Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Written evidence submitted by British Residents' Society of North Cyprus


  The British Residents Society is a voluntary organisation set up in North Cyprus in 1975. Its aims and objectives are to foster friendly and harmonious relations with the people of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, (TRNC) and to advise and assist its members and make representations on their behalf to the TRNC Government. Membership is voluntary and open to all holders of a valid British passport. Its affairs are managed by a committee of volunteers elected annually at its Annual General Meeting.

  Currently there are upwards of 6,000 expatriates living, either full or part time, in North Cyprus. The vast majority of these (in excess of 90%) are British Citizens. They are settled principally in the area of Girne (Kyrenia) and its satellite villages with smaller settlements in and around Gazimagusa (Famagusta), in the Karpaz and Guzelyurt area.


  It is not the intention of this memorandum to deal in detail with the history of the Cyprus problem on which, by now, the Committee is hopefully well briefed. Rather it is to highlight the main problems that this history has left behind and which now need to be addressed in formulating any future policy. These are seen as being:—

  a)  Although Turks and Greeks have shared settlement in Cyprus for upwards of 400 years they have seldom if ever actually lived together. Both have lived, often in geographical proximity, within their own separate and distinct communities and have largely been responsible for their own affairs. Since 1974, this separation has been complete. The only period of time when they were required to work together, but still not live together, was during the short lived era of the newly independent Republic of Cyprus. (1960-63). This separation is further magnified by the obvious differences in language, culture and religion which exist between them.

  b)  The Turks have been a minority in Cyprus since the late 19th century. Despite arriving as conquerors in 1571 their status has subsequently seriously declined and there is now a significant imbalance between them and the Greeks. Moreover, this imbalance does not only relate to numbers (some 200,000 to the Greeks 850,000) but also, very importantly to economic strength. They are acutely conscious of this disparity and the dangers it holds for them as amply demonstrated by their past experience particularly during 1963-74.

  c)  There is now a definite and growing perception on the Turkish side that they have been unfairly treated by the western world in its dealings with the Cyprus problem. In their view the West, and Britain in particular (because of its concern for its military bases) have favoured the Greek side. There is undoubtedly some evidence to support this, most notably in the UN Security Council Resolution of 1964 and the EU decision to admit South Cyprus as representative of the whole island. Both actions have made the Turkish Cypriot position much more difficult in the negotiations for a settlement. This feeling is currently much intensified by the absence of any real progress and reward, as so fulsomely promised by, among other world leaders, the British Prime Minister, following the Turkish Cypriot "Yes" vote in the referendum of April 2004. (See addendum for these promises).

  d)  There is a widespread belief in the north of the island (and not just by the Turkish Cypriots) that much of the policy formulated on Cyprus is handicapped by a lack of direct knowledge. No doubt as a consequence of its non recognition, visits by foreign diplomats and/or politicians are relatively rare. Those that do take place are generally short lived whistle stop tours where few real facts can be learned. The British do have a High Commission here of course, but it is located in the south. This problem is further compounded by the undeniable success of the Greek side in the propaganda battle on the issue


  To those of us who live in North Cyprus it seems clear that British foreign policy on Cyprus has been less than even handed in the last 30 years or so. Despite this, rather surprisingly, there remains a considerable respect and regard for the British by the Turkish Cypriots—a situation that appears less prevalent among the Greeks. There is therefore, still an opportunity for Britain to play an important role in solving the Cyprus problem. To achieve this however, it is felt that the following issues must be addressed, and addressed with some degree of urgency.

  (a)  Britain must take an active and determined lead in ensuring that the promises made to the Turkish Cypriots following the referendum of April 2004 are actually and speedily converted to concrete benefits. This is essential if faith is to be maintained (and it is now being rapidly eroded) in the good offices and intentions of any foreign power. Removal of the economic embargoes is their first and absolute priority and this has been promised to them by the British Prime Minister himself in a speech given during his visit to the Turkish Prime Minister in May 2004. I quote "I think it is important, as I indicated to the Prime Minister, that we end the isolation of Northern Cyprus. We made it clear we must act now to end the isolation of Northern Cyprus. That means lifting the embargoes in respect to trade, in respect to air travel".

  The Turkish Cypriots have fulfilled their part of the bargain in the referendum of April 2004 and they expect Britain and the West to now honour their commitments. Anything less would be a gross denial of their human rights and would sit ill with a Government whose previous Foreign Secretary began his term of office with a much publicised declaration of the need to pursue an ethical foreign policy throughout the world.

  (b)  In all future negotiations/actions Britain's foreign policy should be carefully directed to firmly ensuring that there is equality for all the parties concerned. There should be no repeat of the more onerous mistakes in the past such as support for the UN Security Council Resolution of 1964 and acquiescence in admitting a divided island into the EU.

  (c)  Whatever form of settlement may eventually emerge it must be firmly based on the principle of self determination. Only the Cypriots can have the right to decide what form of settlement they wish to live with and under.


  Turning now to the main specific questions the Select Committee has been asked to examine, the Society would wish to offer the following observations:

  (a)  Should Britain continue to back the Annan Plan?

  It has been clearly stated by the Secretary General of the UN that his plan would become null and void if any of the parties to the plan did not approve it in the referendum of April 2004. The Greek Cypriot side overwhelmingly rejected the plan. It would seem perverse therefore for the British Government to continue any support of it.

  There is a deep and abiding distrust between both communities on the island which is so well entrenched as to make any solution based on political reunification extremely difficult. The present division may seem undesirable but the result has kept the peace for 30 years.

  It may well be therefore that a less ambitious approach could be adopted whereby the status quo was accepted and an incremental approach towards a rapprochement was adopted. The outlines of such a policy are already in evidence with a series of confidence building measures being proposed/introduced to establish a cooperative relationship between the two peoples (eg The Turkish Cypriot initiatives to open the border and the suggested return of Varosha to Greek Cypriot control.)

  (b)  The Implications for the EU of the admission of a divided country

  There is no doubt that the EU has got itself into a difficult predicament by its ill judged action of accepting Greek Cyprus into the Union, the more so since their problem has been created by the Greek Cypriots refusal to accept the Annan Plan in the April 2004 referendum.

  To untie this Gordian knot a two staged operation could be proposed. The first stage is for the EU to establish direct contact with North Cyprus. This need not be at the political level which would give rise to problems over recognition of the North Cyprus Government. It could be done at the administrative level to provide direct economic contact without reference to Greek Cyprus. It is believed that a precedent for such action exists in the case of Taiwan. Thereafter North Cyprus, given that the political situation allowed it, could enter into full membership of the EU at a later date, possibly alongside the entry of Turkey.

  (c)  What role should Britain play in any negotiations between the two communities on the island?

  This question has largely been answered in paragraphs a, b, and c, Possible Future Options. Here it is merely re-emphasised that any role should be by direct invitation and should be clearly seen to be that of an even handed honest broker.

  (d)  Implications of the rejection of the Annan Plan for North Cyprus

  The implications for North Cyprus will be both injurious and grossly unjust unless some swift action is taken to counteract its effects.

  It cannot be stressed too strongly that it was the Greek side that rejected the Annan Plan. The Turkish side voted overwhelmingly for it. If, as a result, the Turkish Cypriots are now to be penalised by the continuance of the embargoes which seriously hinder their economy, greatly restrict their freedom of travel and prevent them from participating in international events of all sorts, a gross denial of basic political and human rights will continue to be endured by an entirely innocent people.

  This is a situation which no honourable country should possibly contemplate. It will be inimical to Britain's standing and prestige not just in North Cyprus but in Turkey and in other countries in the region where Britain needs to have amity and influence.

  Surely ways can be found to prevent this situation. It need not be difficult. All that is required is the political will and some degree of political honesty and courage by the leadership in Britain.

  (d)  Should the British Government alter its relationship with the North?

  The obvious answer to this question must be `yes'.

  The British Government should work towards honouring the pledges, made by the Prime Minister and other political leaders after the April 2004 referendum, to end the isolation of the TRNC by lifting economic, social and political embargoes.

  Finally, the British government should recognise that the government of South Cyprus does not, and never has, represented North Cyprus and therefore should endeavour to free the North Cyprus Government from the subordination the South Cyprus Government continues to seek to impose.


UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, 24 April 2004

  "I applaud the Turkish Cypriots who approved the plan notwithstanding the significant sacrifices that it entailed for many of them…(I) hope that ways will be found to ease the plight in which the people find themselves through no fault of their own"

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, interview with the press, 26 April 2004

  "The Turkish Government displayed great courage. The Turkish Cypriots did, as well, on voting for it (UN Plan). And so, I think, there should be some benefits to the Turkish Cypriots for having voted `yes' for this plan."

Gunther Verheugen, EU Enlargement Commissioner, 26 April 2004-10-13

  "Turkish Cypriots must not be punished for this result . . . Now we have to end the isolation of the North. The (EU) Commission is ready to take various measures for that aim."

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the UK, during his visit to Turkey, 18 May 2004

    "I think it is important, as I indicated to the Prime Minister, that we end the isolation of Northern Cyprus . . . We made it clear we must act now to end the isolation of Northern Cyprus. That means lifting the embargoes in respect to trade, in respect to air travel…"

The European Parliamentary Assembly Resolution no 1376 (2004)

  The international community and in particular the Council of Europe and the European Union cannot ignore or betray the expressed desire of the majority of Turkish Cypriots for greater openness and should take rapid and appropriate steps to encourage it. The Turkish Cypriots' international isolation must cease."

British Residents' Society of North Cyprus

18 October 2004

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