Cyprus town’s fu­ture hangs in talks bal­ance

Orange-grow­ing cen­tre will be a core dis­pute

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MOR­PHOU: When Greek- and Turk­ish-Cypriot lead­ers meet for land-for-peace talks to­day aimed at end­ing the is­land’s decades-old di­vi­sion, the fu­ture of a famed orange-grow­ing cen­tre will be a core dis­pute. A coun­try town in a sea of or­chards near the is­land’s north coast, Mor­phou once had an al­most en­tirely Greek Cypriot pop­u­la­tion who still hold ti­tle deeds to its rich farm­land.

Now named Guze­lyurt in Turk­ish, it is home to around 18,000 Turk­ish Cypri­ots, some of whom have lived here for more than four decades. It was in the early hours of Au­gust 14, 1974, that ev­ery­thing changed. Turk­ish troops were on the move. “It was sum­mer. We used to sleep with the win­dows open,” said Ou­ra­nia Peletie, who was 18 at the time. “I heard a noise. I woke up and looked out­side and the sky was full of aero­planes. I woke my fa­ther. We picked up a few things. In 10 min­utes, we got into the car and left.”

The Turk­ish in­va­sion was the cul­mi­na­tion of years of vi­o­lence be­tween the is­land’s Greek and Turk­ish com­mu­ni­ties in which hun­dreds of peo­ple were killed. It left Turkey in con­trol of 36 per­cent of the is­land-in­clud­ing Mor­phou. For Peletie, it spelt an ex­ile from her home­town that con­tin­ues to this day. She fled with her fam­ily to the is­land’s sec­ond city Li­mas­sol, and later moved to the cap­i­tal Ni­cosia, where to­day she works as an ad­min­is­tra­tive man­ager at a law firm.

‘My home’

She is also an elected mem­ber of Mor­phou’s town coun­cil in ex­ile. She hopes that this week’s talks will re­sult in a deal that brings the Mor­phou area un­der Greek Cypriot con­trol. Sit­ting in the coun­cil’s of­fices on the Greek Cypriot side of the di­vided cap­i­tal, Peletie showed AFP large mono­chrome pic­tures from the town’s orange fes­ti­vals be­fore 1974. She said most Greek Cypri­ots from Mor­phou wanted to re­turn to their homes. “If Mor­phou is re­turned I will def­i­nitely go back. I have a house in Ni­cosia. But my home is in Mor­phou,” she said. It has al­ways been agreed that some of the ter­ri­tory cur­rently con­trolled by the Turk­ish Cypri­ots will be ceded to Greek Cypriot con­trol in any peace deal. Turk­ish Cypri­ots made up just 18 per­cent of the is­land’s pop­u­la­tion in 1974 but they cur­rently con­trol more than a third of its ter­ri­tory. It is an is­sue for Greek Cypriot leader Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades and his Turk­ish Cypriot coun­ter­part Mustafa Ak­inci to thrash out in five days of in­ten­sive talks in Switzer­land this week. Anas­tasi­ades’s gov­ern­ment has said re­peat­edly that Mor­phou must be re­turned to Greek Cypriot rule un­der any peace deal. But that would spell new dis­place­ment for the Turk­ish Cypri­ots who cur­rently live in the town, many of whom are them­selves refugees from other parts of the is­land. Ra­madan Kan­dulu says he never chose to move to Mor­phou. In 1974, he and his fu­ture wife, Gonul, were liv­ing in Kan­tou, a vil­lage near Li­mas­sol.

When Greek Cypriot fight­ers oc­cu­pied their Turk­ish-ma­jor­ity vil­lage, Ra­madan’s fam­ily fled to a nearby Bri­tish mil­i­tary base. Gonul’s soon fol­lowed. “We were go­ing to get en­gaged in Au­gust. We had built a new house in Kan­tou,” he said. “We left ev­ery­thing there.” Ra­madan headed to the Turk­ish-oc­cu­pied north, where au­thor­i­ties gave him an aban­doned Greek Cypri­otowned house in Zodeia, a vil­lage just out­side Mor­phou known as Bostanci in Turk­ish. He said it was empty and dirty. To­day, it is a neat three­bed­room house with walls cov­ered in fam­ily pho­tos.

‘We also had land’

Gonul’s fam­ily was given a house in Mor­phou and a nearby or­chard-both the prop­erty of dis­placed Greek Cypri­ots. A UN sol­dier de­liv­ered Gonul’s wed­ding dress, which she had aban­doned when she left the south. In 1975, the cou­ple were mar­ried. Ra­madan, 70, a re­tired ac­coun­tant, tends thou­sands of orange and pome­gran­ate trees in the nearby or­chard Gonul in­her­ited from her par­ents. He said most towns­peo­ple would re­ject any agree­ment that would re­turn Mor­phou to Greek Cypriot con­trol.

“Over such a long time peo­ple have set­tled and or­gan­ised their lives here,” he said. “I know it’s hard for [refugees from 1974], it was their prop­erty, but this is­sue should be solved with com­pen­sa­tion. We also had land we left in the south.” Un­der a peace blue­print drawn up by UN me­di­a­tors in 2003, Mor­phou would have been handed over to Greek Cypriot ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The plan was ap­proved by Turk­ish Cypriot vot­ers but Greek Cypriot vot­ers over­whelm­ingly re­jected it. At­ti­tudes have since hard­ened. Si­nasi Ozdes, spokesman for a res­i­dents’ cam­paign group, the Guze­lyurt Civil So­ci­ety Plat­form, said he ac­cepted there would have to be ter­ri­to­rial con­ces­sions in any peace deal but would vote against any agree­ment that sur­ren­dered con­trol of the town. “We’re go­ing to give some­thing-but not Mor­phou,” he said.


MOR­PHOU: A man walks past the Greek Ortho­dox church of Saint Ma­mas in the town of Mor­phou in the self-pro­claimed Turk­ish Repub­lic of North­ern Cyprus.

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