In the third article looking at the Cyprus problem from a diplomatic viewpoint, Andreas Pirishis examines the long-standing hostility towards the US and UK

During the first years of its independence, Cyprus chose to develop friendly relations with as many states as possible.

It became a member of the United Nations, and immediately thereafter, a member of the Council of Europe of which Greece and Turkey were also members. It was a political choice based on its history, civilisation, geography and economic interests.

At the same time, Cyprus joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which was primarily made up of African, Asian and South American countries. Very quickly, during the 1960s, Cyprus also turned towards the Soviet Union and other countries of the Warsaw Pact, not only for diplomatic support but for the supply of defence equipment.

These tactics contributed to the impressive expansion of our relations in the international sector at the expense of solidifying them. That was also the time when Cyprus should have worked, as a newly independent state, on creating real alliances instead of spreading itself thin in all directions at the expense of strong alliances.

It was neither realistic nor prudent, during the period when the Cold War was at its height to be developing close relations with the West, while at the same time catering to and dealing with the Warsaw Pact. It should be mentioned that during the 1960s and 70s, the West looked at Cyprus with skepticism and concern, because during discussions of international problems, Cyprus often aligned itself with the positions of NAM or the Eastern Bloc.

In addition to issues of substance, there were also tactical mistakes. At the United Nations, we failed to see in time the changing dynamics in its operation. Real power was gradually being siphoned out of the General Assembly and concentrated in the Security Council.

The importance of the General Assembly’s role, members of which were

constantly increasing as a result of NAM, was steadily diminishing, until it finally became a forum for general discussions and resolutions on issues of a general nature.

This weakened role contributed to the downgrading of the importance of NAM as a General Assembly majority that could influence decisions by different UN entities.

Power at the UN, especially on issues related to international peace and security, was with the Security Council, as provided by the UN Charter. The jurisdiction and power over international problems rests exclusively with the 15 members of the Security Council in which the role of the five permanent members was the determining factor.

Among the five permanent members, on issues related to the Cyprus problem, the US and the UK traditionally had the most significant role. The US and the UK were at the helm and pulled the strings in the Security Council, while the other three permanent members (China, Soviet Union, France) to a large extent were just controlling the brakes.

Unfortunately, we have not succeeded in developing and maintaining a relationship of trust and sincere dialogue with the two most important members of the Security Council, the US and the UK.

Of course, the quality and depth of our relations with the US and the UK do not depend only on us. Quite often, the behaviour of these two governments justified our complaints. By the same token, we must recognise we have our share of blame for these periodic crises in relations, both as a nation and as a society.

Often, our foreign policy was needlessly in conflict with the foreign policies of these two powerful countries, which played a part in our future, while our domestic political rhetoric was hostile and our criticism frequently unfounded. Yet our interests, political and economic, always dictated maintaining the best possible relations with these countries which then and now play a dominant role in international affairs.

Our attitude towards them was being influenced by emotion and

ideological distortions. Undeniably, executions, torture and imprisonment of hundreds of Eoka fighters by the British during the 1955-1959 period cannot be erased from the memory of the Cypriot people.  The Greek Cypriots especially cannot forgive the British for blocking Enosis, a dream and a vision they preserved with such passion for centuries.

But in life, just as in diplomacy, nothing remains static. We are not the only ones in the world that have bad experiences with other countries. Nevertheless, without writing off the past, we must give the future the attention and significance it deserves. States and societies modify their policies, surpass what divides them and reinforce what unites them. The EU is a case in point and represents the perfect example.

Two of the largest and most successful communities of the Cypriot diaspora are found in the UK and the US. A significant number of Cypriots study at UK and US universities. A range of business ties support our economy, while cooperation at governmental level on multiple issues is equally broad and mutually beneficial.

The Cyprus government often responds positively to calls and requests of the US government for a variety of services and facilities; because of the nature of some of these, their acceptance was not always made public.  Despite all this, it has not been possible to build a relationship of mutual understanding and trust.

Even though both sides have a share of the responsibility, I will concentrate on what I believe are our mistakes and omissions. Our intense distrust – often translating into open hostility – towards the British and American governments was mostly the creation of an intensive, long term and skillful negative propaganda campaign.

Even the droughts that have plagued our island for centuries was used in this campaign. Some of our political parties and a section of the media, without logic and reason, without any scientific backing, blamed the US and UK for the droughts, accusing them of hitting clouds over Cyprus with chemicals.

Our conviction that every initiative by the US/UK was designed to serve their interests or the interests of Turkey prevented us from ever evaluating rationally Anglo-American initiatives.

 

Andreas Pirishis is a former permanent secretary of the Cyprus foreign ministry and a former ambassador