Written evidence submitted by Christopher
I note that you are about to do a Cyprus enquiry.
I am possibly the only member of the 1975 select committee still
in contact with the political situation and still writing. The
attached piece I expect to be published sometime in late August
or September. I felt it may be of interest. I'm copying this to
Andrew Mackinlay (whom I know well). I wonder if you could give
a copy to the Chairmanwho knows me well.
31 July 2004
UN AND THE
Exactly 50 years ago this July there was a classic
row in the House of Commons just before the summer recess. Henry
Hopkinson, a long forgotten conservative colonial secretary, used
the "n" word from the dispatch box. In an astonishingly
prescient statement about the future of Cyprus, he said that there
were some countries which could never expect to be fully independent.
The sentence had all the fingerprints of the security services
on it, both British and American; under the post-war settlement,
the US regarded the military bases and the information from the
listening stations on the island quite as much as theirs as ours.
As a result Cyprus attained only qualified independence, an independence
further restricted when Kofi Annan, earlier this year, accepted
a Turkish demand that its troops, like those of the British, should
retain to right to stay in Cyprus in perpetuity.
Hopkinson's statement was followed by (and plausibly
actually generated) a chain of eventsa war of independence,
British military bases, a phoney constitution, an invasion by
the Turks and a divided island with an unrecognised mini-state
in the north. More recently the United Nations took on responsibility
for finding a solution in Cyprus, once its application to join
Europe had been effectively insulated against a Turkish veto.
("Turkish veto" here is shorthand for the EU agreement
to allow the Cyprus application to go forward to full entry whether
or not political reunification was agreed by the entry date.)
This elaborate finesse of playing the UN and the EU cards simultaneously,
has proved in the event too clever by half and made the eventual
unification of Cyprus more intractable than ever.
The parties to the UN negotiations, Greece,
Turkey, the (Greek) Cypriot government and the (still internationally
unrecognised) Turkish Cypriot administration met in April at Bürgenstock
in Switzerland, having allowed Kofi Annan in advance to make his
own arbitration decisions on any unresolved issues when the negotiations
ended; in their final stages a last minute tranche of extra demands
were made by the Turkish militarywhich the Turkish Cypriots
had not asked for and did not want. Urged on by the EU and the
US, Annan accepted them allincluding the proposal that
Turkish troops remain in the island in perpetuity. This concession
was calculated to smooth the path of Turkey towards EU membership
(the deadline for negotiation on which has been set for the end
of 2004) and to demonise the Greek Cypriots as scapegoats if a
political solution did not materialise. In the short term this
part of the plot has worked. The Turkish Cypriot "yes"
and the Greek Cypriot "no" in the subsequent referenda
generated carefully choreographed accusations against the Greek
Cypriots of "democratic irresponsibility", not wanting
the island's reunification and jeopardising Turkey's EU membership.
When the UN sought to complete the humiliation
of the Greek Cypriots with a resolution regretting their intransigence,
it was the Russians who came to their aid. Arriving at Bürgenstock
as observers of a process in which they had quite as much an interest
as Britain and the US, their fellow security council members,
they were treated as intruders and told there was no room for
them in any hotel in the secure area. "Why?" These hotels
were reserved for the "negotiating parties". "Why
were the British there, then? Britain was not negotiating."
Britain was a guarantor of the former Cypriot constitution, they
were told. "What was the US delegation doing there, then?"
The US delegation was technically part of the British one, came
the reply. The Russian response to this elaborate pretence was
to return to New York and veto the proposed resolution criticising
the Greek Cypriots.
The task of Europe's democratic institutions
now is to explain to the world the real obstacle to a political
settlement. This involves the current struggle for power between
the fragile civilian government of Turkey and the country's "deep
state", the tight freemasonry of senior generals who have
everythingpower, status and economic cloutto lose
from the genuine democratic institutions which EU membership requires.
The constitutional veto powers of the General Staff of the Turkish
Armed Forces are theoretically there to defend the integrity of
the secular, non-Islamic state founded by Kemel Ataturk. In reality,
they are now being used by a small unelected elite in a wholly
self-interested way. The General Staff purport to see grave dangers
to Turkey both in the turbulent state of the Middle East and in
their own elected government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
which they see as dangerously pro-Islamic. Their professed fear
is of Iraq splitting into three parts and opening up a corridor
which will bring an increasing flow of Kurdish and Islamic fundamentalist
pressure on Turkey; and their professed belief is that a continuing
military presence in northern Cyprus is necessary to keep this
threat at bay. It is, of course, a belief with no strategic rationale.
Troops to defend Turkey should be stationed in Turkey. But some
old generals, who remember Tikrit as once part of Turkey and dream
of the 21st century as a new era of Turkish expansion, see the
annexation of northern Cyprus (some of them, perhaps, of the whole
of Cyprus) as part of that dream.
Cyprus has always been the victim of external
realpolitik and still remains so today. Britain took the island
from the Ottoman empire to protect its own military and strategic
interests over 130 years ago and the Turkish military now want
part of it back for similar purposes. It will take great political
courage from Erdogan and his government together with a determination
by the EU and NATO to stand by their democratic principles over
the entry of Turkey into the EU, if a viable political settlement
in Cyprus is ever to be found.
Christopher Price is a
former Labour MP