The Sunday Times reported on 31 May 1998 that the MoD and Foreign Office are preparing contingency plans for a massive evacuation of the island of Cyprus this summer "because of mounting fears over war in Cyprus"...
The Sunday Times reported on 31 May 1998 that the MoD and Foreign Office are preparing contingency plans for a massive evacuation of the island of Cyprus this summer "because of mounting fears over war in Cyprus". The trigger for such a coflict, says the paper, would be the delivery of Russia's S300 anti-aircraft missiles which Turkey says threatens its security. Putting aside what the Sunday Times says, let us look at the main issues.
Turkey and the 'TRNC', its client 'state' in the occupied north of Cyprus, have repeatedly stated that the disposition of the Russian S-300s in the Republic of Cyprus will be taken as a "casus-belli". This, inspite of the fact that every country in the world has the right to defend itself, and Turkey, currently and illegally, occupies one third of the island with 30,000 troops stationed there!
There are several key points to consider. Firstly, Britain is a guarantor state of the Republic of Cyprus. Its obligations are not only to its own sovereign bases, but to defend the indepedence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the island. If intelligence reports inform the MoD and Foreign Office that Turkey will initiate hostile actions against the Republic of Cyprus in the near future, then the current Labour Government is duty-bound to defend the island and its people. It would be an act of duplicity and hypocrisy for any British Government to sit back and act as a giant Red Cross, evacuating tourists and expatriates, as the rest of the island was engulfed by a hostile power. Britain would be sorely exposed; the events of 1974 cannot be re-enacted.
Secondly, Turkish unease about the disposition of the S-300s is largely trumped up. It would seem that the Turkish military and the Denktash regime are dramatising the military threat of the missiles with the specific purpose of destroying them on the ground before they become operational. But such a military venture is combined with wider strategic and political goals.
Here is the game-plan. The Denktash regime has recently become more obdurate and insistent on it being recognised as an independent and sovereign state. It claims that the Republic of Cyprus cannot represent the entire island inspite of repeated UN Resolutions to the contrary. At the core of DenktashÕs concerns is the land issue: he and the interests he represents know that the refugees have the inalienable human and legal right to reclaim and repossess their stolen lands. Hence, his refusal to come to any negotiated settlement. As long as the refugees threaten to take back what is legally theirs, Denktash and his cronies place one pre-condition and stumbling block after the other as a pretext for effectively disqualifying themselves from the negotiating process.
In order to get around the land/refugee problem, Denktash and his regime believe that by being afforded recognition as a sovereign state, they can retrospectively annul the rights of the refugees and legitimise the theft of 1974. However, it is politically and diplomatically impossible, in light of scores of UN Resolutions that there is but one Cyprus, as represented by the Government of the Republic, to get around this problem by peace-ful and negotiated means. Enter the S-300s.
Here is Denktash's and Turkey's excuse to start fresh hostilities. Denktash and his cohorts visualise the following: allow the S300s to be delivered, knock them out and use this as a flash-point to start a regional conflict. This is why the MoD and Foreign Office are working on contingency plans for a massive evacuation. They know that a Turkish invasion force will follow any air-strike in order to grab further territory of the Republic of Cyprus to be used as a bargaining chip in subsequent negotiations. At such conferences Turkey will press for the permanent division of the island and international recognition of the 'TRNC'. Denktash and the thieves he represents intend to become the 'legitimate' land owners of their stolen booty. This is the game-plan - S300s and 'threats' to Turkey are all about denying the refugees what is theirs and legalising the theft of the land!
The word is out. International piracy has no basis in international law. The Greek Cypriots, the Greeks and their respective diasporas as well as the wider international commun-ity will see through this Turkish scam. The wrath of world opinion will be aroused should Turkey make any attempts to re-invade the island of Cyprus. The standing of TurkeyÕs relations with the EU will be brought to an all time low.
NATO allies must be disconcerted that at a time of an expanding NATO role in Europe, two of its member states (Greece and Turkey) should be set for a major confrontation that threatens to get out of hand. Cyprus could ignite the Aegean... and much else. Turkey, a non-EU state, could be threatening the territory and sovereignty of an EU member state - Greece.
Britain and the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, must be reminded of their responsibilities to Cyprus ie evacuating island inhabitants and tourists does not acquit Britain of its legal and moral responsibilities to protect Cyprus. Mr Blair must, given the dangers he has been warned of, ensure that he and other heads of government act to prevent further Turkish aggression.
Washington must tell Turkey's Chief of General Staff, General Ismail Hakki Karadayi, when he travels to the US on 14 July for a week long stay to discuss foreign and strategic policy matters, that renewed hostilities against Cyprus and regional conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean are in no one's interests.
Washington and London have the power to be the peacemakers with whichever weapon they choose - the stick or the carrot!