Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Professor Clement Dodd, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

  I must apologise that, having been away, and also unwell, I had not noticed that the Foreign Affairs Committee has decided to examine UK policy towards Cyprus. If my comments could be added to those of others, even at this late hour, I should be most grateful. I shall concentrate on each of the Committee's queries, as follows.

  1.  There would seem to be little profit in persisting with the Annan Plan. Although it was supported by 65% of the North's voters, it is clear, as the UN Secretary-General has admitted, that it was largely a vote for EU membership. It was opposed by the right-of-centre nationalist National Unity Party mainly on the grounds that (a) it exposed the North to economic domination by the Greek Cypriots, (b) it allowed Greek Cypriot control of the proposed Federal Government, and that (c) one-third of the population of the much smaller Turkish Cypriot state could become Greek Cypriot, and the new small Turkish Cypriot state would have too dense a population.

  In the South the more moderate elements represented by Clerides and Vassiliou, well aware of the advantages that would accrue to the South, supported the Plan. But Papadopoulos, and his surprisngly large number of supporters, were not prepared to compromise on their essential position, which is that they are legally the Government of Cyprus and within that Government the Turkish Cypriots must be a minority. They are at present trying to bring the Turkish Cypriots under their umbrella, even threatening that they could veto Turkey's EU accession negotiations if Turkey did not comply with certain conditions that would help further this process. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, has described this process as "meltdown".

  This is, of course, one solution to the Cyprus problem, but subject to strong nationalist opposition in the North, with support from nationalist elements in Turkey, it could lead to instability, and even violence. There have been calls in the North for a fight to the death.

  In the light of Greek Cypriot attitudes represented by their "no" vote, their subsequent hardline policies, and the recuperation of the National Unity Party in the North, the Turkish Cypriots could hardly be expected to vote again for the Annan Plan. For the South to do so would require a complete change of government, which does not seem to be in the offing.

  2.  It seems now to be generally realised that the admission of Cyprus to the EU as a divided island was bound to create problems. Immediately, it relieved the Greek Cypriots of any need to make concessions. For the EU, Eastern Enlargement was more important than settling the Cyprus issue.

  The problem essentially is that Cyprus claims legal sovereignty over the whole island. This came about fortuitously in March 1964 when the UN Security Council, anxious to introduce a UN Force, treated with the rump Greek Cypriot Government that was left after the Turkish Cypriot participants had fled their posts. Unfortunately the UN Security Council did not specify that it was dealing with the government as constitutionally established in 1960, despite verbal assurance given to Turkey that this was the case. Consequently, the UN, and national governments, began to treat the Greek Cypriot Government as if it were the Government of Cyprus, thus establishing its "legality". Even after the Turkish Cypriot members of the House of Representatives were told they could not return unless they voted for legislation that would have effectively turned them into a minority, the Greek Cypriot Government continued to be recognised. In brief, the Greek Cypriot Government has no legitimacy for its claim to have sovereignty over the Turkish Cypriots. This is the basis of the Turkish Cypriot claim to independence on legal grounds. If the lawyers could find some way to review the legal situation with more respect for reality, thus according some status to the TRNC, it would be a significant move forward towards bringing about a settlement. It is really only by chance that the Greek Cypriots have been recognised as having authority to establish the Government of Cyprus.

  3.   If Britain is to play a role it would seem first to be necesssary to accept that the TRNC deserves some degree of recognition. The Report of the UN Secretary General calling on no state to recgonise the TRNC was not appropriate. The Greek Cypriots know that the dice are now heavily loaded in their favour. Whether Britain could take the lead in following a course of action completely repugnant to the Greek Cypriots is very doubtful, however. They are always inclined to bring up sensitivity of the bases and listening posts to interference. Of course, any trouble would deter British tourists (two-thirds of the total), and this would seriously affect the Cypriot tourist industry, but the British Government no doubt has to feel responsible for the (reported) 20,000 British residents in the South. The initiative for some degree of recognition of the TRNC would perhaps have to come from elsewhere.

  4.  The rejection of the Annan Plan has meant that the TRNC still cannot use its ports and airport freely and thus develop the economy. If efforts in the EU on their behalf are successful in these issues, they will be able to stand up very much better against Greek Cypriot pressures. They could become quite independent on the proceeds of their tourist industry.

  Interestingly, the proposed property settlement in the Annan Plan has been taken as a marker by number of entrepreneurs to buy up and develop former Greek Cypriot land. This is making quite a large impact on the economy, but is having some unforeseen social consequences. The building boom will probably not now last very long.

  5.  Yes, the British Government should seek to alter its, and the international community's, relationship with the North. As argued above, it must be made clear to the Greek Cypriots that they have to get into negotiation with the Turkish Cypriots on the basis that they constitute two independent entities. Their attempts to use their EU leverage to absorb the Turkish Cypriots should be resisted. This argues a confederal type of solution, though with such a solution, the Turkish Cypriots would surely have to give up the large tracts of territory which, under the Annan Plan, were to be returned to the Greek Cypriots. There would also have to be some sort of amicable property settlement. In the course of time, with developing confidence, the two states would probably enter into a more federal relationship.

  6.  International recognition of the existence of the TRNC would remove the difficulties between Turkey and the EU with regard to the Cyprus problem. Cyprus would drop out of the equation. Turkey could recognise both the TRNC and the Republic of Cyprus.

  Essentially this is to propose a two-state solution to the problem. The other way it could be brought about would be by the recognition of the TRNC (now to be known as the Turkish Cypriot State) by Islamic and Arab states. Of this the Greek Cypriots are very afraid: it would be recognition of the Turkish Cypriot State within its present borders. The chances of their being able to recover territory to which they clearly have a right could become very slim. It is not a development that would open up the TRNC to Europe, but it could start a process of creeping recognition. Not being very religious, most Turkish Cypriots would not necessarily welcome this Islamic and Arab recognition for what it might bring with it, but it would be preferable to isolation or absorption by the Greek Cypriots. Nor might Arab and Islamic intrusion into Cyprus be acceptable to the West for strategic reasons.

  Finally, since it is now difficult to see an alternative to a two-state solution, it is interesting that a little while ago, a poll of under 28 year olds in the South revealed significant support for such a solution.

Professor Clement Dodd

Professorial Research Associate, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

21 September 2004

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