Cyprus Mail

President says caution needed over Chagos ruling

President Nicos Anastasiades and Defence Minister Savvas Angelides on Tuesday highlighted that the opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found the process of British decolonisation in Mauritius was not lawfully completed when that country gained independence, cannot immediately guide Cyprus’ actions in view of the Sovereign Base Areas (SBA).

The ICJ opinion stated that the UK is under an obligation to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as swiftly as possible. The case is seen as a test of the legitimacy of deals struck between great powers and small states at the end of the colonial era, which could also include Cyprus.

The legal service said on Monday that it would study the opinion in detail, which Anastasiades and Angelides stressed on Tuesday must precede any developments in view of the British Bases.

“It is an advisory opinion and the issue is not only about studying it, it is also about if, whether and when you raise a similar request, and whether this is warranted,” Anastasiades said.

Speaking on Active radio on Tuesday, defence minister Savvas Angelides said that we should not rush and not directly link the two cases, believing that we have found the solution for the British bases and that they will leave immediately.

Initially, Angelides said, the ICJ’s opinion must be studied and evaluated by the legal service, after which its opinion must be placed before the government in a way that does not attempt to steer opinion, so that the government can make its own decisions.

“Each case brought before a court is decided upon on the basis of it own set of circumstances,” Angelides noted, adding that we should not rush to directly correlate the opinion on the Chagos Islands with the British bases.

Angelides highlighted the need for political parties to avoid taking advantage of this decision to pressure the government into taking certain measures prior to the evaluation of the opinion by the legal service.
Nevertheless, political leaders rushed to issue reactions on Tuesday to the ICJ’s opinion.

Ruling party Disy described the opinion as “historic”, but noted that the government can only move forward following the objective legal advice of the legal service.

Opposition Akel said that without disregarding the differences in the cases of Mauritius and Cyprus, as events developed in the former prior to independence while for Cyprus the formation of the British bases were part of its independence treaty, the importance of the ICJ’s decision for Cyprus is self-evident.

Diko said that colonial remnants do not belong in a European country of the 21st century, noting that it holds the government responsible for the fact that Cyprus was not involved as a litigant in the Mauritius case, or why Cyprus has not begun a similar process for itself.

Edek noted that the opinion defeats efforts by the British to assert that the bases are legitimate and sovereign.

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