It was totally unrealistic to have expected the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to have cancelled Monday’s celebrations in the north marking the 41st anniversary of the invasion. Yet some Greek Cypriot commentators and politicians held this against him and used it to question his sincerity and undoubted commitment to a settlement.
This was a grossly unfair criticism of Akinci that calculatingly ignored the political balances he needs to maintain in the north and the pragmatic approach he must follow his relations with the Turkish government. Only as a joke could someone have argued that Akinci should have told President Tayyip Erdogan not to bother visiting Cyprus on Monday, as he had planned, because the annual military parade celebrating the invasion had been cancelled.
The Turkish Cypriot leader, however, repeated during yesterday’s celebrations, what he had said the previous night on Bayrak radio with regard to the invasion. “We may have named it a peace operation, but it was undoubtedly a war.” Responding to Greek Cypriot comments that this was an “admission” he pointed out that this was no admission but the “reality” and he had been saying this every 20th of July.
Of course the view has added weight when it comes from the mouth of the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, on the anniversary of the invasion. President Nicos Anastasiades has also referred to the suffering of the Turkish Cypriots in the sixties, during a public speech, not so long ago. It is important for both sides to acknowledge the pain and suffering they inflicted on the other rather than endlessly argue over who had suffered the most, as has been the case for decades.
Anastasiades and Akinci have, commendably, left the recriminations behind them for good and are focusing on the future. This was the first invasion anniversary which did not feature the hackneyed confrontational rhetoric and exchange of accusations from the leaders of the two communities, the emphasis being on building a better future.
Even Erdogan, during his visit to the north, focused his comments on the “signs that the peace process will be decisively carried out by both sides” adding that “these talks offer an opportunity that should not be missed.” Turkey’s President also expressed the wish the talks would produce a positive result, in his anniversary message, avoiding any reference that would have antagonised the Greek Cypriots.
It is encouraging that even Ankara sees the positive climate created by Akinci and Anastasiades as an opportunity, not to be missed and uses the anniversary of the invasion to stress the point.