Cablegate: Greek Cypriot Enclaves in the North: Hanging by A

DE RUEHNC #2049/01 3541544
P 201544Z DEC 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On December 14, political section staff
joined United Nations civil affairs personnel on one of
their weekly monitoring visits to the enclaved Greek
Cypriot community on the Turkish Cypriot-administered
Karpass peninsula. Embassy officers accompanied UNFICYP
personnel on two home visits before observing the delivery
of Christmas gifts to the Greek Cypriot school in the town
of Rizokarpasso. While the 300-odd Greek Cypriots of
Karpass continue to live in challenging conditions -- and
face some difficulties in their relationship with the
Turkish Cypriot authorities -- the opening of this school
(the first Greek Cypriot secondary school to operate in the
north since the 1974 war) has marked an important
improvement in the lot of the enclaved. Although the fate
of this aging, dwindling community is an open question, the
continued support they receive from the GOC and the UN --
as well as the comparatively accommodating stance of the
post-Denktash "TRNC" -- suggests that this community stands
a better chance of long-term survival than at any time
since 1974. END SUMMARY.


2. (U) In the wake of the 1974 war, a large and
comprehensive population transfer took place, with all but
a small number of Turkish Cypriots moving north, and all
but a few Greek Cypriots and Maronites fleeing to the
Government of Cyprus-controlled south. Those who remained
behind are commonly referred to as "enclaved." Their
numbers have dwindled significantly over the past 30
years. Today, approximately 500 Turkish Cypriots remain in
the south (mainly around Limassol), while approximately 300
Greek Cypriots and 150 Maronites live in the north. The
Greek Cypriot enclaved are concentrated in three villages
on the Karpass Peninsula at the northeastern tip of the
island: Leonarisso (Ziyamet in Turkish), Agias Trias
(Sipahi), and Rizokarpasso (Dipkarpaz).

3. (U) The enclaved in the north make up less than 0.2 per
cent of the population of the "TRNC," but their political
significance has always outweighed their numerical
strength. During the 30-year reign of Turkish Cypriot
strongman Rauf Denktash, the "TRNC" took a fairly
aggressive stance toward the enclaved, denying them
schooling, hampering their religious life, and making
economic activity difficult. This policy of persistent
harassment lead to the gradual shrinking of the enclaved
populations in Karpass, as well as the outright
disappearance of Greek Cypriot life from towns like
Bellapais -- where an enclaved community that had held on
for some years after 1974 eventually pulled up stakes and
fled south. Those that remain today in Karpass are, with a
few notable exceptions, elderly and completely reliant on
the GOC for support. For its part, the GOC remains
committed to the material and financial upkeep of enclaved
Greek Cypriots, as a symbol that the division of the island
is not an acceptable or permanent state of affairs.


4. (U) Under the terms of the 1975 Vienna III Agreement,
civil affairs officers from the United Nations Peacekeeping
Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) monitor the condition of the
enclaved in the north, facilitate medical care, deliver
supplies money provided through the Red Cross by the GOC
(pension payments and the like, usually in cash), and
informally seek to resolve disputes involving the enclaved,
their Turkish Cypriot neighbors, and "TRNC" officials.
Accordingly, UNFICYP conducts regular weekly patrols to the
Karpass region, visiting the designated Greek Cypriot
spokespersons in each of the three villages and making
informal home visits. UN convoys also visit the enclaved
Maronites in the northwest every fortnight.

5. (U) To facilitate their monitoring and assistance
activities, UN civilian police (CIVPOL) maintain a post in
Leonarisso, normally manned by two officers (currently, one
cop each from India and the Netherlands). On December 14,
poloffs joined a small UNFICYP convoy, which called on this
liaison post before setting off to visit Greek Cypriots in
the three enclaved villages. The situation of the enclaved
in each village is different, but each settlement
nonetheless highlights some of the common challenges faced
by all Greek Cypriots residing in the north.


6. (SBU) Leonarisso, which is some 100 kilometers from

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Nicosia, is the site of both the UNFICYP liaison post and
the smallest enclaved community. Of the 200-odd residents
of the town, who are both Turkish Cypriots and Anatolian
"settlers," only four are Greek Cypriot. (COMMENT: A local
cop from the "political bureau" of the "TRNC" police --
whose job was apparently both to monitor the UN convoy and
to relay their questions and requests back to Turkish
Cypriot authorities -- joined the convoy in Leonarisso and
stayed with us throughout the day. He was a visible, but
fairly unobtrusive, presence, and seemed to have an easy
rapport with the enclaved we visited. END COMMENT.) Even
though the liaison post gave the impression that neither
life nor work was too hectic for the UN in or around the
village, it was quite clear from the convoy's home visit to
Leonarisso enclaved spokesperson Panayiota Kananka that the
seriousness of problems faced by the enclaved are in
inverse proportion to the size of their community.

7. (SBU) Ms. Kananka, the youngest of the four elderly,
frail and isolated Leonarisso enclaved, greeted the UN
delegation in her small, drafty, mud-and-wood home (which
had electricity but no indoor plumbing, and was filled with
decades-old family photos, religious memorabilia, and the
bed of her invalid mother who had died some months
previously). She rattled off a series of complaints
suggesting that life in the village was very difficult.
Although some of her complaints would probably have been
echoed by her poverty-stricken Turkish Cypriot neighbors,
she also highlighted several problems that were clearly
particular to the enclaved. Totally dependent on the
Government of Cyprus for supplies and financial aid (and on
the UN for delivery), Kananka reported that she had been
the victim of theft several times; robbers had made off
with a significant amount of assistance cash she had
squirreled away in her cupboard, while "gypsies" had cut
down some olive trees on a plot of land she worked for
extra cash -- presumably making off with the logs for
firewood. This, noted the "TRNC" cop, was a common
complaint made by villagers from both communities.

8. (SBU) Although Kananka did make a somewhat cheerful
remark in Turkish that "Talat is OK!", it was clear that
ethnically-tinged friction continued between her and the
Turkish Cypriot authorities. She complained to the UN that
the "government's" road upgrading scheme had not included
the paving of a 40-meter lane leading to the Greek Cypriot
cemetery outside of town. This prompted an indignant reply
from the Turkish Cypriot cop, who claimed that this was the
first he had heard of Kananka's complaint -- and who
accused her of making a show by raising the issue with the
UN before even approaching the local authorities with her

9. (SBU) Kananka also updated the UN on her continued
dispute with the local muhktar (village mayor) over the
town's church. The church, which had been used for Muslim
worship for years (a hand-made metal minaret top was still
perched awkwardly on top of the steeple), was reopened for
Orthodox prayer after a brand new mosque was built nearby
four years ago. A dispute erupted, however, between
Kananka and the village mukhtar over control of the keys to
the building, and the authorities reportedly closed the
church and began using it for agricultural storage in
retaliation. Although the Talat administration has since
cleaned the building, the mukhtar still holds the keys.

10. (SBU) According to CIVPOL, the UN has repeatedly
intervened in the matter, and even gained assurances from
"TRNC" officials in Nicosia that the keys would be handed
over to Kananka. But local officials in the town claim
that they have not been authorized "by the state" to
surrender control of access to this "cultural heritage
site," although they reportedly assure the UN that the
enclaved may still have access to the church for prayer at
any time. (UNFICYP personnel commented to us that the
deadlock smacked of a personal war of wills between the
tenacious Kananka and stubborn local authorities.
Nonetheless, they felt her request to have custody of the
keys was a reasonable one, and said they would continue to
press for this. Deputy Chief Civil Affairs Samba Sane told
us that UNFICYP might seek Embassy intervention with
high-level "TRNC" officials if their efforts to resolve the
dispute continue to be unsuccessful.)


11. (SBU) The patrol then proceeded to the village of Agias
Trias, which is some 20 or so kilometers past Leonarisso.
The village consists primarily of mainland Turkish settlers
(approximately 900, according to one UN estimate) but also

NICOSIA 00002049 003 OF 004

hosts an enclaved community of 85 Greek Cypriots. The
enclaved of Agias Trias are clearly in better shape than
the beleaguered shut-ins of Leonarisso. A larger
community, they are less isolated and have a more vibrant
community life. The convoy called on spokesperson Savvas
Liasi in his home. Mr. Liasi, a spry and gregarious man in
his mid-80s, complained about his health (he had traveled
to the south for medical treatment on several occasions)
but said that, by and large, the situation in the village
was "pretty much okay."

12. (U) Coincidentally visiting on the name day of the
patron saint of a neighboring village, UN officials also
spoke briefly with Father Zaharias, the Orthodox priest who
has ministered to the enclaved (spending alternate weeks in
Agias Trias and Rizokarpasso) since being allowed entry to
the "TRNC" after the end of the Denktash regime. Zaharias
conducts services in all three of the Karpass churches
currently in operation (as well as at a fourth, which
Turkish Cypriot authorities have not officially opened, but
is nonetheless used in practice without special
arrangement). Offering an almond-and-pomegranate dish made
especially for the saint's day, Liasi and his wife recalled
their as-yet-unanswered request that Turkish Cypriot
officials allow the assignment of a second priest to take
up some of the slack. The first candidate, who had been
named by the Government of Cyprus, withdrew from
consideration "for personal reasons," while a second one
was rejected by Turkish Cypriot authorities for making
allegedly "nationalistic" comments.

13. (SBU) Although Liasi was visibly happier and more
prosperous than Kananka (he joked with the Turkish Cypriot
cop who accompanied the patrol and stressed to us that the
villagers got on quite well with their neighbors, learning
each other's languages and interacting freely) the Greek
Cypriots of Agias Trias face the same demographic pressures
that threaten the Leonarissa enclaved. While more
numerous, Agias Trias's villagers are still comparatively
old, since nearly all of the town's children moved south
long ago in search of education, jobs, and marriage
prospects. The village's only wedding in recent memory had
taken place a few months earlier, between a local woman in
her sixties and a former resident (now living in the south)
who was at least as old. Even if Turkish Cypriot
authorities respond positively to the new husband's request
for permission to reside in the village permanently (he can
now visit on a "tourist visa" for 90 days at a time), it
still seems likely that Greek Cypriot life in Agias Trias
will slowly fade away as the residents die off.


14. (U) The patrol's final stop was Rizokarpasso, home to
the largest community of enclaved -- approximately 270
Greek Cypriots living among 2000 or so Turkish settlers in
the Karpass peninsula's principal town. UNFICYP personnel
visited the secondary school in the town and chatted with
the headmaster and his staff, since the local spokesman for
the enclaved had gone south that day for medical
treatment. They also delivered Christmas gifts for local
primary school students, courtesy of the GOC.

15. (SBU) The enclaved community of Rizokarpasso is
relatively prosperous and far less isolated than the
communities of Leonarissa and Agias Trias. Greek Cypriots
there reportedly mingle freely with their settler
neighbors, and enjoy reasonably good relations with local
officials (who provide free clinic-style medical care and
look the other way when the enclaved regularly fail to pay
their utility bills). According to the secondary school
principal, there was also a modicum of economic activity
(with some Greek Cypriots tending goats, growing olives, or
operating the occasional restaurant and coffee shop), even
though relying on transfer payments from the government was
still the "easiest option" for most of the town's enclaved.

16. (SBU) There is also some embryonic political life in
Rizokarpasso, with enclaved Greek Cypriots seeking to elect
their own muhktar in ROC local elections December 17. The
headmaster noted that the current Greek Cypriot muhktar (as
opposed to the Turkish Cypriot mayor who actually governed
the town from the local city hall) lived in exile in the
south, having been elected thanks to the support of
Rizokarpasso refugees in the government-controlled areas.
For the first time, however, a local man was standing for
election. Rizokarpasso's enclaved were hoping he would win
out over the exiled candidate, so that their municipal
leader (and their main advocate with GOC authorities) would
be "closer" to the enclaved and their day-to-day concerns.

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(On December 17, the Larnaca-based mukhtar was reelected --
no doubt a disappointment for the enclaved still residing
in the town.)

17. (U) Key to Rizokarpasso's comparative vitality,
however, were the children and their school -- the only
educational institution serving Greek Cypriots in the
north. According to school officials, the town's Greek
Cypriot population fell from a high of over 3,000 in the
1974 to its current level of 270 thanks in large part to
Turkish Cypriot authorities' refusal to allow the opening
of a secondary school for the enclaved. Prior to 2005,
when the Talat administration reversed years of Denktashian
intransigence and gave permission for a secondary school,
children regularly went south for any education beyond the
primary level. They rarely returned.

18. (U) Although there were several months of disagreement
and posturing between GOC and Turkish Cypriot officials
(involving disputes over which "sovereign" entity should
pay for the school, the content of textbooks, and the
political proclivities of the teachers sent from the south
to teach there), the headmaster told the UN patrol that the
school was "now fully functioning, fully staffed, and fully
equipped." Indeed, the teacher-to-student ratio at
Rizokarpasso schools (to which 20 teachers commute from the
south to work with 27 secondary students, 15 primary
students, and 13 nursery school kids) compares favorably to
that of the government-controlled areas. The facility
appeared clean, modern, and well-equipped with computers,
musical instruments, books, and so forth.


19. (SBU) Although New York has reportedly raised serious
questions about the wisdom of continued UN support for the
enclaved since the opening of the Green Line in 2003
(liability issues associated with the delivery of large
cash payments from the government are a particular concern
now that the enclaved have more regular access to banks),
UNFICYP will likely insist on continuing to visit and
provision the Greek Cypriots of Karpass. Access to Karpass
was a hard-won concession, and UN officials tell us that
they do not want to abdicate their patrolling rights in the
area lest the political situation deteriorate in the
future. Moreover, in the absence of direct and pragmatic
contact between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot
officials, the UN remains the only force that can advocate
for the enclaved with the Turkish Cypriot authorities when
something goes wrong -- as it inevitably does. UNFICYP's
quiet presence is probably vital to the continued correct
(if not cordial) relations between the enclaved and their
Turkish Cypriot neighbors.

20. (SBU) For its part, the Government of Cyprus seems
certain to continue its financial and logistical support of
the enclaved, regardless of the cost. A commitment to the
survival of Greek Cypriots caught "under occupation" is
something on which no Greek Cypriot leader could
politically afford to waiver. Furthermore, cutting support
for supply runs (even unnecessary ones) would lend credence
to the politically unacceptable idea that the division of
the island has somehow become normal.

21. (SBU) It is an open question whether Greek Cypriot life
in the Karpass can endure in the long run. For the elderly
shut-ins of Leonarisso, the odds of survival past the next
few years are pretty slim. If current trends continue,
even the more vibrant pensioners of Agias Trias will also
eventually dwindle away. Nonetheless, there is hope for
the comparatively sizable and young population of
Rizokarpasso, thanks to the continued support of the GOC
and UN -- and to the quiet change in Turkish Cypriot
attitude that came about when Talat replaced Denktash.
Although low-level friction may continue (as it does over
the church keys of Leonarisso), the current Turkish Cypriot
administration has made -- and so far stuck to -- a
strategic choice. Where Denktash actively sought to choke
out the enclaved through outright harassment and subtle
demographic pressure, the Talat administration (albeit
after much haggling) has eased up, allowing the opening of
a school and the assignment of a priest. This could open
the door to a modest demographic and religious bounce-back
for Greek Cypriots in Karpass. But, as Liaisi stressed
when he took poloff aside and begged the USG to "keep
working for a solution," a real renaissance of
mixed-village harmony in Cyprus is unlikely absent a
comprehensive political solution. END COMMENT.


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