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Our View: Political point-scoring off Chagos ruling is disingenuous

International Court of Justice

THE ANASTASIADES government avoided making a much out of the opinion of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) at The Hague that the decolonisation of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when the country gained independence from Britain in 1968, despite the implications for Cyprus. Perhaps President Anastasiades was thinking ahead to his visit to Buckingham Palace for his meeting with the Queen next week and did not want to make any indelicate comment.

Asked about the case’s implications for Cyprus, he said ICJ’s opinion, needed to be studied as did “if and whether and when you raise, if it is justified, such a demand.” Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides, also avoided expressing any view, saying the government would take a position on the matter after it received the detailed analysis of the case from the legal service. Attorney-general Costas Clerides, who spoke on behalf of Cyprus at the case, did not follow their example, issuing an announcement on Monday that spoke of unlawful decolonisation.

“There is no legal conclusion of an international convention, where one of the contracting parties is under the administration of the other party,” he said in his announcement. As the agreement for the ceding of Dhekelia and Akrotiri to Britain was formalised before the establishment of the Cyprus Republic it could not have been regarded as an agreement between states, but one between unequal parties.

Whether the government will pursue this case nobody knows. The small political parties, however were quick to issue announcements, urging the government to seek the removal of the colonial remnant of the British bases. “There is no place for colonial remnants in a European country in the 21st century,” said Diko, while the Greens, Citizens’Alliance, Edek, Solidarity and Elam all demanded action by the government as “any prevarication or inaction would be unjustified.”

As usual, the so-called patriotic parties were looking to score political points by making out that this was a straightforward issue and all the government had to do was demand the removal of the bases, cite the Chagos case and these would be vacated in a few months. Everyone knows nothing works like this. Even in the case of Chagos, the ICJ opinion was not legally binding even though it constituted a political and moral victory for Mauritius and other former colonies. How it could be used to eliminate the colonial remnants is not so clear.

In Cyprus we would have an additional complication – the Turkish Cypriots/Turkey factor. In the highly unlikely event that the removal of the bases was secured the Turkish Cypriots would demand they took over one of the bases, probably Dhekelia with which the occupied area borders. Would the small patriotic parties acquiesce to such an arrangement? While nobody could dispute the correctness of the ICJ’s opinion about the remnants of colonialism, the reality is that the removal of the British bases or the renegotiation of their status would be very difficult without a settlement of the Cyprus problem.

 

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