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Op-Ed on “British Foreign Secretary a Mediator? It’s a Joke!”
February 23, 2006—No. 10 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed on “British Foreign Secretary a Mediator? It’s a Joke!”

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in the February 11, 2006 issue of The National Herald,page 11 and the February 22, 2006 issue of The Hellenic Voice, page 5.

British Foreign Secretary a Mediator? It’s a Joke!

By Gene Rossides

I was in Cyprus the week of January 23-27, 2006 during which time British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was visiting Cyprus on January 24-25, 2006 in support of a Turkish proposal for a four party high level meeting in May or June among Turkey, Greece, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots coupled with a plan to open Turkish ports and airports to Greek Cypriot ships and planes (as required by the EU) in return for the lifting of the legal restrictions on the ports and airports in the northern part of Cyprus which is occupied by 40,000 illegal Turkish troops and 120,000 illegal Turkish settlers.

Turkey’s initiative, announced Tuesday, January 17, 2006, followed by one week Straw’s comments in the House of Commons on the issue. Straw, the British Labor Party’s foreign secretary was answering a question from a Conservative Party Member of Parliament who had asked to be informed when in 2006 the European Union would review the issue of Greek Cypriots ships and airplanes not being allowed into Turkish ports and airports as required by the EU.

Straw’s response was a typical British pro-Turkish response. He said: “Each side has sought to place blocks in the way of the other—that applies to Turkey in respect of Cyprus and to Cyprus in respect of Turkey. Part of the reason for being so anxious to open the negotiations for EU membership is that that is the only way to achieve a process of normalization, leading before accession—not necessarily very much before—to a complete normalization of relations. I simply hope that both sides will recognize that it is in their interests to lift the blockages. Given the historic enmities, getting either side into a position where they will start is hard going.”

Two comments on Straw’s statement: (1) Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou met with Straw on January 25, 2006 in Cyprus and told him during a working lunch “to convey to Mr. Gul (Turkey’s Foreign Minister) that his suggestion means nothing” since Turkey is obligated to lift the Turkish embargo on Greek Cypriot ships and planes under its EU obligations, and therefore is offering nothing.

Straw in typical British diplomatic technique said Gul’s statement was important and “deserves to be taken seriously” and deliberately avoided calling for the immediate withdrawal of the 40,000 illegal Turkish occupation troops and 120,000 illegal Turkish settlers/colonists.

The Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis stated that the Greek government also rejected the Turkish proposals. He met with Straw in Athens the next day, January 26, 2006, as part of Straw’s tour. After the meeting Molyviatis stated: “The conclusion is that in essence the Turkish proposals do not differ from those tabled last May and which led nowhere.”

Molyviatis added that the proposal of a quadripartite conference revived by Turkey was not suitable since the Cyprus issue is an international one which is being discussed at the United Nations level.

Molyviatis also recalled the statement by European Commissioner Olli Rehn that Turkey assumed obligations last October which it must fulfill for the beginning of accession negotiations with the EU.

The Greek main opposition leader George Papandreou also rejected Turkey’s proposals on Cyprus. He stated: Turkey has undertaken certain obligations toward the EU. It is trying to avoid these obligations and, in addition, is seeking the indirect, de facto recognition of the occupied part of Cyprus.”

In Washington, Greece’s Ambassador Alexandros Mallias briefed senior officials at the State Department, the Pentagon and the National Security Council on Greece’s positions.

(2) Straw and the British government acting as a neutral mediator is a joke, since Britain is a key part of the problem!

Britain has been the main problem for Cyprus during its colonial period from 1870 to 1960, and thereafter to 2006. It refused to give Cyprus its freedom after WWII and held on to Cyprus by force until it imposed the undemocratic constitution of 1959-1960 on the Greek Cypriots by the open threat of partition if the constitution was not accepted.

The Greek and Turkish Cypriots had lived peacefully in mixed villages throughout the island ever since the British took it over from the Turks until the mid-1950’s. In 1955 the British deliberately and maliciously set Turkey against the Greeks in Istanbul to raise objections to self-determination for Cyprus. Britain’s actions resulted in the infamous Turkish pogrom against the 100,000 Greek citizens of Turkey in Istanbul during the Tripartite conference on the Cyprus issue being held in London in late August and early September 1955. Britain also instigated Denktash to attack the Greek Cypriots in 1957, the first intercommunal fighting.

But Britain’s actions did not stop there. In 1963 the British misled then President Makarios regarding their support for his proposed amendments to the undemocratic constitution. As a result intercommunal fighting broke out in late December 1963 which led in March 1964 to the UN Peacekeeping Force on Cyprus.

Britain as part of the 1959-1960 agreements and constitution which was forced on the Greek Cypriots, retained two substantial areas of Cyprus, one near Limmasol and one near Larnaca as so-called “British Sovereign Bases” which they have retained ever since. Britain has refused to pay rent to the Cyprus government and owes the Cyprus government over 2 billion dollars.

Further there is evidence surfacing that the British undercover forces in 1964 were involved in fomenting conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots because Britain did not want them to get together.

And in 1974 when Turkey invaded Cyprus, Britain failed to carry out its obligation under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee to resist the armed invaders, namely, the Turkish armed forces.

Ever since 1974, as before, Britain has been first and foremost acting to protect what the British Foreign Office has called British interests and has acted to prevent the Greek and Turkish Cypriots from coming together.

If the British were really sincere in their expressions of wanting a settlement and helping the Turkish Cypriots improve their condition, they would call for the immediate removal of Turkey’s 40,000 illegal occupation troops and 120,000 illegal settlers from Turkey and the removal of the Turkish military’s Green Line barbed wire fence across Cyprus, which are the cause of the Turkish Cypriots economic problems.

Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury


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