Pallone: Annan Peace Plan is Basis for Negotiation Not Final Outcome
"Mr. Speaker, last week, peace negotiations finally resumed over the 30-year Cyprus conflict. After reaching the end of the road last March, thanks to what was described at the time by officials close to the negotiations as intransigence on the part of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, the Turkish-Cypriot leader finally agreed to return to the negotiating table with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos. The framework by which the two are now negotiating is a plan written by the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. While the Secretary General's proposal serves as a starting off point, it should by no means serve as the final agreement to finally unify the nation of Cyprus.
"Last year, Mr. Speaker, I visited Cyprus for the first time. And while I believe it is critical for a unified Cyprus to join the European Union later this year, I also believe that the framework agreed to between the two sides must lay the foundation for a democratic government to thrive for many years to come.
"Unfortunately, there are parts of the Annan plan that makes it virtually impossible for an established government to function. In fact, there are sections of the plan that would make the island country less democratic than it was after an agreement imposed against Greek Cypriots during the Cold War back in 1959.
"Mr. Speaker, the Annan plan in my opinion is undemocratic. Under the plan, a parliamentary system would be created with two legislative bodies, a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. The Senate shall be composed of 48 members with a requirement that half of those Members, 24, come from Cyprus and the other half come from the Turkish Cypriot side. Keep in mind that the Turkish Cypriot minority only makes up 18 percent of the islands. The Annan plan gives that 18 percent equal footing with the 82 percent of the Republic of Cyprus population. How is that democratic?
"Then in addition to that in the Chamber of Deputies, the Annan plan says it too shall consist of 48 members elected on a proportional basis, but both the Turkish Cypriot side and the Republic of Cyprus side are guaranteed a minimum of one-fourth of the seats. And the significant advantage for the minority does not end there. The Annan plan states that laws be enacted by a majority vote in each of the houses as long as at least one-fourth of the senators from each of the two component states comprise the majority vote in the Senate. This means that the 18 percent holds a virtual veto over any legislation being passed.
"Mr. Speaker, if we compare the Annan plan to our own government here in the United States, let us say that the Democrats and Republicans each held 50 seats in the Senate, something that actually happened a few years ago. You remember how difficult it was for both sides to govern. If fact, it created a position in which one Republican, Jim Jeffords, actually left the Republican Party in order to become an Independent. Now, if just being 50-50 is not hard enough, imagine if the U.S. Senate could not pass any legislation without one-fourth of the Republican side agreeing with the Democratic side, or vice versa. There is no way we could govern under those conditions.
"How can we expect Cyprus, a country which has been torn apart for almost 30 years, to govern under these same circumstances? I do not mean to be critical of U.N. Secretary Annan. He has done a fantastic job of trying to meet the unrealistic threats of Turkish leader Denktash. Furthermore, the government of Cyprus has consistently agreed to negotiate within the frame of the U.N. proposal.
"The Annan plan is a good draft, but that is all it is. It is critical that not only the United Nations but also the Bush administration and the State Department realize that in its current form the Cyprus government would not be able to govern. These concerns, as well as several others, must be addressed before any real peace agreement can be reached.
"I want to conclude by saying again, the Annan plan was supposed to be a basis for negotiations and everyone agrees that is certainly the case, but it should not be the final outcome. I am afraid that our own administration, the Bush administration, the State Department, are trying to put pressure on the Cyprus government that they have to agree to the Annan plan just the way it is and that no changes can be made. That is not only unfair, but I think it leads to an unworkable situation in the long run. We have to realize that as much as the Annan plan is a good basis for negotiation, it should not be the end result because if it were, I think in the long run it would actually be to the detriment to the future government of a united Cyprus."