Britain’s Constitutional Responsibilities to the Republic of Cyprus: Past, Present and Future
Thank you for your kind invitation to this inaugural seminar, I am honoured to have been invited to such an important event in relation to the Constitutional role of Britain according to the Constitution of The Republic of Cyprus.
When I entered politics 2 years ago I promised myself that I will always speak the truth and my mind and adhere to my principles even at the expense of political cost, because I was never font of professional politicians who would say anything to their people as long as they secure their votes at the ballot boxes.
Let me tell you from the outset, that I don’t have legal background as I am an economist by profession, so my speech is based on my personal views insofar as the subject of tonight’s seminar.
- (click here for another analysis by Dr. Christos Clerides )
I did not live or experienced the tragic events of Cyprus of 1974 due to the age factor although I come from a family of refugees from Famagusta, but fortunately there are a lot of well documented sources for the younger generations to research for the Cyprus history and the involvement of foreign powers in its affairs. One of those powers surely was Great Britain who has a long foothold in Cyprus under different legal pretexts since 1878 until today.
Before going any further with my speech, let me clarify and correct a public misconception that Great Britain is in Cyprus to keep the peace between the Greeks and Turks, something which is not true at all, as Britain is in Cyprus to preserve its own strategic interest through its so called 2 Sovereign Bases and other military installations on the island as we have a strategic position on the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. So let’s be honest about this, that British rule did not come out of love for Cyprus and its people.
In 1960 with the signing of the Treaties of Establishment, Guarantee and Alliance, Britain secured the Sovereign status of the two Military Bases and also other military installations, training areas, communications stations which are spread all over the Cyprus territory and are crucial to the strategic interest of the United Kingdom. Great Britain needs and always needed a foothold in Cyprus and they would have done anything to secure that foothold as history has shown to us. Although Turkey renounced any rights on Cyprus with the signing of international treaties, Britain when faced with the Enosis aspirations of the Greek Cypriots with Greece, made sure to bring into the fold the Turkish Cypriot card to safeguard its foothold in Cyprus.
We must have in mind that on the 04/06/1878, the Ottomans in fear from Russian encroachment, leased Cyprus to Britain, according to the Congress of Berlin, so that Britain could protect the ailing Ottoman Empire using Cyprus as a military outpost. After 45 years elapsed, the newly inaugurated Republic of Turkey, renounced any claim to sovereignty over Cyprus in favour of Britain as stipulated in articles 20 and 21 of the Treaty of Lausanne. In 1925, Cyprus was annexed and became a British Crown colony.
Surely, Great Britain with the signing of the above treaties in 1960 did not only have rights and prerogative powers in the use of the whole of the Cypriot territory, but undertook responsibilities towards The Republic of Cyprus and its citizens. According to article 2 of the Treaty of Guarantee, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom recognised and guaranteed the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus and also the state of affairs established by the Basic Articles of its Constitution. Also Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom undertook to prohibit, so far as it concerns them, any activity aimed at promoting, directly or indirectly, either union of Cyprus with any other State or partition of the Island.
Also, article 4 of the said guarantee stipulates that, in the event of a breach of the provisions of the Treaty, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom undertake to consult together with respect to the representations or to undertake measures necessary to ensure observance of those provisions. If no agreement for common or concerted action proved to be possible by the three guarantor powers, each of the three guaranteeing Powers reserved the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the Treaty.
The Treaties of Establishment, Guarantee and Alliance signed by the Cyprus Republic, Turkey, Greece and Great Britain are valid agreements enforceable by law (international law in our case) and any breach has legal consequences for all parties involved.
The Cyprus Republic consideration for recognising sovereignty of the 2 Military Bases, in terms of the contract law is simply the guaranteeing by Britain of its independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus, and also the state of affairs established by the Basic Articles of its Constitution in exchange of the two Military Sovereign Bases and the other facilities afforded by the Republic Of Cyprus to Great Britain.
It is a fact that Great Britain, failed to fulfil its obligations towards the Republic of Cyprus in 1974 and continues to do so even today as Turkey has partitioned the island and promoted vigorously the ethnic cleansing not only of the Greek Cypriots but also of the Turkish Cypriots who are now a minority in the north as thousands of Turkish mainland settlers continue to flood into Cyprus in an effort by Turkey to change the demographic character of the people of Cyprus. Even the threats of Turkey and its continuing aggressive approach as far as the hydrocarbon programme in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus go unheeded by Great Britain and has done nothing to protect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore its own national resources.
As it has been announced separate negotiations will begin between the Republic of Cyprus and the British Government on the status of the bases after Brexit, following the exception requested and received by Cyprus from the EU negotiating team for Brexit. Cyprus is the only country in the European Union to have the opportunity to negotiate on a bilateral basis with Britain over Brexit, and not through the EU institutions as required by the EU-Britain agreement. Negotiations between the two parties are expected to be tough as Britain will want to maintain its sovereign/strategic rights in Cyprus, while the Cypriot government will ask to receive benefits possible from Britain’s exit from the EU and I personally hope that one of them will be the obligatory help by Britain to solve the Cyprus problem with the end of the Turkish occupation and partition of Cyprus.
The above negotiations by the Republic Of Cyprus and Great Britain will be affected and should be affected in my opinion by two new recent developments in the area of international law and British domestic law.
Firstly, on the 30/07/2018 the British Supreme Court in a preliminary court ruling decided that the British Bases are a remnant of Cyprus colonization by Britain and not a new entity as argued by the British Government at the court proceedings. Using a citation from Hallbury’s Laws Of England, the court in other words decided that the two bases are regarded as constituting colonies by conquest and session as from 5/11/1914.
Secondly, the recent legal case involving Mauritius and Britain before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, which relates to the dispute between Great Britain and Mauritius concerning the illegal detachment of the Chagos Archipelago from the rest of the British colony of Mauritius in 1965, by Britain three years before independence, and retaining control of the archipelago until today. If there is a successful outcome for Mauritius, then the Republic of Cyprus and other former colonies will have a very significant legal weapon in their hands. The case at the ICJ is a legal test of whether colonial-era deals struck by great powers and small states that later gained independence are legitimate, given the power imbalance.
Cyprus participated in the proceedings of the above case through the attorney-general, Costas Clerides and the eminent Cypriot advocate Polyvios Polyviou whom, addressing the components of the right to self-determination, stated colonial powers even today are under a continuing obligation to give full effect to the principle of self-determination and the matter is clear, colonialism is a remnant of the past and we should not preserve it but bring it to a speedy end.
Summarising the above, it seems that Great Britain in 1960 took advantage of its colonial might and retained the two Bases under its control and jurisdiction to serve its strategic long term interests, signing in exchange the treaty of guarantee to protect the sovereignty of Cyprus and to prevent its partition, and having failed totally to uphold its obligations, continues to enjoy the spoils of its colonial might without any reciprocal actions towards Cyprus. Its no secret that already the British Government expressed its will to renounced its guarantor role in Cyprus taking advantage of the will of the Cypriot people to have a solution of the Cyprus problem without guarantees and outside rights of interventions by any other countries.
The Republic of Cyprus in my opinion should never accept the unilateral renouncement by Great Britain of its obligations and rights, emanating from the Treaty Of Establishment and Guarantee unless a permanent solution to the Cyprus problem is found and agreed by all the parties involved. Great Britain was in the past and is today part of the Cyprus problem and should pay a more active role in solving it and it should not be allowed to escape from the negotiating table until it fulfills its obligations towards Cyprus as stipulated by the Treaty of Guarantee. To renounce unilaterally its guarantor rights and obligations and keep the two Military bases is like adding insult to the 1960 wounds of the Cypriot people, who accepted the detachment of the two bases from its territory in 1960 in order to have them as a safeguard from the Turkish aggression.
If on the other hand, they insist on renouncing their rights, then they should do so also in relation to the two Military Bases and hand control of them to The Republic of Cyprus, as they have no other legal or moral right to keep them. The two cases I mentioned above especially the ICJ one in relation to Mauritius if favorable, should be a guiding factor to their intentions as far as Cyprus.
I hope that Great Britain will think about its involvement in Cyprus on a long term basis and show the necessary will to solve the Cyprus problem in way that keeps Cyprus an independent and sovereign country without interventions from any other foreign powers because Great Britain needs Cyprus more than Cyprus needs Great Britain especially after 2004.
To end my speech tonight, I believe Cyprus and Great Britain share a lot of common values and long term strategic interest and I hope this time Great Britain fulfills its guarantor and constitutional obligations towards Cyprus not only as an independed country member of the United nations but as member of the Commonwealth and the European Union.
Cypriot people sacrificed their long term aspirations for enosis with mainland Greece in 1960 and are now facing the thread by Turkey to complete annexation and ethnic cleansing through the changing of the demographic character of Cyprus since the invaded and partitioned Cyprus in 1974.
Great Britain, is renowned all over the world as a country of due process and fairness but that did not manifest insofar is Cyprus concerned, instead Great Britain is behaving like a modern Pontius Pilatus. If Britain wants to have long term interests in Cyprus and the use of certain facilities on Cyprus territory that should only be possible through the end of the invasion and partition of Cyprus by Turkey.
- Member of the House of Representatives of The Republic of Cyprus
SPEECH at the Cyprus Community Centre 1st October 2018