- ‘Labour Friends of Cyprus’
On the 17 October 2017, we were invited to attend at the Grand Committee Room in the House of Commons, the inauguration of the newly created group “Labour Friends of Cyprus”, an idea of our compatriot Dr. Vasilis Mavrou, a long- time friend of the Leader of the Labour Party Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.
Dr. Mavrou was appointed as the President of the group. The meeting was scheduled to start at 6.30pm but due to the late arrival of MPs we were left standing, waiting for almost half an hour before we were allowed in the room.
What followed left most of us speechless, in dismay and indignation.
Taking over the whole event Catherine West MP as chair, did not afford place on the panel to the President Dr. Vasilis Mavrou or to Mr. Marcus Papadopoulos, who, we had been told were to coordinate the whole event. Astounded both of them had to take a seat with the audience. She began by introducing her colleagues on the platform and handed over to Jeremy Corbyn who arrived soon after. Mr Corbyn left the room following his address.
Having welcomed the establishment of the group and praised the efforts of Dr. Vasilis Mavros, Mr. Corbyn had this to say for the Cyprus issue:
‘There has to be a reunification of the Island. There has to be a resumption of the talks. I thought we were … almost there not so long ago … and once again it was stopped at the last minute. I just appeal. Can we now resume the talks straight away? [Can we] resume the talks to bring about the reunification of the Island of Cyprus so that the division can be put behind us and people be allowed to return to their homes and the places that they have lost? … I recognise that Britain is a guarantor power from the 1960 Treaty [of Guarantee] and I want a Labour government to make sure that we carry out our responsibilities to ensure that that guarantor [status] means the Island of Cyprus is reunited as one and that there be a form of government and an agreement on the sharing of power that does ensure [that] communities can live together. You know what. Communities can live together perfectly well providing that they each have their rights each have respect for those rights and that people understand that in asserting your own rights it also means respecting the rights of others. That I know we can achieve and that I want a Labour government to be in office to achieve.’
With all respect due to Jeremy Corbyn MP, it has been noticed that what he said (and the other speakers after him) bode well with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office policy over Cyprus. He spoke of ‘re-unification’ and not of a unified country. The word ‘re-unification’ was intentionally promoted to replace the word liberation and insinuates quite clearly the ‘unification’ in Cyprus of two parts. He failed to make any reference to the rule of law, equality under the law, justice and democracy, failed to refer to the Republic of Cyprus and instead he repeatedly referred to the ‘island of Cyprus’, spoke of the ‘two communities’ and their ‘rights’ and spoke of ‘power-sharing’ which clearly refers to the ‘two constituent states’ promoted by the racist, segregationist British-Turkish solution of Bi-communal, Bizonal Federation, adopted by the British Government as the solution on 16 August 1974 by the then Labour Government of Harold Wilson Prime Minister and James Callaghan Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. This so-called solution which can be traced back to the Foreign Office in 1956 was demanded by the late R. Denktas in 1964 and again with a map on 12 August 1974 at the second Geneva conference. Wrapping it up Mr.Corbyn unfortunately engaged in double-talk when he called for ‘the resumption of the talks’ in the same breath as calling for ‘people [to] be allowed to return to their homes’. The two cannot be reconciled as the recent report of the UN Secretary-General has effectively confirmed that one of the primary aims of the talks is to prevent most people from returning home or recovering possession of their properties so as to facilitate an ethnically cleansed (from Greek Cypriots) state for the Turkish & Turkish Cypriots. Hence, for example, the proposed creation of a ‘property court’.
In their short addresses almost all MPs treated us as colonial servants. In an obvious coordinated effort one after the other addressed us in a despicable patronising attitude trying to educate us… as to how to co-exist with the Turkish Cypriots as if this is the problem in Cyprus and not the two Turkish invasions and continued occupation of half of the Republic of Cyprus since 1974. They repeatedly parroted the example of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots leaving harmoniously in co-existence in London. The old cliché which has no relevance to the Cyprus problem as they very well know the UK is a not an… extension of the Republic of Cyprus and such a comparison is idiotic to say the least.
One of them preached us to solve the problem with compensation, because how can we put it he claimed, we cannot go back in time! Others patronised us as to how nice an island Cyprus is, one told us she has never been to Cyprus but knows ‘we have an ugly history’, (but of course she said nothing as to who is to blame for this ‘ugly history’ i.e. Turkey and how much blame the UK bears for it), another one (Shadow Education Secretary) confused the British obligations under the Treaty of Guarantee to preach us of their … obligations for our children in Cyprus to know their history (which is a responsibility of the Government of Cyprus and NOT of theirs as guarantors!!). And another MP praised the good work an NGO ‘Unite Cyprus’ is doing and that something must be done for the Turkish Cypriots because they have been overtaken by the settlers, (not a word about the Greek Cypriot refugees and their right to repossess their stolen properties or that the settlers constitute a war crime (Geneva Convention 1949) and that the case of the missing persons must be expedited. (Of course we all know that this is due to the delaying tactics of the occupying Turkish army in allowing necessary excavations in the so-called military areas).Two other MPs curiously enough used the word “self-determination”. The first was Joan Ryan when she expressed their great disappointment for the failure of the negotiations at the Crans Montana and added ‘we know, that in the end self-determination, unity, will prevail and we must stay with that agenda’.
One wonders how does ‘self-determination’ come in at this moment if not for the recognition of ‘two constituent states’ which secures the separate ‘self-determination’ to the minority of 18% Turks in Cyprus promised by the then Colonial Secretary on 19th December 1956 in a statement in the House of Commons! A so called solution embodied through the racist and segregationist Bi-communal, Bi-zonal Federation which the Greeks of Cyprus already rejected on 24.4.2004 in the referendum rejecting the ‘Annan Plan’.
The MPs that attended the meeting were: Catherine West, Kate Osamor, Αngela Rayner, Stephen Doughty, Stephen James McCabe, Joan Ryan, Catherine West, Bambos Charalambous, Caroline Flint, Hugh Lawrence Gaffney, Dan Carden, Carolyn Harris and Roger Godsiff.
And to cap it all Kate Osamor MP whom Catherine West asked to take over the chair when she had to leave half way for another engagement, called two Turkish Cypriot Councillors to take a seat on the panel and also lecture us about bi-communal co-existence between Greeks and Turks in London!
Public Inquiry for Britain’s role in 1974
Lastly Kate Osamor called Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos and Dr.Vasilis Mavrou to address the meeting. By then most of the MPs had left, with 2-3 remaining in attendance. Dr. Papadopoulos made, I believe the most valuable contribution when he called for a public inquiry into the role of the then British Government to ascertain why it failed its obligations under the Treaty of Guarantee to protect the RoC from the two Turkish invasions and its consequences.
Turkish policy over Cyprus 1974 – 2017
Dr. Mavrou, who should have been first speaker, also made a significant contribution in detailing the Turkish policy over Cyprus, the consequences of the Turkish invasions including the continued and provocative recent violations of the RoC’s FIR and Exclusive Economic Zone.
Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos speaking, next to him seated is one of the Turkish Cypriot Councillors on the panel, with Dr. Vasilis Mavrou at the back. After their addresses both speakers returned to their seats with the audience.
The injustice and immorality of segregation of BBF
Unfortunately, this colonial treatment has been allowed to persevere over us due to the pathetic stance and silence not only by the leadership of our community but also the members of our community. It is unforgivable to accept in a free society such treatment without voicing objections and demanding respect. It is high time for this community to terminate its silence and subservience and trade with dignity its votes to its prospective MPs in the next election for real and meaningful support for our native country. And this applies to all British Political Parties in the UK , we are served with similar attitude of ‘friendly assistance’ from the Conservative Party.
Our community needs to stand up and demand proper and tangible support in return for votes. Abandonment of the British-Turkish BBF (which incidentally has never been a ‘Cypriot’ solution as misleadingly claimed) and strive instead for a solution based on liberation from the Turkish occupation, a unified Republic of Cyprus, one man one vote and respect for human rights for all citizens of the RoC.
As Dr. Klearchos A. Kyriakides put it in his closing thoughts on 22 May 2017 in his superb article posted at www.agora-dialogue.com :
“what does ‘reunification’ really mean with regard to the proposed ‘bi-communal, bi-zonal federation’? In this context, ‘reunification’ really means ‘re-division’ laced with something even worse: ‘re-segregation’.
And, as the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr pointed out in his celebrated address in Detroit, Michigan, on 23 June 1963, ‘segregation is wrong because it is a system of adultery perpetuated by an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality.”
* Researcher/Journalist/Author, London