Cyprus Mail

An alternate look at Cyprus rent owed

Following the interesting findings of Dr. Alan Waring, “Does the UK Owe Cyprus rent for the SBAs?”, published in the Cyprus Mail recently, it could be interesting to see if in fact Britain also owes Turkey unpaid revenues for the period between 1878 and 1914, when it occupied and administered the island under the terms of the Cyprus Convention, in which Britain agreed to support Turkey in its claims against Russia for return of land seized from the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8.

Article 3 of the Annex to the Convention states: “That England will pay to the Porte whatever is the present excess of revenue over expenditure in the island; (this excess to be calculated upon and determined by the average of the last five years, stated to be 22,336 purses, to be duly verified hereafter, and to the exclusion of the produce of State and Crown lands let or sold during that period.)”

The problem turned out to be that so many Turkish Cypriots left the island after 1878 that anticipated revenues fell. Nevertheless the question itself is interesting — does Britain owe Turkey rental? — since the answer in itself (it doesn’t) would underline the difference between the Anglo-Turkish treaty and the 1960 one.

Although it is commonly said that Britain leased Cyprus from the Turks, that is actually not the case. It only occupied and administered it, with the provision that if Russia handed back Kars, near the border with Georgia, the British would immediately evacuate the island. In fact Russia did hand it back under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk March 1918, but of course by then the 1878 Treaty was in the dustbin.

Altan Houssein

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