By Christos P. Panayiotides
IN MY article published in last Thursday’s edition of this paper, I posed the question of whether the intervention of Cyprus, before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in support of Mauritius against the United Kingdom was really a smart move, given that the Cyprus problem is currently going through a difficult stage.
Last Saturday, Dr Christos Clerides, a respected lawyer, in a letter to the editor of Sunday Mail, expressed his disagreement with the position I had taken, admittedly in a polite and courteous manner.
I was genuinely pleased with the intervention of Mr Clerides because I consider it a good example of how an insult-free public debate should be conducted in a democratic society, with arguments and counter-arguments being set out for the benefit of those following the debate.
The basic argument advanced by Mr Clerides – in defence of the Cypriot intervention – was that the United Kingdom not only failed in providing any help to solve the Cyprus problem but, in fact, it has actively sought the partition of Cyprus (by involving Turkey in the dispute), it promoted a clearly divisive constitution under the Zurich-London agreements, it supported the divisive Annan Plan and, in general, it promoted and continues to promote the Turkish positions in international fora. Mr Clerides concluded his position as follows: “The UK is looking well after its interests of course and not after the interests of Cyprus and Cypriots”.
I do not know to what extent I will pleasantly surprise Mr Clerides by saying what I am in the process of saying. I do not have the slightest hesitation to state that I am in full agreement with him.
That the government of the United Kingdom sets as its prime target the serving of the interests of the country it represents is, in my opinion, very natural and what one would have expected. Indeed, this is what I expect and demand from our own government, which should always set the interests of Cyprus above all other interests (in exactly the same fashion as the United Kingdom and every other serious player on the international scene does).
I hold the view that when it comes to international interstate relations, the prevailing law is “the law of power”. This conclusion is derived effortlessly by examining any international state conflict (throughout the ages) but also by analysing our experience of the past 70 years. Is there any doubt that we had the right on our side? None, whatsoever. Nevertheless, we have failed. Have we wondered why? A few seconds of reflection will provide the answer and will lead to my conclusion about the forcefulness of the “law of power”.
If you are the weak side of what might appear to you as an equation, how do you cope? The answer to the question is simple and disarming: You go along with the powerful and, in particular, with whoever has interests that can be harmonised and sought after along with your own interests. What has Cyprus done is the past 70 years? Whatever was possible to clash with the British interests and whatever was needed to alienate a big power.
We initiated an international process, which aimed at humiliating Britain (at a critical stage when the British Empire was collapsing), by appealing before the United Nations and demanding the right of self-determination. The Eoka armed struggle followed, with the declared intention “to chase out of Cyprus the mighty British Empire”. We rejected, on various excuses, the English proposals for self-determination, thus pushing the UK to get Turkey into the game. Shortly after the declaration of independence, our leaders continued to aim at the union of Cyprus with Greece (despite their undertakings to the contrary), thus projecting themselves as unreliable players. Our unreliability was confirmed shortly thereafter by our unilateral attempt to modify the Cypriot constitution and by acts of omission and commission that were promoting a feeling of insecurity amongst the Cypriots. The climax of this irresponsible behaviour was the suicidal military coup of 1974. During the entire period of time that followed independence, instead of aligning with those who were ruling the world and whose interests could be harmonised with ours, we chose to clash with them, by adopting an “independent” international stand, along with other “non-aligned” leaders, such as Egypt’s Nasser, Yugoslavia’s Tito, Libya’s Gaddafi and a few others who, without exception, led their countries to war adventures and to destruction.
Our behaviour was founded on our belief that Cypriots can “bridle a flea”. This shallow attitude has led us into today’s tragic position of a de facto partition of our homeland. An important element of this tragedy is that we have the guts to argue that it would not be correct to blame ourselves for this misery. It is all the UK’s fault because that country focused its efforts on serving its own interests (rather than ours).
This was the thinking behind the question posed in my article as to whether supporting the case of Mauritius was really a smart move. I am afraid that, at the end of the day, we will have solid proof that we have absorbed all the costs without gaining anything. I suspect, however, that by then it will be too late to do anything about it.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Cyprus Mail, Sunday Mail and Alithia