Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Guarantees are much ado about nothing

As both motherlands have already gone rogue on the treaty of guarantee the issue of guarantees is moot. It is much ado about nothing!

The treaty of guarantee protects nothing beyond what is already vouchsafed under the UN Charter. It is obsolete. Cypriots no longer wish to unite with Greece and partition never had freestanding purchase anyway. So what are the guarantors guaranteeing? If security is the issue, what we need is deterrence.

The treaty itself is dead in the water. It was violated by Greece in 1974 when she mounted a coup to unite Cyprus with Greece in fundamental breach of her duty to prevent union (enosis).

And Turkey is in flagranto delicto partitioning Cyprus as we speak, in fundamental breach of her duty to prevent partition. The only country not in fundamental breach of her obligations is Britain in the sense that she has not sought to reclaim her former colony.

So why is every one making such a big fuss over this shoddy document whose object and purpose have been torn to pieces by both the motherlands, and why are these two countries still revered and given such a pivotal role in the negotiations?

The issue in Cyprus is security not guarantees. The Greek Cypriots feel insecure because Turkey is very close and has used military force against them. The Turkish Cypriots feel insecure because prior to 1974 military force was used against them by the Cypriot state run exclusively by Greek Cypriots. There is bad blood between the two communities borne of religion, history and nationalism.

Any solution is going to involve loss of face and loss of land, and latent nationalism is already resurfacing. The potential for conflict is likely to be at an all-time high with the advent of a solution. People therefore need reassurance; hence the need for realistic arrangements regarding security.

A Cypriot MEP recently argued at a meeting I attended that the police could deal with security. With every respect to him, this is nonsense. The idea that security is a policing matter reminds me of a silly remark made by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany that if British troops landed on continental Europe he would send the police to arrest them. Oh Yeah!

Why can we not have a grown up discussion about security? As recently as 1995, eight thousand Bosnian Muslims were massacred in Srebrenica and I am sure there are examples the other way. There is bad blood here in Cyprus not dissimilar to that which existed in former Yugoslavia. Why are the rejectionists in south Cyprus in denial mode about the importance of security?

From the point of view of the Greek Cypriots, security means the departure of Turkish troops and for Turkish Cypriots a sufficient presence of Turkish troops until such time as a solution has taken root and people feel safe. Within those two polarities there is room for compromise and it beggars belief that this has not yet been agreed in principle. If it had been, the Greek foreign minister’s non-paper on guarantees would have passed like water off a duck’s back.

Security and the return of Morphou are not just transactional issues. It does not matter whether you are Turkish or Greek Cypriot. As a human being you should feel very concerned whether your fellow human beings are exposed to fear of death and destruction or feel that they may be without routine precautions. This is not just a parochial concern. Indeed sometimes I feel very guilty about being overly concerned with our petty arguments in Cyprus when Syria, just a few kilometres away, is burning!

Again, as moral persons, we cannot be in favour of the avaricious appropriation of land people previously voted to hand back just because the other community voted not to accept the package. The Turkish side ought not to be oblivious to the rights and wrongs of its position.

There are a number of reasons why reneging on the vote to give back Morphou is wrong. First there is the overarching point that the absentee community owns the land. Secondly, the vote rejecting its return was a vote on the Annan package, not specifically on the return of Morphou. Third the persons who voted to reject the package in 2004 are not necessarily the same as the losers of properties. Finally, the political force of the democratic vote to return Morphou as part of the 2004 package is not spent.

What of the claims of the current users who moved in after 2004? I am afraid they have no general moral claim that I can discern. There may be individual cases where such moral claims may exist but they can easily be dealt with individually on their merits.

I have no direct knowledge that these two issues were the stumbling blocks that caused the talks to falter. If they were, it is hugely important now that the talks are going to resume, for all of us not always to approach the issues surrounding the Cyprus problem as if they are purely transactional.

Long term the broader dimension of the public good trumps all other considerations, not least because people are going to be asked to approve any agreed blueprint in referendums and thereafter people are going to have to make any solution last.


Alper Ali Riza is a queen’s counsel and part time judge in the UK

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