THE QUESTION OF CYPRUS: A COMMENT
"Since the events that led to mass displacements – 47 years ago in some cases – many properties have been assigned to new users, sold, destroyed or significantly developed. The two communities have grown apart and established new socio-economic structures in their respective areas, having lived behind closed front lines for nearly two generations and interacted only superficially since crossing points opened in 2003.
“Less than a quarter of Cypriots say they want to return to their old homes”, says Hugh Pope, Crisis Group’s Turkey/Cyprus Project Director. “Both sides should seize the opportunity of the current talks to strike a realistic balance between the right to return with the rights of the current users. Time is only making a property settlement harder”.
The flagging talks could be revived by compromises. Innovative proposals by the Turkish Cypriots deserve careful consideration. A Greek Cypriot proposal to link negotiations on property, territory and settlers could be adapted to become the first stage of a proposal the Turkish Cypriots have made for an international conference on all negotiating topics. The two sides should commission a rapid joint audit of land owned in both parts of the island and an economic impact study of redevelopment proposals.
Regardless of what happens in the negotiations, the Greek Cypriots should make legal provisions for mutually agreed property swaps between displaced owners from both sides. Turkish Cypriots must ensure fairness and transparency in the procedures of the Immovable Property Commission they have created to handle Greek Cypriot claims. Turkey should relaunch and sustain its efforts to assure Greek Cypriots of its commitment to a settlement, including the handing back of property and territory along the lines of previous UN plans.
“The 2011 election cycle sets a practical deadline for the current negotiations over a comprehensive Cyprus settlement”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director, “but the sides should push hard to reach compromises. New flexibility is urgently needed to bridge the positions and thereby demonstrate that the political will still exists to reunify the island”.
"Cyprus: Bridging the Property Divide," The International Crisis Group, 9 December 2010, in www.crisisgroup.org.
"Cyprus is, in truth, an anomaly in the new Europe. Not, however, for reasons Brussels cares to dwell on. This is an EU member-state a large part of which is under long-standing occupation by a foreign army. Behind tanks and artillery, a population of settlers has been planted that is relatively more numerous than the settlers on the West Bank, without a flicker of protest from the Council or Commission. From its territory are further subtracted – not leased, but held in eminent domain – military enclaves three times the size of Guantánamo, under the control of a fellow member of the EU, the United Kingdom....
The result was the catastrophe that shapes Cyprus to this day. In complete command of the skies, Turkish forces seized a bridgehead at Kyrenia, and dropped paratroops further inland. Within three days, the junta had collapsed in Greece and Sampson had quit. After a few weeks’ ceasefire, during which Turkey made clear it had no interest in the treaty whose violation had been the technical grounds for its invasion, but wanted partition forthwith, its generals unleashed an all-out blitz – tanks, jets, artillery and warships – on the now restored legal government of Cyprus. In less than 72 hours, Turkey seized two-fifths of the island, including its most fertile region, up to a predetermined Attila Line running from Morphou Bay to Famagusta. With occupation came ethnic cleansing. Some 180,000 Cypriots – a third of the Greek community – were expelled from their homes, driven across the Attila Line to the south. About 4000 lost their lives, another 12,000 were wounded: equivalent to over 300,000 dead and a million wounded in Britain. Proportionately as many Turkish Cypriots died too, in reprisals. In due course, some 50,000 made their way in the opposite direction, partly in fear, but principally under pressure from the Turkish regime installed in the north, which needed demographic reinforcements and wanted complete separation of the two communities. Nicosia became a Mediterranean Berlin, divided by barbed wire and barricades, for the duration....
The enormity of these arrangements to ‘solve the Cyprus problem, once and for all’, as Annan hailed them, speak for themselves. At their core lies a ratification of ethnic cleansing, of a scale and thoroughness that has been the envy of settler politics in Israel, where Avigdor Lieberman – leader of the far right Yisrael Beiteinu, now the fifth largest party in the Knesset – publicly calls for a ‘Cypriot solution’ on the West Bank, a demand regarded as so extreme that it is disavowed by all his coalition partners. Not only does the plan absolve Turkey from any reparations for decades of occupation and plunder, imposing their cost instead on those who suffered them. It is further in breach of the Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power to introduce settlers into conquered territory. Far from compelling their withdrawal, the plan entrenched their presence: no one ‘will be forced to leave’, in Pfirter’s words. So little did legal norms matter in the conception of the plan, that care was taken to remove its provisions from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice in advance....
In the past, there was no possibility even of raising such principles, given the Turkish military grip on the island. Today, however, what the whole UN process was designed to avert has come to pass. Cyprus possesses a veto over Turkish entry into the EU, and is in a position to force it to pull out its troops, on pain of exclusion. This enormous potential change has been the hidden stake of all the frantic diplomacy of the past years. It is true that a French refusal to admit Turkey to the EU, or a Turkish nationalist decathexis from the EU, might deprive Cyprus of the lever now resting in its hands. But the Western interests vested in Turkish entry, and the Turkish interests – not least those of capital – vested in Western status, are so great that the balance of probability is against either. That does not mean Cyprus will ever use the power it now has. It is a small society, and immense pressures will be brought to bear to ensure that it does not – for the EU, notoriously, referendums are mere paper for reversal. Sometimes small countries defy great powers, but it has become increasingly rare. The more likely outcome remains, in one version or another, the sentence pronounced on another Greek island: ‘The strong do what they can, the weak do what they must.’"
Perry Anderson, "The Divisions of Cyprus," The London Review of Books, 24 April 2008, in www.lrb.co.uk.
"Let the Turks now carry away their abuses in the only possible manner, namely by carrying off themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and their Yuzbachis, the Kaimakams and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province they have desolated and profaned."
William Gladstone, The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East. (1876).
The notification by the International Crisis Group is of a piece of much bien pensant thinking about the question of Cyprus: forget the past (even though it was only just thirty-six years ago), forget the horrors of forced removal & expulsion and cobbled together a settlement so that the European Union can forget the crimes of the Turks and allow Ankara to join the EU as quickly as possible. As the leader writer in the Financial Times recently put it:
"Many states are impatient with the constant Greek Cypriot disruption of EU business on account of the Cyprus dispute. They believe Turkey’s rising geopolitical and economic importance makes it imperative to show Ankara that the EU will not be hostage to the Greek Cypriots for ever. Even Russia, a long-time friend of the Greek Cypriots, is signaling a possible change of course on account of its newly blossoming ties with Turkey. The isolation of the Turkish Cypriots may therefore not last much longer – a point the Greek Cypriots should bear in mind before letting the UN talks fail".1
The fact that the UN's proposed 'settlement' legitimizes the Turks crimes of 1974 et passim, does not appear to merit any interest. The fact of the matter is, that both the Turks and the Turkish minority in Cyrpus have no case to stand on. The former brazenly violated the treaty that Ankara signed in 1964 establishing Cyprus' independence, as well as violated International Law by brazenly invading the defenceless island. Similarly, the Turkish minority in the island is nothing more than Muslim pied noirs. Colonists pur et simple. And I for one do not see any reason to treat them in any way differently than say Algeria treated its non-Algerian minority circa 1962. Tutti quanti...In the case of Cyprus, Gladstone's words of 1876 still fully apply. Scare stories that a failure to 'solve' the Cyprus conundrum in a fashion which will result in endorsing the crimes of the Turks are simply that: scare stories. Turkey's 'pro-European' orientation (such as it is) either has strong internal variables or it does not. If the latter, then irregardless of any favors shown over Cyprus, Turkey will not re-orient its foreign policy, over questions such as say Persia, Israel, Syria, et cetera, to curry favor with Brussels. In short, there is no machtpolitik rationale which requires that the Christian population of Cyprus be betrayed any more than it has been already.2
1. Editorial, “Cyprus endgame.” The Financial Times. 12 November 2010, in www.ft.com.
2. For a well argued, if fatally flawed attempt at linking Turkish foreign and indeed internal policies to success of the EU accession talks, see: Katinka Barysch, "Turkey and the EU: can stalemate be avoided?" Center for European Reform.
17 December 2010, in www.cer.org.uk.