‘Time has come to dream and imagine a new Eastern Mediterranean’

Glafcos Clerides and Shimon Peres: The legacy of two realistic statesmen with a vision for peace.

November 30, 2016 21:11
4 minute read.
PROTESTORS HOLD a Cyprus flag during a demonstration in favor of a peace settlement on divided Cypru

PROTESTORS HOLD a Cyprus flag during a demonstration in favor of a peace settlement on divided Cyprus. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Cyprus problem is, along with the Middle East issue, one of the oldest problems of the United Nations. A solution to the Cyprus problem could very well constitute the beginning of a new Southeastern Mediterranean and the dawn of a new Middle East, a vision shared by visionary statesmen and peacemakers Glafkos Clerides and Shimon Peres.

As the negotiations for the resolution of the Cyprus problem enter a critical phase, the resolve and vision of the late president Shimon Peres in seeking peace with the Palestinians is a source of inspiration for Cypriots.

President Nicos Anastasiades is negotiating in good faith with the Turkish Cypriot leader and a level of understanding has been reached on key aspects of the negotiations such as the economy, EU and governance that allows a ray of hope. Significant progress has also been achieved on the property issue despite the remaining differences. The territory issue has also seen progress. We could potentially be close to seeing the final stretch of this marathon. The finishing line is in sight – but we are not there yet.

In our meeting in Israel on January 13, 2016, Peres wisely assessed that a solution to the Cyprus problem would not only help Cyprus but also the region, and pragmatically concluded that if Turkey does not show concrete will, free from actions binding Cyprus under its hegemony, a solution of the Cyprus problem will not be reached. Indeed the time has come for Turkey’s vocal support of the process toward a viable and lasting solution to be translated into actions that will allow us to reach the finish line.

We support this effort as a means to realizing our vision for our country, while we are aware of the obstacles that still remain. Our vision for a united Cyprus, respecting human rights, with a unified economy, ensuring the four basic freedoms of free movement of persons, capital and goods, and the freedom of establishment.

A united Cyprus will be catalytic to regional cooperation and could well be the beginning of a new era in the region, strengthening the appetite for investment and development. In a post-solution era, Cyprus’s relations with Turkey will change, opening up opportunities for cooperation with a large country with substantial energy needs. This improvement will enable partnerships in energy and the sale of natural gas from the gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean to Turkey.

A reunited Cyprus can serve the role of a pillar of stability and can very well be the link to strengthening ties between the European Union, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

What we need now is courage. Peres was a tough realist. A pillar for the security of the State of Israel, a man committed to protecting Israel, its interests and its people. Equally though, and perhaps more importantly, he was the engine of the peace process and ultimately a warrior of peace. His pragmatism did not obscure his optimism or his confidence.

We are all grateful to him for thinking big and dreaming big, and figuring out practical ways to achieve those dreams.

Similarly, president Glafcos Clerides was a visionary pragmatist. An assertive realist whose long political life ran in tandem with the recent history of Cyprus. A statesman for whom the homeland, Cyprus, was holiest, most honorable and above everything else.

The greatness of men such as Peres and Clerides is rarely recognized in the heat of their careers. Most often it is acknowledged closer to the end of their lives. But their values and principles remain a heritage for the generations to come.

As the leaders engage in the negotiations for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, both societies need to rise to the call of history and be bold. The man who in 1996 knew “we are moving on a road full of dangers but know also this is the right road, the best road, the only road upon which we have to move” during a TedX conference a few months before he passed away, Peres said “The problem is, most of us, prefer to remember rather than to think, dream or imagine.”

I believe we should do exactly this.

Dream and imagine. We learn from the past, but in the end the past is the past.

Our country, our society, our children deserve a future. Many see the future with reservations and skepticism. We choose to view it with optimism and hope.

And we are indeed hopeful for a solution that’s durable and which would create economic opportunities for all the people across the island. Such a solution would assuredly be a powerful and needed example of what’s possible through diplomacy.

The author is a Cypriot politcian and president of the Democratic Rally Party.

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