Written evidence submitted by Ozdem
1. I would like to thank the House of Commons
Select Committee on Foreign Affairs for its invitation to submit
evidence on the situation in Cyprus. I should make it clear however,
that I am offering my opinions only in the capacity of a former
diplomat who is now a private individual from Turkey. I am not
a member of any official body and I am, of course, not a Turkish
Cypriot, and speak only as an observer.
2. Considerable progress has been made in
some respects, both in Cyprus and in Turkish-Greek relations,
in the last two or three years. I strongly support this development.
I do not wish to engage in polemics. However my evidence necessarily
involves re-stating some of the fundamentals of the Cyprus problem
as they are seen from a Turkish and Turkish Cypriot perspective.
3. The essence of the Cyprus situation is
that two separate and distinct people national communities exist
on the island and that the Turkish Cypriots wish to administer
themselves and to avoid the fate which overtook many other Turkish
or Muslim communities in post-Ottoman southern Europe. The embargo
and isolation which was imposed on the Turkish Cypriots from 1964
onwards, and the denial of their national rights, is strikingly
different from the treatment of all other national communities
in Europe and particularly the Balkans in recent years. To many
people in the Near and Middle East, it would appear prima facie
that their story would have had a very different outcome had
they been a Christian population, in which case an economic blockade
and siege tactics would probably never have been employed against
4. During the negotiations for the accession
of Cyprus to the European Union, the Turkish Cypriots were not
given the right to participate on a separate basis, even though
they have been self-governing for three decades, and the Greek
political leadership on the island was allowed by the EU to negotiate
on behalf of people whom it did not rule, who rejected its authority,
and who were actively unwilling to be represented by it. A glance
at the annual progress reports for Cyprus during its transition
to EU rule shows that they were much less exacting than the comparable
reports for other candidates. In particular, the Union ruled at
the outset that the Greek Cypriot government satisfied the basic
criteria for political stability even though the south Cyprus
government did not control more than a third of the territory
it claimed and its authority had been firmly rejected for three
decades by a substantial proportion of the people it claimed to
5. It would appear to be, as a member of
the outgoing European Commission said last spring, that conditions
were deliberately made easy for Cyprus on the understanding that
the Greek Cypriots would agree to the reunion of the island on
the basis of the Annan plan. Ironically, the Commission, after
permitting the Greek Cypriots to speak for the Turkish Cypriot,
itself ended by having its own voice on the island stifled when
Commissioner Verheugen was not allowed to present his views on
Greek Cypriot television.
6. Nonetheless between 2002 and 2004, there
was genuine progress in Cyprus.
The Annan Plan identified a viable
framework for a political settlement.
There was greater movement between
the two sides of the island and a relaxation of the previously
very strict separation between the two nationalities on the island.
7. These trends reflected greater realism
about the existence, aspirations, and rights of the Turkish Cypriots.
The Turkish Cypriots responded in the referendum on the Annan
Plan by taking what were for them significant risks over security.
Opinion among the Turkish Cypriots was divided but the outcome
of the referendum indicated a clear willingness to reach an agreed
international settlement brokered by the United Nations and backed
by the European Union. 8. Unfortunately Greek Cypriots rejected
the Anan plan by three to one.
II. THE SITUATION
8. The implications of the Annan Plan's rejection
for Northern Cyprus
The Turkish Cypriots in Northern Cyprus have
lived under siege conditions for over three decades. Since April
this year, however, things have been different. The Turkish Cypriots
are still continuing to live under siege conditions. Ending these
would seem just and logical. But it hits the snag of a Greek Cypriot
veto. So far the EU does not seem to have found a way to overcome
If the EU claims the territory on which the
Turkish Cypriots live and if it says it has negotiated with their
representatives, and if they have voted for arrangements for a
settlement sponsored by the EU and the UN, then I do not see how
it can deny them the rights and blessings that come from membership.
One likely outcome would be that it will try
to broke a deal whereby the Turkish Cypriots or Turkey give some
concessions in exchange. Or, if Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots
do not make concessions, this will be used as an excuse to continue
the present situation. This should not be acceptable. It was clearly
understood in April that one side had cooperated with the EU and
had its cooperation endorsed at the referendum. The other side
had not cooperated and had even obstructed the ability of the
EU Commission to put its case.
The Annan Plan and its aftermath should clearly
be seen as a turning point in policy, away from blockade and siege
tactics that have not worked to a relaxed and evolutionary policy
in which events unfold on the ground, with the free consent of
both peoples, in the direction of a workable settlement and a
durable partnership within the EU.
9. Despite this, the Greek Cypriots proceeded
to full membership status within the European Union, while the
Turkish Cypriots continue to exist under an international blockade,
with restrictions on international trade, air links with the rest
of the world, and non-recognition of their government and officials.
In the aftermath of the referendum they were promised financial
cooperation from the European Union which has to date not materialised.
10. It is clear that the European Union
now has to contend with the difficulties of admitting a country
whose divisions have been a major source of regional instability.
But for the improved climate in Greek-Turkish relations and the
spirit of partnership which is growing between Greece and Turkey,
these difficulties would have been much more acute.
III. FUTURE PROSPECTS
11. What are the implications for the EU
of admitting a divided country?
Remember that the EU admitted Cyprus
because it feared the much larger eastwards expansion would be
vetoed if it did not.
The obvious implication is that the
EU will be drawn into the dispute, both inside that country and
in the region around it.
Unnecessary diplomatic, political,
and legal disputes with a friendly allied country of considerable
importance to the EU.
A possible revival of regional instability
in the Eastern Mediterranean.
With a divided member, the EU will
almost certainly face continual practical, legal and administrative
problems regarding the denial of flow of persons and goods
into and out of territory the EU claims as part of it but which
it does not control.
It will face Political and ethical
problems with a substantial proportion of the population suffering
discrimination and rejecting the recognized government.
There could be Potential exacerbation
of Christian-Muslim tensions inside and outside the EU since
the Cyprus problem in some ways resembles the conflict in Bosnia.
Some of these have been experienced in the past
with the case of East Germany. However there was no active conflict
between the two Germanys and they moved from de facto to de iure
recognition of each other. This principle of denial and non-recognition
has led further into morally unhealthy areas of denying normal
freedoms and human rights to the Turkish Cypriots, such as the
right to trade or travel from their own territory or to receive
international assistance or attend international meetings in their
own name. These are the sorts of penalties normally invoked not
on a nationality but on criminal rebels. It is wholly against
all recent European precedents. Nothing similar was seen when
the constituent countries of former Yugoslavia broke away. It
is, frankly, the result of allowing British and European policy
to be propelled by one of the parties in the dispute.
While this was the case, the dispute became
more and more intractable. When the Annan Plan restored a reassure
of realism and recognition to policy over Cyprus, the situation
immediately became more manageable. If both sides had known that
they would not have entered the EU unless there was a settlement,
there would probably have been one and on a fair and realistic
basis. The EU fell into a trap which it had constructed for itself.
The EU, after seeing that the Turkish Cypriots
accepted a settlement which it urged on them, cannot now reasonably
revert to treating them as if they were political offenders deserving
12. The implications for the EU's relationship
First the difference in scale
between Turkey and Southern Cyprus has to be noted. Major
EU interests are jeopardised by the possibility of EU involvement
in an unresolved Cyprus dispute.
Turkey is a secular state. The
Turkish Cypriots are also secular in their institutions. But there
is no doubt that they have suffered because of their Ottoman Muslim
cultural heritage. The Cyprus dispute is especially unacceptable
at a time when Christians and Muslims are trying to overcome their
differences and work together.
Turkey's EU membership faces an
unnecessary complication. Integration between Turkey and the
EU offers enormous political, economic, and strategic advantages,
but the scale of the operation means that it will be a real challenge
for both sides as well. It is important that this challenge is
faced in a spirit of constructive and cooperative partnership.
The Cyprus dispute, basically an ethno-nationalist disagreement
which has nothing to do with the EU unless the Union is defined
in terms of political Christianity, could potentially upset the
whole spirit of partnership and trust needed on both sides at
13. The European Union has few instruments
at it disposal for dealing with a dispute of this kind when an
individual member does not wish to conform to the views of the
Commission or other states on a political matter. The moment when
it might have found it easiest to act was last spring in the aftermath
of the referendum. There is now surely a significant possibility
that the isolation and siege of the Turkish Cypriots will continue
indefinitely and that the government of the south of the island
will impose unrealistic and unjust terms for ending the deadlock.
14. The Greek Cypriot government is now
also attempting to use its status within the EU to impose conditions
on Turkey where recognition and other rights are concerned. This
situation was easily foreseeable before the accession of the Greek
Cypriots to the EU. Leaving to one side the question of Turkey's
own accession, these developments could endanger EU relations
with Turkeya country where it has strategic and economic
interests of an altogether different scale.
15. Memories are short and political attitudes
can change in a year or two. Despite the events of the spring
of 2004, it is entirely possible that EU policy-making will, under
pressure from the Greek Cypriot government, drift back to where
it was before the publication of the Anan Plan, ie formal isolation
of the Turkish Cypriots, denial of the realities on the island,
and confrontation with Turkey.
16. It would appear that broadly speaking
the EU has a limited range of options on Cyprus.
A "fudge" which allows
the present situation to continue despite the wishes of both the
Turkish and Greek Cypriot nationalities.
Reversion to full legal endorsement
of Greek Cypriot claims against the Turkish Cypriot nation aspirations,
and perhaps regarding the Turkish Cypriots as essentially rebels
against the EU.
Constructive engagement aimed at
reshaping the balance on the island and enabling the Turkish Cypriots
to enjoy the rights which have in theory been conferred upon them
by EU accession and opening up an expanding agreement between
the two nationalities in Cyprus.
17. For the EU, as for the international
community, the Cyprus dispute seems to be a small and secondary
issue and there is little disposition to "grasp the nettle"
and take an active stand on it or devote large amounts of political
attention to it.
IV. THE NEED
18. Yet it is a problem which must be solved.
Without a resolution for the problem:
There is the possibility that the
EU's relations with Turkey will become embroiled in the dispute.
Just as the Cyprus dispute poisoned
previously good relations between Turkey and Greece after 1954,
disputes on the island could halt the trend to normalisation of
It is surely morally unacceptable
in twenty first century Europe for a national community to be
denied prosperity and recognition in the way that the Turkish
Cypriots have been, especially when it is born in mind that its
people have known the active fear of bloodshed within the lifetime
of most of its adults.
19. The way forward on Cyprus is to untie
the bonds which have been placed on the Turkish Cypriots and then
allow the two nationalities to work together and cooperate within
the framework of their shared EU membership. In the short term
this means giving the Turkish Cypriots the same legal and practical
rights as everyone else enjoys.
International access by air and sea.
Rights to travel and to trade freely.
The right to a voice on a range of
occasions, formal and informal, where Turkish Cypriots can reasonably
expect to be present.
A proportionate share of financial
assistance and cooperation on infrastructural project.
V. THE UK AND
20. Should the UK continue to back the Annan
The Annan Plan very nearly worked. It remains
the best definition of a settlement that exists. It should continue
until the two nationalities in Cyprus reach a genuine agreement
on something better. Changing it just to suit one side would be
the starting signal for a fresh political conflict between the
two Cypriot nationalities.
The Annan plan was the outcome of agreements
and understandings between all the parties involved and took into
account all their legitimate concerns and expectations to the
extent that it was possible to do so. As far as the Turkish Cypriots
were concerned, it perhaps underestimated their desire for security
but took, broadly speaking, a fair account of their other aspirations.
That is why, by a decisive majority, they decided to overcome
their reservations and give it their support.
If the Annan Plan is abandoned, either by a
single party like the EU, or by several parties, the question
arises whatif anythingwill replace it?
If nothing replaces it, then there
will presumably be no negotiated settlement and what we shall
see is a deepening division of the island.
If another plan were to replace it,
then we have to ask in what ways it would be different from the
The answer presumably is that it would have
to be in some way more attractive to the Greek Cypriots. The indications
are that they rejected the Annan Plan in 2004 basically because
they did not accept its model of realistic co-equality between
the two self-governing nationalities on the island. The two most
likely ways in which it would differ would either be (a) that
the new plan would introduce an element of greater subordination
of the Turkish Cypriots to the south or (b) that there would be
substantial concessions on land or related matters. These would
almost certainly not be acceptable. The Annan Plan contained a
very delicate balance on these complex matters. It is the best
way forward. If the Annan Plan is discarded, then we shall almost
certainly see a deepening rupture between the two sides on the
island and the Turkish Cypriots will remain outside the EU and
forced to seek recognition wherever they can.
21. Should the British government seek to
alter its relationship with the northern part of the island, and
if so how?
A very simple first step would be
to stop pretending that there is no Turkish Cypriot state, Turkish
Cypriot government, and officials no officials or citizens. This
does violence not just to their rights but to commonsense.
Progress has to be made to allow
the Turkish Cypriots to trade freely and travel freely. There
can be no moral justification for Britain or any other country
denying them these rights.
22. What role the United Kingdom should
play in the continuing process of negotiations between the two
communities on the island?
Because of its historical role as the former
colonial power and its expertise, and its presence on the island
in the Sovereign bases, and most of all as a Guarantor Power in
the island, Britain will continue to play a major role in the
international diplomacy over Cyprus. It is to be hoped that its
role in the future will be more impartial than it has been in
Much depends on whether or not, full note is
taken of the existence and aspirations of both sides and their
ability to determine their own future. In Turkey and Turkish Cyprus,
we naturally believe that this role will be more effective if
Britain takes due note of the existence of both nationalities
in Cyprus not just one.
We also note that there is a large and vigorous
British community in Northern Cyprus which plays an active part
in Turkish Cypriot life and we believe that that it should act
as a bridge between Cyprus and Britain.
Britain can help facilitate events at several
At the level of policy-making
in the EU and the UN.
In intercommunal relations and the
developments of further links between Turkish and Greek Cypriots
In fostering cross-border contacts
in different fields inside Cyprusthis might be done
within an EU umbrella, for instance by having working contacts
between professional groups, media groups, administrators, and
politicians from both sides.
In monitoring developments to
make sure that a blockade-type situation does not continue on
the island. British officials are well placed to detect obvious
injustices, irregularities, and discrimination do not take place
by drawing attention to them.
23. The European Union also needs to support
and encourage international forums in which Turkish and Greek
Cypriots at all levels of society can begin a genuine dialogue
on a basis of equality, with the long term aim of getting to know
each other and understand each other's position on key issues.
The policy of blockading and besieging the Turkish Cypriots strikes
directly at the basis of creating a common understanding on which
a future partnership can be based.
24. The comments made in this paper have
referred generally to the European Union, but the United Kingdom
has always played the key role in diplomacy surrounding Cyprus.
In recent years, I personally believe that Lord
Hannay, as Britain's Special Envoy on Cyprus, built up deep respect
for himself and his country, during his work on Cyprus. He recognized
the fundamental realities of the situation and prepared the way
for the Annan Plan and a realistic and just settlement in the
island. I hope that his example will offer guidance for British
policy-makers as they consider Cyprus in the future.
25. The events of last spring have shown
that a negotiated settlement is possible but have raised questions
about the ability of Britain and its EU partners to sustain the
political effort needed to achieve one. In view of the high cost
of the dispute between the two nationalities in Cyprus over the
last half century, it is essential that impetus towards normalisation
be resumed, synchronised with Turkey's own EU accession process.
Otherwise the Cyprus situation will, sooner or later, create fresh
difficulties which, because of the new EU dimension to the dispute,
may be more serious than those of the past.