Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

Impressions from a second trip to Greek Cyprus

"Where do you come from, madam?" -"From Istanbul."

<ı>"Really! Do you actually live there, madam?" -"Yes."

"How long for" -"More than 10 years""...

""Are you not afraid?" -"Of whom?" -"Of the Turks!"

The conversation went on for a little while along the same lines, all the way from Larnaca airport to Nicosia. It was more or less a conversation that I had had with another taxi driver two years ago when I had visited Cyprus for the first time. Judging from my conversation with the taxi driver of my visit this time, very little had changed since last time I was there; at least regarding the public sentiment toward the Turks; or to be more scientific, regarding the sentiment of Greek Cypriot taxi drivers toward the Turks.

Of course, on paper, a lot had changed. Since February of last year a new administration led by the former general secretary of AKEL, Dimitris Christofias is trying his luck to solve the Cyprus issue. His interlocutor Mehmet Ali Talat is an old friend of his, and the talks have been continuing since then. A lot has been said about the "chemistry" between two. But a lot had been said about the "chemistry" between two previous leaders, too, Clerides and Denktash. They could not manage it.

The enthusiasm and hope that accompanied the election of Christofias has now been replaced by a growing feeling of frustration that the talks are eventually going to hit the wall. The recent Euro-elections saw a significant fall in the votes for Christofias’s AKEL in favor of his main opponent DISY. Greek Cypriots do not believe the optimistic statements that come out of the mouths of their politicians or the government supporting media, which "we are very near a solution." They believe that whatever solution comes along, if indeed there is one, it will be far from their expectations and it may disturb their equilibrium in their southern part.

"This time I got the impression that C.P. Kavafi’s poem "Waiting for the barbarians" might have been written for your island," I said with enough insolence to a Greek Cypriot professor of Political Science, as we were enjoying a wonderful meal of Cypriot "mezes" under the moonlight, in the back yard of an old Nicosia house converted into a restaurant, in the company of over a dozen "Turkey" experts from all over the world, who camer here to attend the conference. I was describing to him how amazing it was for me that the Cyprus issue and consequently the whole society was engaged in the Turkey-bashing syndrome for so long. "What would happen if one day there is no Cyprus issue! How would you cover the vacuum?" I asked the professor who smiled politely no doubt over my disrespectful comment. "We don't think about that," he said and explained that when he was living and teaching abroad he was thinking that it is wrong for his compatriots to invest so much of their energy on the issue.

"But when I came back, gradually I, too, became engaged in that way of thinking. You cannot escape from it. It becomes a way of life," he explained while in the background a Greek Cypriot troubadour was singing a melancholic song by the most famous modern Greek Cypriot song Alkinoos Ioannidis, about the sea and the homeland. I only stayed in Cyprus for two days. But after the first day I, too, felt myself trapped in the Cyprus issue. Not only because I had to explain that mainland Turks have not attacked me, spat at me or terrorized me so far. But also because of a particular urge I felt to put myself in the shoes of Greek Cypriots who, if nothing else, may be the only Greek community still maintaining the most ancient pronunciation forms of the Greek language.

The conference was to be launched by the presidential Commissioner George Iakovou. Instead his aide delivered a speech on his behalf explaining that the Commissioner was called upon urgently by "the President" for another round of talks with Talat. "As you can understand this was a higher priority," he pointed out to us. The common denominator was that there is no solution without Ankara’s green light; whether Ankara wants to light it up, this is debatable. There was nobody from the north. "It is very complicated," I was told. "He would have to go to Ankara, then to Athens, then to Nicosia. He cannot cross the green line directly". Turks born in Turkey and living in the north have to go through that complicated itinerary to reach the south.

Later on the same day, we listened to the news that during that day’s meeting "there was progress. Christofias and Talat are very close to an agreement for the opening of the Limniti roadblock on the southeastern part of Cyprus". It was the 32nd meeting of the two leaders. In Ankara, Erdogan is meeting Eroglu and declares full support to his government. They repeat their positions: two states, two peoples etc. No word from Athens.

Real politics are discussed in cafeterias. In the cafeteria of hour hotel I came across some types I had met two years ago: journalists, academics, lawyers. The prospect of some kind of honorable division is now been discussed as a desperate alternative. Of course, the colonial ghost of Britain is hovering around, as most think that their island is doomed as long as the Brits keep their sovereign base there. For some, though, it is business as usual. A successful lawyer who made his money by keeping the accounts of foreign companies (mainly Russian), confided to me his new business venture: "I have now set up my own de-mining company," he told me. "There is lots of money in that."

My new taxi driver who took me back to Larnaca airport was young and educated. His parents came from the north. "My mother had a hotel called "Nostalgia". The Turks grabbed it and they now operate it under the same name. You see, it is a good name for every language," he told me.

"If there was chance for a solution, what would you like", I asked him. "I would like a good compensation for our hotel and let them keep it. And I want the wall to go," he said.

"But I do not want to lose anything we have managed to build up here after 74. I do not know, perhaps let it stay as it is, madam."
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