Thursday, 8 November 2007

Book on Cyprus-UK relations founders after Anglo-Turkish pact

Source: Cyprus Weekly - 8th November 2007

Book on Cyprus-UK relations founders after Anglo-Turkish pact

Millet claims island owes economic miracle to Britain

By Philippos Stylianou

WHEN the book with the long title "Reflections on the Relations Between Britain and the Republic of Cyprus – and the Case of the British Sovereign Base Areas" was being launched on October 18 in Nicosia, nobody could predict that shortly afterwards it would become so topical on account of the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in London between Britain and Turkey.

The remarks by the presenters of the book, including British High Commissioner in Cyprus Peter Millet, make it even more so.

"We want to work with Cyprus. We have absolutely no interest in working against Cyprus," Millet had told the audience at the University of Nicosia’s Unesco amphitheatre only to be contradicted by his Prime Minister Gordon Brown 5 days later.

It would make an interesting case study of ethics and diplomacy to know how privy Peter Millet was to the Anglo-Turkish pact and its "TRNC" section when he was giving the Greek Cypriots this assurance.

Presumably, he would say that by Cyprus he meant the island as a whole and not just the Republic of Cyprus, but then this would be one of those explanations that make matters worse.

The book, edited by Andreas Theophanous, head of the research team at the University of Cyprus, and associate Yiannis Tirkides, is the result of a study, which examines the relations between Cyprus and Britain, "including their sensitive aspects and integrating public perceptions in the analysis."


It aimed at steering a smoother course in Cyprus-UK relations, but it has foundered in the sudden storm raised by the Anglo-Turkish pact instead. What follows is really the floating debris of the wreckage.

Speaking at the presentation of the book, Theophanous drew a sharp contrast between the flourishing Anglo-Cypriot relations in the socioeconomic field and the difficulties and mistrust prevailing in the political domain.

He noted that the net surplus Cyprus enjoys in her trade balance with the UK, including the British Bases, totals 10% of its GDP, although this is due to half the island’s tourists being Britons.

In the social spectrum, Theophanous said, the book highlights the incorporation of British practices in Cypriot business and the legal framework, the educational exchanges, the presence of a sizeable Cypriot community in the UK and the increasing number of British expatriates and business in Cyprus. And he then went on as follows:

"According to the study, this remarkable socio-economic record is not, however, matched in the political domain. Furthermore, the overall political relationship often becomes difficult and at times tense, with Greek Cypriots perceiving British policy over Cyprus to have been consistently pro-Turkish and that in 1974 Britain fell short of carrying out its Treaty obligations. It should also be noted that there is a widespread perception that Britain and NATO in general are enjoying a multitude of benefits from the operation of the sovereign bases in Cyprus without reciprocity toward the Republic of Cyprus."


After sketching a brief historical background, Theophanous said that the personal interviews contacted in the context of the study showed that the majority of Greek Cypriots felt unjustly treated by Britain. In addition to the grievances mentioned above, their frustration also stems from their unfulfilled national aspirations for union with Greece, the nature of the 1960 constitution, and Britain’s role in drafting the UN backed Annan Plan for Cyprus.

In his concluding remarks Theophanous presented the book as an effort to encourage the improvement of relations between Britain and Cyprus in all fields, in order to promote their common interests for mutual benefit.

British High Commissioner Peter Millet, in his presentation, largely took up Theophanous’ contrasting approach between the socio-economic and political aspects of relations between the two countries, but from a rather selfish and somewhat menacing standpoint, particularly as regards the former.

He agreed with the 10% figure of UK’s contribution to Cyprus GDP as being fairly accurate, noting however that what this meant was "that the strength of the Cyprus economic miracle is built on – and to some extent dependent on – tourism and development from the UK." He hammered on this later on in his speech, stressing the following: "The Cypriot economy is prospering not just because Cypriots are good businesspeople, but because hundreds of thousands of Britons have bet on Cyprus – through tourism, the property market, the education industry, and a host of other ways. We are already inter-dependent, and becoming more so with every investment decision."


Turning to the political relationship, Millet reminded the audience that Britain had important interests on the island and in the area and stressed that it took its "role as a Guarantor Power, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and as an EU partner, extremely seriously."

Referring to the criticism of the Bases contained in the book, he rejected that they are trying to become self-sufficient because they do not trust Cyprus. He said the Bases are not self-sufficient since for one thing they have to rely on the Republic of Cyprus for electricity supply, but added it was important for any military operation to rely as much as possible on self-sufficiency.

The Head of the British diplomatic mission in Cyprus also dismissed the findings of the book about the Greek Cypriot public being hostile to British policy. He ironically based his argument on the now cooled "Structural Dialogue" between the two countries, and blamed the perception about Cypriot animosity towards Britain on the media.

"I do not therefore see any justification for the perception of animosity between the UK and Cyprus. We hold no animosity for Cyprus and have no intention to punish Cyprus. On the contrary, why would we want to punish a country or a people with whom we want friendly relations and a positive constructive dialogue?" The British High Commissioner wondered.

Referring to his country’s involvement in the search of a Cyprus settlement, including support to the 8 July Agreement, he switched the argument around, saying that one should perhaps look at how others perceive Cyprus.

"Let me be frank," Millet said. "It is regrettable but not surprising that the Cyprus question has fallen off the international agenda. The priorities for the UN and EU are elsewhere: Iraq, Iran, Burma, climate change. And the perception is that Cyprus’s foreign policy is in danger of contaminating other EU and international priorities" (his emphasis again).


The High Commissioner insisted that his government had demonstrated its commitment to solving the Cyprus problem by the appointment of Joan Ryan MP as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative to Cyprus. He revealed that she was rather pessimistic after her recent visit to the island, but determined to play a positive role.

Millet then reiterated the latest leitmotif of British policy on Cyprus that the island’s political problem has to be solved next year, because "time is running out."

In the meantime, he said, Britain would continue its co-operation with Cyprus and referred in particular to the UK-Cyprus Forum scheduled in Paphos for November 3, which has been cancelled because of the Anglo-Turkish Strategic Partnership Agreement. It is uncertain what the future holds for a memorandum of understanding on research and development cooperation between Cyprus and Britain, to the impending signing of which Millet also referred in his speech.

The High Commissioner concluded on a personal note, using a quotation from Andreas Theophanous’ preface to the book, in which he said: "The past cannot be changed. But the challenge is to influence the future in a constructive manner."

"That in a nutshell is my job description," Millet said.

Tags: cypriot bases economics british strategic partnership turkey petermillet greek anglo cyprus relations unity sovereignty PhilipposStylianou UniversityofNicosia AndreasTheophanous

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