- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2012

An opinion column by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, about Cyprus (“Time for Turkey to leave Cyprus in peace,” Commentary, June 18) ignores that at the heart of the decades-long conflict on the Island is the well-demonstrated reluctance of Greek Cypriots to acknowledge the equal and inherent rights of Turkish Cypriots as co-owners and co-founders of the Partnership State established in 1960.

In late 1963, Greek Cypriots violated the partnership agreement and forcibly hijacked the binational republic to make it a solely Greek Cypriot administration. They drove Turkish Cypriots out of all state institutions and from the island. Between December 1963 and February 1964, thousands of Turkish Cypriots were killed or wounded by their Greek neighbors, more than 100 Turkish Cypriot villages were destroyed, and nearly 75 percent of Turkish Cypriots became refugees in their own country.

A decade later, a military junta in Greece attempted to overthrow the Greek Cypriot government and annex the island. In full compliance with the founding treaties of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey intervened, saving Turkish Cypriots from annihilation and bringing peace and stability to the island.

After years of futile attempts to end the conflict, both sides of the island voted in a 2004 referendum on the U.N. Comprehensive Settlement Plan (or Annan Plan), which the United States, Britain, U.N. and European Union supported as the best opportunity in a long time to bring about a solution. Turkish Cypriots voted overwhelming for the plan, even as it called on them to make difficult compromises. Greek Cypriots just as resoundingly rejected it. Ironically, Greek Cypriots were subsequently awarded with EU membership, which gave them a stronger political platform to block and evade a settlement at every turn.

The even bigger irony is that a resolution of the longstanding disagreement over Cyprus is entirely achievable, as long as the parties on both sides of the island and the international community dedicate themselves to active engagement and equal justice for all the inhabitants. Turkish Cypriots have demonstrated many times their commitment to such a resolution. What’s missing is a partner willing to do the same.

NAMIK TAN

Ambassador, Republic of Turkey

Washington