Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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28 June 2008
Cyprus and Middle Eastern politics
In November 2007 a protocol was signed between Britain and Turkey, following a visit to London by Turkish PM Erdogan. The protocol maintains a century old tradition of great power Middle Eastern diplomacy, namely making concessions to Turkey at the expense of Hellenic interests.

[Photo caption] Greek Cypriots call for their human rights, a reunited Cyprus and restitution of their lands

[Quotation] The protocol signed by PM Brown was to cajole Turkey to abstain from a military operation in northern Iraq

Back in 1923 at the Lausanne Peace Conference, British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon overcame the demands of Ismet Inonu for Turkish sovereignty over Mosul and its adjacent areas – today’s Iraqi Kurdistan – by conceding to Turkey Eastern Thrace and the islands of Imvros and Tenedos. Oil rich Mosul was far more important to British interests than a strip of land stretching between the Black Sea and the Aegean. 

In 1983 Turkey received further compensation for permitting the US to use base facilities at Incirlik, southeast Turkey. Trouble free, they went ahead and proclaimed a ‘state’ in occupied Cyprus, ignoring UN resolutions declaring this as illegal. 

Since then Britain and the US have studiously avoided troubling Turkey with any suggestion that its behaviour in Cyprus might have violated any principles of international law and decency and have instead turned a blind eye to its continued wrongdoing.

Indeed in 2004 Britain and the US went further than their harshest critics could have imagined, gifting Annan plan version 5 to Turkey in order to persuade it to allow allied troops to enter Saddam’s Iraq from Turkey’s Kurdish, southeast provinces. Turkey refused but even the Turkish Generals admitted that Annan 5 went beyond their expectations, including all their demands and more, making it an extraordinarily biased document serving the interest of all sides (US, UK, Turkey) except of course the Republic of Cyprus and its people. Unsurprisingly it was roundly rejected by the citizens of the Republic in the ensuing referendum.

The memorandum can be viewed in line with the tradition of appeasement, consisting of a new deal between Britain and Turkey over occupied Cyprus, in what has proved a fruitless effort to keep Turkey out of Mosul.

The protocol signed in London called for a strategic partnership by promoting direct commercial, political and economic ties between Britain and the pseudostate in occupied Cyprus. Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus in 1974 in order to bring about strategic partition and to separate the population within clearly defined ethnic zones to establish apartheid on the island. 

As seasoned observers of the Cyprus issue know, the invasion and continuing occupation are not about protecting Turkish Cypriots. This has been used as a pretext to enable Turkey to protect its southern sea and air approaches. Similarly, the protocol signed by Gordon Brown is less about ending the so-called ‘isolation’ of Turkish Cypriots, but rather to cajole Turkey into abstaining from a military operation in northern Iraq. As events show, this policy failed, as it was always fated to, as appeasing aggressors never works.

So why do Britain and the US always turn a blind eye to Turkey’s appalling human rights violations and breaches of international law? Those involved would argue they were putting national interests first. But is that really the consequence of their appeasement?

Britain retains bases on Cyprus, for now at least, but Turkey strengthens its illegal hold on the occupied area and thus increases its bargaining chips in its dealings with the US and other peripheral players such as Israel. This gives Turkey far greater influence in the Middle East and Central Asia than Britain. 

The protocol elevates Turkey to a greater geostrategic importance than Britain in the region. Despite the recent memorandum of understanding between the UK and Cyprus, it deepens the partition of the island. As well as being against Greek Cypriot interests it is against British interests. Paying lip-service to Foreign Office pressure to be nice to Turkey does not constitute an effective foreign policy. Britain’s interests are served by a genuinely united Cyprus, not a divided one. Turkey, by establishing its hold on occupied Cyprus has become a peripheral power to be reckoned with, whereas Britain’s role has contracted to that of a micromanager of regional crises.

The US and Britain do not want Turkey in northern Iraq pursuing PKK guerrillas. This is not simply because they are afraid of a wider conflagration in the Middle East, but because they know that the Turkish army, once in, will never leave, as it would aim to politically organise the region, thus stopping Kurds from achieving statehood by exploiting the oil resources in Kirkuk and Mosul. But the fact of the matter is that Turkey, as in the past, has ignored western interests and invaded northern Iraq to pursue its own political objectives. In doing so it has shown it cannot be trusted by disregarding the protocol and the agreed ‘swap’. 

Perhaps the British government could therefore explain precisely how its continued policy of appeasing Turkey has served British interests.