But revoking Cyprus passports of Turkish Cypriots was not the answer
In a recent article of mine, I made the following important points concerning the 1974 Turkish military intervention:
- The 1974 coup, the triggering event of the Turkish intervention, was staged by the Greek military junta contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Greek Cypriots.
- The UK evaded its obligations as a guarantor and remained a passive observer of events, thus giving Turkey a blank cheque on the issue.
- Under the Treaty of Guarantee, Turkey had – no doubt – the right to intervene to restore law and order. Instead, Turkey chose to launch a full-scale war on Cyprus. Judging by subsequent developments, one can safely conclude that the excessive use of force employed by Turkey in that operation aimed at the partitioning the island – a goal that was attained on a de facto basis.
- The leaders of the Christian population of the island failed to realise the long-term adverse consequences of what happened in 1974, relied excessively on the fact that they formed 80 per cent of the total population of Cyprus and assumed that it was a matter of time before the 20 per cent Muslim minority would realise that it was in their best interests to cooperate with the majority. This assumption turned out to be invalid, the principal invalidating factor being the insecurity felt by the minority community.
- Nevertheless, the truth remains that the vast majority of Christians and Muslims living on the island are peace-loving people who have never been involved in nor condoned the atrocities committed by certain extremist elements and by individuals serving in the Turkish army.
This is the background against which the tragedy of Cyprus is developing today. The leaders of the Christian Greek Cypriot majority are on the defensive, having seen their policies and tactics (aimed at addressing the existential problems of the Republic of Cyprus) fail to produce the desired results. In contrast, the leaders of the Muslim Turkish Cypriot minority, encouraged by the continuing assistance and support of Turkey, have become more aggressive and are now openly stating that a two-state solution is the only one acceptable to them.
In my opinion, under these circumstances, the Greek Cypriot leaders have only one option. To offer the minority the political equality and the effective participation they have been claiming with the support of the United Nations, the right to participate in the management of the under-the-sea wealth of Cyprus and a system that would give them an adequate feeling of security. This offer has to be extended here and now, in clear and unambiguous terms, without reservations or conditions.
Instead, the Greek Cypriot leaders opted last Tuesday to withdraw and cancel the Republic of Cyprus passports given to some 15 leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community. There may be good legal arguments justifying the action taken, in the sense that the individuals involved are publicly declaring their loyalty to an independent state that has been unilaterally set up, despite the related explicit prohibitions in the Cyprus Constitution. However, I believe that politically it was an unwise move for the following reasons:
- The move gives an element of credibility to the argument the Turkish Cypriots often advance, namely that the Greek Cypriot-controlled government of the Republic of Cyprus is seeking to isolate the minority and deprive them of the right to be heard.
- The withdrawal and cancellation of these passports will deprive the Republic of Cyprus from justifiably claiming that, despite the rhetoric used by these people, the leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community effectively recognise the Republic of Cyprus by utilising its passports internationally.
- In contrast, the inability to hold Republic of Cyprus passports will strengthen the case of those claiming that it has become a necessity to gain the international recognition of the unilaterally declared independent “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” and to seek a parallel Turkish nationality and a Turkish passport. This action will obviously pave the road for the future annexation of Cyprus by Turkey.
- Another possibility would be for the people affected to seek and secure UN passports, on the basis that they cannot otherwise attend the UN meetings to which they are invited to attend. Such a development would constitute another form of an indirect recognition of the breakaway state or, at least, a first step towards the attainment of that goal.
- The irony is that, in terms of substance, the measure taken is totally ineffective, in the sense that it will not stop these individuals from going anywhere in the world they wish to go, particularly since no passport is needed to move within the European Union and Switzerland.
Taking measures, which have no real effect but could have serious adverse repercussions, merely strengthens the arm of those who seek the partition of Cyprus, either in the form of a two-state solution or in the form of a loose confederation.
What is even worse is the fact that the measure taken has been connected with the recently announced decision of Turkey to declassify the fenced-off part of Varosha as a military area and to open it up for habitation. Depriving the Turkish Cypriot leaders of their Republic of Cyprus passports is so obviously an ineffective measure in forcing them to change their minds that I suspect they will view it as an admission on the part of the Republic’s government that it is helpless and unable to stop Turkey from implementing its plans.
Late on Tuesday, Nicos Anastasiades issued, as an afterthought, a written statement inviting the Turkish Cypriots to return to the positions they were holding under the 1960 Constitution and to work jointly on delineating the areas which would be under the administration of each of the two communities. My initial reaction to this initiative was to view it as a welcome invitation to the Turkish Cypriot community to work together on rebuilding Cyprus. However, within about half an hour, the accountant, who has never ceased to reside inside me, pointed out a plethora of practical difficulties in implementing such an idea that they would render it a totally unrealistic proposition.
In contrast, the decision to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in connection with what is happening in the fenced-off part of Varosha is correct and appropriate. It is important to move swiftly in this respect and a deadline should be set and publicly announced for formally filing the appeal.
In my humble mind, being allowed to reach the entrance of your home but being prohibited from entering your home, which has been rendered a relic by the passage of 47 years over which this monstrous prohibition has been in force, is not only a fine example of how basic human rights can be violated in Europe, but it is also a good example of how the violation of basic human rights can be accomplished by tactics that exclusively aim at causing the maximum possible human suffering and pain.
Christos Panayiotides is a regular columnist for the Sunday Mail and Alithia