people as well as other Muslim countries that the Europeans and Americans are serious about improving their relations with the Islamic world.

Last week, the Islamic Conference Youth Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation (ICFY) held its first international advisory board meeting in Kyrene/Girne, northern Cyprus. The theme of the meeting was "Youth for the Alliance of Civilizations." The meeting was opened by a keynote address by Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Turgay Avci, who emphasized the significance of the fact that such a meeting was taking place in northern Cyprus. He also reiterated the Turkish Cypriot people's will to help create a united island and integrate with the rest of the world.

Representatives from Tunisia, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Tatarstan and the United Nations attended the meeting. Ali Sarıkaya, the president of ICYF, talked about their efforts to get the youth involved in the alliance of civilizations project. He also gave an outline of the youth camp ICYF is going to hold in Baku, Azerbaijan, at the end of October with 45 young people from Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member states, EU countries and non-OIC member states of South Asia.

For a number of years, the Turkish Cypriots of northern Cyprus have been unjustly isolated from the rest of the world. They cannot sell their products to outside markets. They cannot travel freely. They are not recognized by European countries and others as an equal nation. Besides political and territorial issues, fairness is the heart of the matter.

When in 2004 the Greek Cypriot side rejected the Annan plan to unite the island and put in place a kind of federal political system, the whole world was in shock. Both Turkey and the KKTC felt betrayed. Turkey made important concessions and the EU made promises to solve the Cyprus problem. Instead, the EU rewarded the Greek Cypriot side by accepting it into the EU as a full member with a veto power and punished the Turkish side by imposing sanctions and isolation on the KKTC.

Before the Annan plan, the Turkish side was accused of cessation aspirations and presented as the main obstacle to the unification of the island. But the Turkish Cypriots changed their positions and supported the idea of a unified island with equal rights and responsibilities. An historic opportunity was lost when the Greek Cypriots rejected the plan and made it clear that they don't consider the Turkish side as their equals.

After the rejection of the plan, however, something unexpected happened. Thanks to the relentless efforts of the Turkish government and the secretary-general of the OIC, the KKTC received a warm welcome at the OIC. Since 2004, many OIC member countries have been improving their relations with northern Cyprus. They are giving the Turkish Cypriot people the fair treatment they deserve but do not get from EU countries.

Cyprus is now the main political obstacle before Turkey's EU membership. A political settlement to the problem is possible. If there is a will, there is a way. But before putting a new plan on the table, many things can be done to end the de facto isolation of the Turkish Cypriot people.

The UN Alliance of Civilizations, chaired by Turkey and Spain, is an important project to ease tensions between Western and Islamic societies. The report of the High Level Group was released last year and welcomed by all as a positive step to bring Islamic and Western civilizations closer. Now it is time to act and do something both concrete and symbolic. The UN, EU, Turkey and Greece can come together and agree on ending the isolation of the KKTC as part of the Alliance of Civilizations project. Uniting the only divided island in the world would be a significant step in proving Mr. Huntington wrong once more.
Last Mod: 23 Ağustos 2007, 09:34
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