The election of Cyprus President Christofias has given a new impetus to attempts to reunify the island, but on what basis?
Recent events do not provide much encouragement to support the hope that any settlement will be consistent with basic international law, the preservation of human rights or in accordance with the fundamental laws of the European Union.
Looking through the divide: Nicosia is the only divided capital city in Europe
|It would be simplicity itself for Turkey to be pressured into withdrawing from occupied Famagusta for example, a confidence building measure if ever there was one
But recently there was hope that a widely anticipated Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UK and the Republic of Cyprus would redress some of these failures. Sadly this optimism has once again been dashed.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the UK and the Republic of Cyprus at the beginning of June 2008. The document makes a number of important sounding statements but what will they mean in practice?
For example both countries commit themselves to working together to reunify the island based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality. But what will this mean in practice? Will it mean that all Greek Cypriot refugees will have the right to return to their properties? Will it mean that all the illegal immigrant colonists imported into Cyprus by Turkey to ethnically re-engineer the demographic composition of the island will be humanely repatriated? If the answer to both questions is “no”, then how can any solution be consistent with UN resolutions and EU principles? And how will such a settlement then be consistent with international law? And if it will not be consistent with international law what makes the US and the UK governments feel there is any likelihood at all of Greek Cypriots supporting such a deal?
| To try to produce any solution incompatible with international law will again be roundly rejected by the Greek Cypriots
The UK declares that it will not support any moves towards the partition of the island or the recognition or upgrading of any separate political entity on the island. It undertakes to continue to inform its citizens on the legal situation prevailing in Cyprus regarding the property issue and relevant European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgments. Does this mean that the British government will publicly state that it is illegal to build on Greek Cypriot owned land in the occupied area? Will property shows selling such property be banned? Will adverts shamefully advertising the occupied north of Cyprus as “unspoilt” be torn down? We doubt it. The truth is that actions speak louder than words. Let’s see what the British government does to inform its citizens about property ownership in occupied Cyprus.
And what about the standard bearer of world freedom, the United States? While Britain and Cyprus were signing up to a memorandum seeking a bizonal federal state, the US, in order to appease Turkey tried to rewrite UN Security Council resolution 1818 to please Turkey. At a Security Council meeting the US permanent representative tried to add the words “constituent states” to the standard “bizonal, bicommunal federation” wording. This was wording that Turkey had wanted to see emerge from the discussions between Christofias and the leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Mehmet Talat as it supported Turkey’s demands for a very loose federation ie a confederation, precisely the constitutional solution that the US fought a civil war to repulse 150 years ago.
Greek Cypriots genuinely wish to see the reunification of the island. But to western eyes the attraction of a solution is primarily in the removal of the main obstacle towards Turkey’s EU aspirations. If this goal is to be achieved then it is essential to get Greek Cypriots to buy into any deal. And that will only be achieved with a solution consistent with international law. To try to produce any solution incompatible with international law will again be roundly rejected.
Accordingly Lobby for Cyprus repeats its demands on behalf of the Greek Cypriot refugees. Cyprus can only be reunited once the 3Rs are met:
• Removal of all Turkish troops
• Repatriation of all Turkish colonists
• Return of all refugees to their homes without restriction or pre-conditions.