Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Further written evidence submitted by Professor Clement Dodd


  The referenda on the UN Plan on the 24 April 2004 resulted in its rejection by the South. Subsequently, little of note immediately occurred on the island, though it became easier for goods to cross the Green Line, and all EU citizens could cross from one side to the other regardless of which port, or airport, they had used. More Turkish Cypriots, and Turks, began to work in the South, in the building and other industries, but there was also a large demand for labour in the North, where the building boom really got under way, mainly supplying holiday, or permanent, homes for foreigners, chiefly British, often built on former Greek Cypriot land. The property regime in the UN Plan, should it be revived, would not prevent this development, while the demise of the Plan seemed to promise even greater freedom in the use of former Greek Cypriot property. With this capital inflow, with EU grants for public works, with an increase in numbers of foreign tourists, and with the money earned in the South, the Turkish Cypriots began to look and feel richer.

  In politics the popularity of the Prime Minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, and his coalition government with the small Democratic Party under Serdar Denktash the President's son. was maintained for a while. Having said "yes" in the referendum the Turkish Cypriots found that, for the first time, they were popular in the world. It helped Talat that the EU Council of Ministers made a statement (on 26 April 2004) that envisaged opening up trade directly with the North. This reflected the view that the Turkish Cypriots should no longer suffer under embargoes. The EU also proposed a grant of 259 Million euros for the North and began to seek ways, still continuing, to put into effect its desire to free trade, including tourism, through the Turkish Cypriot ports and airport. In a visit to Cyprus in October, the British Minister for Europe, Mr Denis MacShane, said, "We are committed to ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, to reducing the economic gap between the two communities . . . We believe this to be a key element of keeping alive the prospect of reunification".

  That Talat's government now no longer insisted on recognition for the TRNC was welcomed by the international community, but criticised by the Turkish Cypriot political opposition as the greatest of errors. That, in the face of Greek Cypriot opposition, nothing has as yet been achieved to free commerce has affected Talat's popularity, though his now increasingly expressed disillusion with the Greek Cypriots is to some degree helping him to sustain support. A pre-election poll in late December 2004 showed that 31% of the public would vote for Talat's party, with only 15% for Eroglu's National Unity Party, but 15% were undecided.

  On 20 October 2004 defections from the coalition parties finally forced the government to resign. Neither Talat, nor Eroglu, was able to form a new coalition. New parliamentary elections are forecast for February 2005. There will be a new presidential election in April 2005, in which President Denktash has stated he will not be a candidate.

  In the South a good deal of attention was paid by the Government to justifying its rejection of the referendum, This was accompanied by determination to explore all legal means through the EU to prevent the opening up of Turkish Cypriot ports and the airport. In addition, the Greek Cypriot Government claimed the right to participate in the disbursement of the EU funds to be made available to the North, There were also accusations in the South that US aid had been used to influence Greek Cypriots to approve of the UN Plan. This, and a warning to the Greek Cypriots by the previous American Cyprus envoy, Thomas Weston, not to veto, on 17 December, Turkey's application for EU accession negotiations has soured relations with the United States,

  The Greek Cypriot President, Tassos Papadopoulos, declared that his government would only make its decision about a veto at the last minute. In connection with the rejection of the UN Plan he demanded, inter alia, that Turkish troops should immediately withdraw from Cyprus. Much more seriously, the Greek Cypriot Government began to insist that Turkey had to recognise it as the "Government of the Republic of Cyprus". This highlighted a major problem for Ankara. In many quarters in the EU it is maintained that Turkey cannot hope to become a member of the EU if it does not sometime recognise the Greek Cypriot Government as the rightful Government of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey has already recognised the state established as the "Republic of Cyprus": it did so in 1960, when the international treaties were signed that established the new republic. The Greek Cypriot Government cannot legitimately claim to be the government of the Republic of Cyprus as established if only because its government does not include Turkish Cypriots, as required in the 1960 Constitution.

  Greek Cypriot insistence on the sine qua non of the recognition of their government by Turkey has roused the Turkish Cypriots to a realisation of the dangers they face. Talat recently declared that the Greek Cypriots want Turkey to agree "that the north of Cyprus is, in fact, a local administration of Turkey". More important, on 2 December 2004, the Turkish Cypriot parties in parliament unanimously agreed as follows: "The TRNC parliament believes that it is vital to underline that it is not the Greek Cypriot controlled Republic of Cyprus (which exists in defiance of the 1960 partnership agreement) that is to be recognised, but a new joint polity in which the Turkish Cypriot people takes its place as a political equal."

  This significant show of unity by all the political parties was matched by the declaration by the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, that there would be no recognition before a solution. This was followed by a statement by the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan that the EU could not now use new pressure with regard to Cyprus. He said that there was no question of Turkey taking new moves on this issue before 17 December. President Denktashh declared himself very satisfied with this stance. This rejection of further pressure was followed by an important meeting of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders in Ankara on 3 December. Authoritative sources reported that there was agreement that, for Turkey and the TRNC, recognition of the "Government of Cyprus" had to form part of a solution arrived at in the context of the good offices" mission of the UN Secretary-General.

  After a lecture in Turkey at this time by President Denktashh on the Cyprus issue to an audience containing members of all political parties, the prolonged standing ovation he received spoke volumes for the depth of Turkish support for the Turkish Cypriots. The Government has to take note.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee

  These momentous developments coincided with an investigation into the Cyprus issue by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee under the chairmanship of the Rt Hon. Donald Anderson[103] The Committee's Report is planned to appear in early 2005, so there will be some time for evaluation of the position after the 17 December decision on Turkey's accession negotiations. The examination of witnesses and the Committee's visit to Cyprus occurred, however, before the European Council's decision.

  A thoroughgoing analysis of the Committee's work must, of course, await its Report, but it is interesting to note the trend of the Committee's deliberations from the questions put to witnesses. To date, a major concern has been whether the UN (Annan Plan could be revived, in particular whether the Greek Cypriots could be brought on board. Greek Cypriot objections to the Plan therefore were given some prominence, notably on the scheme of demilitarisation, the place in Cyprus of the Turkish immigrants (the so-called "settlers"), and the fear that Turkey would in the end not really allow the UN Plan to be implemented. Referendum exit polls in the South showed three-quarters of those voting "no" did so for security reasons, this apparently indicating that they were afraid Turkey would not implement the troop reductions in the Plan, and that the maintenance of the 1960 system of guarantees, with the right, under certain circumstances, of intervention, would allow Turkey to intervene again[104]

  Another important topic in questions posed to witnesses was the issue of opening up international, particularly EU, trade for the Turkish Cypriots, with considerable emphasis on the need for the direct air flights that would be the real boost for the Turkish Cypriot tourist industry. Greek Cypriot legal and other objections were explored. There was also a certain amount of discussion of recent history. the unwisdom, for instance, of allowing the "Republic of Cyprus" into the EU before a settlement. By their questions the Committee members showed that they were well apprised of the situation. Six witnesses were examined, but the absence of a well-informed Turkish Cypriot witness was noted with dismay by members of Britain's large Turkish Cypriot community who attended the hearings[105]

  In this brief article only a few major, or striking, points made by the witnesses can be mentioned. In this regard it was interesting that Dr Savvides believed that the Greek Cypriot could be brought back to the Plan. It would have been useful to have had a Turkish Cypriot view on whether in another vote the Turkish Cypriots would still be in favour now that the Greek Cypriots have revealed, as some would say, their true colours. Lord Hannay was critical of both Denktash and Papadopoulos. In particular, he claimed that President Denktash was responsible for Turkish Cypriot rejection of the UN Plan in late 2002 at Copenhagen, and again in The Hague in March 2003, though, it has to be said, on both occasions the Greek Cypriots could confidently hide behind the anticipated Turkish Cypriot rejection. However, more important, are the reasons for the Turkish Cypriot rejection of the Plan. Lord Hannay's ad hominem approach is inadequate for an understanding of the situation. In his Report (1 April 2003) on the failure of negotiations the UN Secretary-General came close to the realities of the situation when he wrote:

    Mr Denktashh would not accept that the exercise was the writing of a new constitution for the existing, internationally recognized and continuing Republic of Cyprus, to transform it into a bi-cameral, bi-zonal federation, the Turkish Cypriot community essentially being reintegrated into that state. Mr Clerides would not accept that the exercise was the founding of a new state by two pre-existing sovereign states or entities, which devolved some of their sovereignty to that state , but otherwise retained sovereignty in their hands (Para. 66).

  The Minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, agreed with the Chairman that the referendums marked the best possibility of uniting the island since 1974. A major area of questioning was the possibility of opening up the Turkish Cypriot ports and airport to direct trade with the EU under EU rules. Mr MacShane noted that any member state, if it so chose, or any individual ship owner, could sail into any port in Cyprus, but what Britain was arguing for was "a new trade regulation that allows the normal governmental trading rules of the EU to be extended to the northern part of the island". The problem was that as an EU member-state Cyprus could veto such a proposal, since unanimity was required. On the important issue of direct flights to Northern Cyprus, it was pointed out that under the terms of the Chicago Convention an airport had to be designated as "an airport suitable for receiving international flights by the government of the territory in which the airport is found". On the disbursement of the 259 million euros promised by the EU to Northern Cyprus, the Cyprus Government was arguing that it had a particular interest, and right, in how the grant was to be disbursed, though the British Government believed it should be directly disbursed in the North. The assumption that nothing immediate could be done because of the threat of a Greek Cypriot veto prompted one member of the Committee to suggest that the Greek Cypriot veto was a "paper tiger", and that the British Government needed to pursue a more robust attitude towards the Greek Cypriots. In response the Minister admitted astonishment "at the sound of my own diplomatic weasely voice", but preferred not "to go down the rip-roaring road of upping the ante". One road down which the Minister did not intend to go was recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

  Why, one needs ask, this constant British position on non-recognition, a position stressed also by the UN Secretary-General in his, yet to be presented, report on the failure of the UN Plan? The usual reply is that partition was not allowed by the 1960 treaties, but then, as mentioned above, neither was the rule of the Greek Cypriots as the Republic of Cyprus without the participation of the Turkish Cypriots in accordance with the internationally guaranteed 1960 Constitution. In 1964 the British Government, in an aide memoire to the UN Secretary-General, made this point:

    "H.M.G.'s view is that until such time as the Constitution of Cyprus and the Agreements are amended through negotiation and with the consent of all parties, the government of the Republic of Cyprus, the Guarantor powers and the United Nations as a whole have no alternative but to conduct their activities in accordance with the Constitution and with the Agreements"[106]

  The Permanent Representative of Turkey wrote to the UN Security Council underlining this point on 21 December 2000. The real reasons for the "recognition" of the Greek Cypriot Government as the Government of Cyprus are political, not legal. Britain did not persist in defending the Constitution that formed part of the 1960 Treaties because the security of the British bases, at a time of danger in the Middle East, was a more serious concern than the status of the Turkish Cypriots. Also, a great deal of pro-Greek Cypriot pressure was brought to bear on the UN by the non-aligned states, and by the Soviet Union and its satellites. In this way the Greek Cypriot Government came gradually to be treated as the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. The EU followed suit, thus creating the present difficulty for Turkey over recognition of the Greek Cypriot Government's clearly illegitimate claim to sovereignty over the Turkish Cypriots.

  On 17 December 2004 Turkey was given a date (3 October 2005) for the beginning of EU accession negotiations. There was no Greek Cypriot veto, and no Turkish recognition of the Greek Cypriot "Government of Cyprus". Turkey agreed to sign only a modified protocol extending its customs union with the EU to the new member states, including Cyprus. There will be pressure to have the situation clarified by 3 October. The Greek Cypriots will undoubtedly seek to extract more concessions from the Turkish Cypriots in any attempt that is made to obtain a settlement by reviving the UN Plan.

Professor Clement Dodd

Professorial Research Associate,

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

103   The other members of the Committee were Mr David Chidgey, Mr Fabian Hamilton, Mr Eric Illsley. the Rt Hon Andrew Mackay, Mr Andrew Mackinlay, Mr John Maples, Mr Bill Olner, Mr Greg Pope. the Rt Hon Sir John Stanley and Ms Gisela Stuart. Back

104   Information taken from the "Friends of Cyprus Submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry", September 2004, published in their Report, No.47, Autumn, 2004, p 8. Back

105   The witnesses examined were Dr Philippos Savvides, a Greek Cypriot Research Fellow working in Athens, Mr Christopher Brewin, Senior Lecturer in the University of Keele, Lord Hannay of Chiswick. formerly British Special Representative for Cyprus, Mr Ozdem Sanberk, formerly Turkish Ambassador in London, the Rt Hon Denis MacShane, MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (accompanied by Mr Dominick Chilcott, Director for Europe, F&CO), and Mr Pierre Mirel, Director-General for Enlargement, European Commission. Mr Sanberk said that he was not an expert on Northern Cyprus. Back

106   Aide Memoire from the UK Mission to the United Nations, New York, 4 March 1964. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 22 February 2005