Instead of politically bankrupt attack, former UK foreign secretary Jack Straw should leave Cyprus alone to find its own destiny

By Euripides L Evriviades

Jack Straw’s views on Cyprus (We should never have let Cyprus join the EU, Politico, 07 September 2023, as reported in the Cyprus Mail) are filled with obfuscations. They generate smoke and mirrors.

There are agreed UN parameters for the solution of the Cyprus question which Mr Straw conveniently ignores. A two-state solution is not one of them. The Cyprus problem is solvable. It is not inherently insoluble as he has been arguing, unless one is willing to accept Mr Straw’s underlying thesis that: (1) A stronger state and a NATO member to boot, can forcefully dismember one of its neighbours; (2) none of the resolutions of the UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, Council of Europe and European Parliament should be implemented; (3) European Court of Human Rights rulings do not matter; (4) international customary and conventional rules and regulations do not apply to invasions and occupations; (5) political, civil and human rights can be violated with impunity; (6) adopts the Ankara narrative that the Republic Cyprus does not exist; and (7) Cyprus should not be a normal state and become instead Turkey’s vassal state. These standpoints, akin to Ankara’s narrative which Mr Straw has been echoing for years, make one also question his objectivity and stance during his tenure in office.

If one accepts this paradoxography, which sadly but not surprisingly Mr Straw pedals, then his doublethink leads him to his partition/two state solution proposition which, in a bygone age, had been the favourite fetish of colonial bureaucrats. Accepting his argument would lead us down the path of historical amnesia, reminiscent of colonial era policies that aimed to divide and rule. It is disheartening to see such views still in circulation. Even a cursory look at the history of imperialism and partition in the twentieth century reveals its moral and political bankruptcy, his examples notwithstanding.

Mr Straw’s prescription, rewards aggression and occupation. It makes a mockery of the rules-based international system. In so doing he becomes, wittingly or unwittingly, an agitprop apparatchik and an apologist of Turkey. His strong ties with Ankara are well-known and documented. He chairs the Tatlidil (‘sweet talk’) Forum between Turkey and the UK. He has received fees from Ankara for his services. Is he still a lobbyist for Turkey? This is a legitimate question to be asked. For transparency purposes, Mr Straw should have made a declaration of interest in the article which, as the byline suggests, he ostensibly wrote in his capacity as a former foreign secretary.

Mr Straw ought to know that his country is a guarantor power of the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus; not its dissolution. Cyprus is one under international law. It does not belong to one of the communities on the island, or to the so-called guarantor powers Greece, Turkey or the UK. It belongs to all its people. Cyprus comprises of all the territory of the island, including the Turkish occupied northern part, except the two British bases. As a P5 member of the UN Security Council and as a pen holder of the UNSC on Cyprus and as a fellow Commonwealth partner, his country supports UN resolutions on Cyprus. His views are also an affront to the thousands of Cypriot refugees in Cyprus and all those who found a home away from home in many countries, including the UK.

Mr Straw should not be oblivious to the moral, legal, regional and geostrategic perilous precedents his argumentation establishes. It opens a Pandora’s box for other seemingly intractable international problems. Countries with similar ‘illnesses’ should thus be prescribed with the same comparable Straw ‘medication’. He should therefore be very cognizant of what his proposition on Cyprus entails.

He should also know that his two-state solution cannot be imposed. And legitimacy for its implementation will not be granted by the resilient and proud people of Cyprus, Cypriot Greeks, Cypriot Turks, Maronites, Armenians or Latins, whatever the subterfuge used.

Mr Straw’s article, I am sorry to say, is a mix of muddled logic in its premises and convoluted logic in its conclusions. His platitudes, cant and crackpot views disclose hypocrisy. He should do some soul-searching and reflect on his responsibilities in, among others, Libya, Iraq and Uzbekistan. Given this track record, he lacks the authority to pontificate on any international problem, least of all Cyprus.

Cypriots are not children of a lesser God. They did not invade themselves. They are all baked under the same sun. Like any other people, they yearn for permanent peace, security and prosperity. In a future Cyprus, occupation troops have no place. Mr Straw should leave Cyprus alone to find its own destiny. And this is doable in today’s fundamentally different context and political reality: that of EU membership. The EU construction is one of unity in diversity and not one of division. We will continue to build bridges and not walls. And the EU is and remains our strongest common vision as Cypriots. #CyprusWholeAndFree

Euripides L Evriviades was High Commissioner of Cyprus to the UK, 2013-2019