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Costas Melakopides

Associate Professor of International Relations (ret.), University of Cyprus, RIAC Expert

The Turkish narrative on the Cyprus problem has been allowed to contradict the established legal and ethical truths. Instead of the explicit condemnation of Turkey’s continuing aggression by London, Washington, and the UN Secretariat, they have all behaved as if the “resolution” can only be achieved by exculpating Turkey and by the further victimization of the victim.

Moscow’s time-honored position corresponds to its long opposition to the attempts by Washington and London to present the Cyprus problem as a “domestic dispute”, resulting from “bi-communal strife” and “two conflicting nationalisms”.

If Moscow wishes to be consistent with its principled stance vis-à-vis international legal and ethical norms as it has done to date, it would have to follow the opposition to Anastasiades’ stance that appears more principled and certainly more rational.

A Schematic Account of Telling Historical Facts

The vicissitudes of the Republic of Cyprus predate its formal creation in 1960, since the GCs, still under British Colonial rule, appealed to Greece in the mid-1950s to represent them at the United Nations in order to attain self-determination. While the “winds of change” were blowing globally, and as myriads of Greeks and hundreds of Greek Cypriots had sacrificed their lives during World War II, Cyprus rightfully aspired to determine its own future. Notoriously, Washington and London passionately resisted this eventuality, since the Cold War had already begun and Cyprus represented for them a valuable “piece of real estate”. At the UN, Moscow, accompanied by Egypt and Poland, stood by the Cypriots, but to no avail. Hence the Greeks of Cyprus began their national liberation struggle (1955-1959) that was crowned by the birth of the Republic. The new state, however, was burdened by a lop-sided, externally imposed “Constitution”, marked for self-destruction. Arguably a prolongation of London’s “divide and rule” proclivity, this constitution was clearly unworkable, by providing excessive privileges to the Turkish Cypriot (TC) minority –18% of the population- against the Greeks, who represented 80 % of all Cypriots. There followed inevitable socio-political tensions that prepared the Turkish Cypriot (TC) rebellion in December 1963. Unsurprisingly, the “official” Turkish narrative claims that the TCs were “victimized” by the Greek majority; that they were “expelled” from the administration; that they were “forced” to hide in enclaves; and that, therefore, the GCs had “hijacked” the newborn State.

UN Security Council Resolution 186 of March 1964 falsified this narrative, by establishing that President Makarios headed the undeniably legitimate government and deserved a peacekeeping force (UNFICYP) to secure domestic order. And yet, the Colonels’ junta which took power in Greece in April 1967 –under the nearly proven guidance of Washington and NATO and certainly under their open subsequent blessings- undertook to dethrone Makarios in summer 1974, even though this could have given Turkey an alibi for a military intervention.

Ankara, in fact, invaded Cyprus in a two-part operation in July-August1974. However, its attempted rationalization of the invasion –as allegedly allowed by Article 4 of the Treaty of Guarantee- failed on solid legal and ethical grounds [1]. Universal condemnation also followed the November 1983 unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) of the millitarily occupied territory of the Republic [2]. That is why the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC) remains unrecognized by the whole world, except for Turkey!

And yet, Ankara has behaved ever since as though the “TRNC” is an entirely legitimate and recognized state; and as if the TCs are unjustly discriminated against and internationally “isolated” due to GC responsibility. In other words, the clear victimizers are posing as victims of the real victims. In addition, assisted by the UK and the US for traditional geostrategic reasons, the Turks have been feverishly working towards their exculpation regarding their Cyprus record. During the last two decades, Ankara has also exploited generous assistance by the UN Secretariat which, under the transparent influence of Washington and London, first produced the notorious “Annan plan” in 2002 and has recently sponsored fake “bi-communal negotiations” for the “resolution” of Cyprus’ existential problem.

Such undeniable historical facts are skillfully twisted into colossal “fake truths” in the service of geopolitical goals of cynical Realpolitik. In truth, however, first, the “Annan plan” collapsed in the May 2004 Cypriot referendum, when 76 percent of the Greeks rejected it as blatantly unfair and utterly unworkable. And yet, anti-Cypriot propaganda insists that the GCs “undermined the resolution” of the Cyprus problem, as if the victims do not desire their liberation.

Second, according to that plan, its rejection by even one Cypriot community would render it “null and void”. However, “bi-communal negotiations” periodically pursued, and revived in February 2014, rest unmistakably on the “Annan plan”, with additional features, even more burdensome to the GCs. The latter features were quasi-imposed by former State Department official, Victoria Nuland, and sponsored by the UN Secretariat under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Third, to call the Cypriot discussions “bi-communal negotiations” is a fake designation or multiple misnomeri for numerous reasons: they are not “bi-communal”, because the TCs lack autonomy, by operating under the iron guidance of Ankara; they are not “negotiations”, since they are taking place in a semi-occupied country, constantly being threatened by the occupier; moreover, the term “negotiations” is also misapplied, because the Cypriot President, forced to operate in a toxic context, has opted for outlandish concessions in the vain hope of reaching an agreement, nominally with his TC interlocutors but, in effect, with the increasingly unreliable, if not discredited, Erdogan administration.

There is, however, a political/philosophical conundrum that Moscow must handle: for as shown earlier, the current Cypriot government has been prepared to “bend” the aforementioned values and norms in order to reach a “painful compromise.”

Ironically, the hidden political “sub-text” is potentially catastrophic: for any “agreement” reached under the above conditions is bound to generate either another rejection in a new referendum by the GC majority, causing an unjust and malicious blame game; or, if endorsed, it would amount to replacing the Republic of Cyprus by a Turkish protectorate. The latter follows from the fact that the TC “constituent state” is bound to execute Ankara’s orders, being both its creation and its instrument. Moreover, given the extreme unfairness of the entire project, the new State’s unworkability is bound to lead to its demise. But exactly the same will also be the fate of the Republic of Cyprus that is considered “defunct” by Turkey throughout these “negotiations”. For the term “defunct” was first used by then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a document submitted to the Council in Brussels on 23 June 2014 [3].

The “negotiations”, held in Switzerland in January and June-July 2017, have collapsed. The truth is that Ankara has engineered this collapse, in view of its arrogant dismissal of the facts we recalled above and on the basis of ever-escalating demands regarding the nature and structures of the proposed new State. Inter alia, the Turkish side remained unsatisfied in spite of Anastasiades’ gigantic concessions, akin to granting the TC minority full “political equality”, since they include:

  1. A “Rotating Presidency”;
  2. “legitimation” of the hundreds of thousands of illegal colonists brought in after the 1974 invasion [4];
  3. Turkish Cypriot Vetoes on all decisions in all institutions of the envisaged “federation”;
  4. the extension to Turkey’s citizens of the EU’s “four freedoms”, allegedly because Greek citizens enjoy these freedoms (which is, of course, true but only because the Greeks are EU citizens whereas the Turks are not!); and
  5. Property rights for the “users” of occupied Greek properties, even though these “users” are, according to International Law, the illegal settlers!

On top of the above, Anastasiades’ incomprehensible policy of appeasement with the concomitant concessions have titillated further Ankara’s “geopolitical bulimia”. Simultaneously, the Turkish narrative on the Cyprus problem has been allowed to contradict the established legal and ethical truths. Instead of the explicit condemnation of Turkey’s continuing aggression by London, Washington, and the UN Secretariat, they have all behaved as if the “resolution” can only be achieved by exculpating Turkey and by the further victimization of the victim. In fact, this absence of explicit condemnation has encouraged Ankara to demand in Geneva, in mid-2017, the right to retain ad infinitum occupation troops in a full EU Member-State and to have even rights of (military) intervention in a “federated Cyprus.”

Moscow’s Cyprus-related Record

In view of the above, large sectors of Greek Cypriot public opinion, the Centrist political parties, and distinguished GC columnists and analysts commonly turn their eyes to the Russian Federation for diplomatic assistance and defense. Their hopes derive from the rich record of Moscow’s traditional support, primarily in opposition to Washington and London’s protracted, and frequently pro-Turkish, scheming. As shown in my earlier RIAC essay and my 2016 book on Russia-Cyprus Relations [5], Moscow has been a persistent protector of the Republic’ rights and needs, on the basis of friendly bonds, international law, international ethics, and mutual advantage.

An indicative list of solid historical facts may suffice to establish the grounds of the relevant Greek Cypriot hopes [6]. Besides Moscow’s already mentioned support at the United Nations, both in the mid-1950s and by Security Council Resolution 186/1964, the list contains Moscow’s immediate recognition of the Republic in 1960; Nikita Khruschev’s repeated warnings against Ankara’s threatened invasion in summer 1964; Soviet willingness to provide Cyprus military hardware to confront Turkey’s threats; diachronic opposition to Western designs to partition Cyprus; systematic calls to settle the Cyprus problem by an international conference according to international law, as against NATO’s self-serving fixations; immediate and unqualified condemnation of the 1983 unilateral declaration of independence by the secessionist “TRNC” regime in occupied Cyprus; over 60 Treaties, Protocols and MoUs on various forms of cooperation between Moscow and Nicosia, from the 1980s to the present; Moscow’s decision to sell Cyprus the S-300 missile system and even to dispatch naval units to protect the missiles’ delivery; Russia’s decisive Security Council veto -the first in 10 years- in April 2004 against the UN Secretariat’s manipulative designs before the referenda on the “Annan plan”; the Russian Foreign Ministry’s readiness to declare friendship and support for the Republic whenever needed or asked; FM Sergei Lavrov’s frequent declarations regarding the special nature of the bilateral relationship between Russia and the Republic [7]; Dmitry Medvedev’s unqualified assurances, during his 2010 state visit, that Moscow’s established Cyprus policy will remain steadfast; and effective official Russian statements in late 2011- during another round of Turkey’s “gunboat diplomacy”- in defense of Nicosia’s right to search for hydrocarbons in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

President Vladimir Putin’s major recent Cyprus-related actions involve the 2011 extension to Cyprus of a desperately needed loan of 2.5 billion euros; the generous improvement of the loan’s terms in 2013; his explicit October 2014 assurances to President Anastasiades that Moscow condemns Turkey’s renewed provocations in the Cypriot EEZ and extends its support to the Republic; the signing of 11 significant agreements with President Anastasiades during the latter’s official visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg on 24-27 February 2015; and additional, mutually beneficial, bilateral agreements, including the Joint Programme for Action for 2018-2020,signed by the two leaders in Moscow on 24 October 2017 [8].

My book on Russia-Cyprus Relations has elaborated on all these decisions and actions until late 2015. It has also recorded telling declarations, statements and actions by such Russian ambassadors to Nicosia, as Georgi Muradov, Vyacheslav Shumskyi, and Stanislav Osadchyi, who never missed the opportunity to celebrate the warm Russian friendship towards the Cypriots, the cultivation of multiple mutual interests and the truths regarding the shared ethical, cultural and “spiritual” values of the two peoples.

It is, therefore, noteworthy that current lack of Russophilia (besides instances of Russophobia) in various circles can lead either to total ignorance of Moscow’s highly positive Cyprus-related record or even to its intentional distortion. This, for instance, occurred in an attempt to discredit this record through attacking my relevant book when, in mid-2016, a controversial Cypriot journalist published a fake review in an English-language Nicosia paper under an offensive title [9]. Even worse, however, is the identical fake attempt to undermine the “pragmatic idealist” reading of Russia-Cyprus relations that was recently printed in an American journal [10]. The primary target of this superficial –and supercilious- “review” was not so much the book as the bilateral Russia-Cyprus relationship itself, since the text made no mention whatsoever of Moscow’s beneficial Cyprus policies.

In truth, Moscow’s tangible record of pro-Cyprus decisions, statements and actions suffices to justify most Greek Cypriots’ accumulated gratitude to Moscow and to explain the expectation of renewed assistance to confront the present real dangers. It is, therefore, ironic that during Nikos Anastasiades’ latest Moscow visit, when President Putin expressed his country’s willingness to participate in any renewed international discussions on Cyprus, the Cypriot president concurred enthusiastically. A few months earlier, however, long manipulated by UNSG Special Advisor, Espen Barth Eide [11], he had persistently resisted such participation, despite Ambassador Osadchyi’s insistence that Russia was ready to join the Cyprus discussions ”if asked”.

Moscow’s Potential Role

Antonia Dimou, John Nomikos:
Have Russia and Cyprus tied a military knot?

Moscow’s renewed support regarding the dawning dangers emanating from the “Bi-zonal and Bi-communal Federation” (BZBCF) presupposes continuation of Russia’s commitment to the “pragmatic idealist” synthesis that has characterized the bilateral relationship to date. In other words, as shown in “On the ‘Special’ Nature of the Russia-Cyprus Relationship”, what is “special” about it amounts to this: given the long and strong Russian-Hellenic bonds of history, religion, culture, friendship and mutual affection, Moscow is exercising its beneficial interventions in support of Cypriot rights and needs, cultivating simultaneously a rich array of Russian national interests and mutual benefits in the fields of diplomacy, trade, banking, investments, energy, defense, tourism and culture. On the other hand, the Republic of Cyprus plays its part in the above fields, within the potential of a small state but recognized as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” that is both grateful to the benefactor and committed to increasing its contribution to the well-being of the superpower. Thus, in addition to the above, Nicosia can remain an “honest broker” of Russian rights in international fora (especially the EU) and a faithful friend in matters of concern to the Russian Federation and its people.

On these foundations, what is being suggested here –on behalf, as it were, of a large sector of GC civil society, “Centrist” political elites and parties, and like-minded analysts and intellectuals- is that Moscow may energize its powerful diplomatic instruments, both within the Security Council and beyond, to the effect that the defective project named “Bi-zonal and Bi-communal Federation” should be deeply modified, if not abandoned, as contrary to legality, morality and rationality.

To the inevitable question “What, then, should replace it?” the answers hinge on conceptions of the “essential nature” of the Cyprus problem. For those who opt for what may be called “cautious realism”, the answer favors a compromise in the form of a genuine federation that at least safeguards fully the Greek Cypriot majority’s rights in contrast to undermining them for the benefit of an 18 percent minority, as currently envisaged by the “BZBC” project. For those, like Moscow and its aforementioned Cypriot friends, who treat the problem as an authentic international problem of invasion, illegal occupation, and 43-years-long violation of human rights, another answer seems appropriate: Cyprus should be liberated in order to be “re-united” according to international legal and ethical principles and norms. Otherwise, the Cyprus case might become a toxic example of crude exculpation from legal and ethical crimes and sins to be repeated in similar future instances. The proposed “liberation/reunification”, therefore, will entail keeping the Republic of Cyprus intact, as presently recognized universally (except for Turkey), with minority rights guaranteed under the auspices of the European Union whose full Member-State Cyprus became in May 2004. [12]

Moscow’s time-honored position corresponds to its long opposition to the attempts by Washington and London to present the Cyprus problem as a “domestic dispute”, resulting from “bi-communal strife” and “two conflicting nationalisms”. Manifestly, such a “fake narrative” is contradicted both by the long and direct involvement in the creation of the problem of numerous foreign states and by the subsequent engagement of International and Inter-governmental Organizations and International Courts. It follows that the problem’s rational and fair resolution must be subsumed under the relevant values and norms of international ethics and international law.

There is, however, a political/philosophical conundrum that Moscow must handle: for as shown earlier, the current Cypriot government has been prepared to “bend” the aforementioned values and norms in order to reach a “painful compromise.” This “bending”, however, is clearly unpopular with the “Centrist” political elites, like-minded opinion-makers and (reportedly) the majority of Greek Cypriots, who accuse Anastasiades’ policy of appeasement as being prepared to endorse “just any solution”. Therefore, if Moscow wishes to be consistent with its principled stance vis-à-vis international legal and ethical norms as it has done to date, it would have to follow the opposition to Anastasiades’ stance that appears more principled and certainly more rational.

Yet another puzzle may be said to emerge from the current “material embrace” between Russia and Turkey. This issue was addressed at some length in my Russia-Cyprus Relations, where it was concluded that Moscow can be expected to remain bound by its time-honored commitment. However, the convoluted recent developments in Russia-Turkey bilateral relations might raise disconcerting doubts to Greek Cypriot minds.

And yet, I find all but inconceivable that Moscow might abandon Cyprus, its “natural ally” [13], in order not to displease a mere material partner. After all, the newly reactivated Russia-Turkey interests may not flourish for long. And in any case, the said “material embrace” can well co-exist with Moscow’s established interests and bonds with Cyprus, with Russia’s proven record of not abandoning its allies and friends, and its sustained appeal to the corresponding international legal and ethical norms whenever it acted in defense of Cyprus. Needless to say, Moscow’s fastening on the international legal and ethical principles and norms can only strengthen its soft power.

Finally, given the numerous disappointments created by Nikos Anastasiades’ policies, and his concessions on the Republic’s future, he might probably lose the next presidential election, set for January-February 2018. In that case, the next Cyprus President is expected to avoid Anastasiades’ conceptual weaknesses and negotiating blunders and to emerge, instead, as a more authentic Russophile and far more sensitive to the popular will for even closer bilateral bonds between the Republic of Cyprus and the Russian Federation. Should History unfold in this manner, Moscow’s aforementioned “political/philosophical conundrum” will evaporate.

1. This article envisaged “joint action” by the “guarantor powers” of the Cypriot Constitution (Britain, Greece and Turkey) in case of a constitutional breach. Failing agreement to take joint action, each guarantor reserved the right “to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs established by the treaty” . Instead, Turkey has established its military occupation of 37 percent of Cyprus since 1974.

2. The November 1983 UDI was condemned immediately and strongly by UN Security Council Resolution 541/1983 and again, six months later, by Resolution 550/1984.

3. See 52nd Session of the Turkey-EU Association Council, Statement by H.E. Mr Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey and H.E. Mr Devlut Cavusoglu, Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator, Luxemburg, 23 June 2014, UE-TR 4806/14.

43. See Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, Colonization by Turkish Settlers of the Occupied Part of Cyprus (Rapporteur Jaakko Laakso, Finland), Doc.9799, 2 May 2003.

5. See Costas Melakopides, Russia-Cyprus Relations: A Pragmatic Idealist Perspective (London: Palgrave, 2016).

6. This list largely reflects the ones presented in my 2016 book and in “On the ‘Special’ Nature of the Russia-Cyprus Relationship”, RIAC, June 20 2017.

7. Among numerous such statements, Mr Sergei Lavrov stated inter alia to the Cyprus News Agency in December 2007: “At the base of our traditionally friendly relations with the Republic of Cyprus lie strong historical and spiritual bonds… What brings us closer to each other is the common understanding of the necessity to be guided in international relations by universal principles and legal norms”. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Information and Press Department, 26 December 2007 (emphases added). In late 2011, he added: “Russia is interested in close and fruitful cooperation with Cyprus on the basis of sincere friendship, mutual sympathy and common interests”. See “Russia Interested in Close Cooperation with Cyprus- Russian ForMin”, ITARTASS News Agency, 9 November 2011 (emphasis added).

8. For details, see “Cypriots Should Decide on Dispute Settlement Themselves –Putin”, sputnik news. com, 24 October 2017.

9. Makarios Drousiotis, “Crude Russian propaganda”, Sunday Mail, Nicosia, 29 May 2016, p.12.

10. Petros Vamvakas, Review of Russia-Cyprus Relations: A Pragmatic Idealist Perspective, Mediterranean Quarterly, Vol.28, No 2, June 2017, pp.146-148. Regrettably, the journal’s editor refused twice to publish a Reply that could enlighten its readers.

11. See Costas Melakopides, “On the ‘Special’ Nature of the Russia-Cyprus Relationship” (RIAC, June 20, 2017) for more information on Eide’s controversial role. Here I may add that the biased Norwegian politician, who was selected as “diplomat” by the UN Secretariat, using calculated fake truths ad nauseam, succeeded in misinforming and misleading a very wide audience in Cyprus, in Europe, at the UN, and beyond. The Anastasiades administration tolerated his unending fake truths and fake news, despite his being designated overwhelmingly persona non grata.

12. According to Protocol 10 of the Accession Treaty of Cyprus to the European Union (2003), the Republic of Cyprus entered the EU as a whole, with the acquis communautaire suspended in the occupied area while it is not “under the effective control of the Government of Cyprus”.

13. Nadia Arbatova, “Russia and Cyprus in the context of Regional and European Security”, paper presented at the University of Nicosia, 2 November 2010. The paper ended thus: “Russia and Cyprus are natural allies”.

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