Former Foreign Secretary sees Partition as only way to settle the Cyprus Issue

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Cyprus Green Line Photo Credits Reuters Neil Hall

by Aggelos Skordas

Three months since the multilateral talks of Crans-Montana regarding the future of Cyprus, aiming to bring an end four decades of division that followed the 1974 Turkish military invasion, former British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jack Straw, has characterised the attempts of reunification as “nonsense”.

In an article entitled “Only a partitioned island will bring the dispute between Turkish and Greek Cypriots to an end” published in the Independent, Tony Blair’s Foreign Secretary, appears to disregard the Cypriots majority plea for a viable, just and final solution of the long lasting issue, faulting at the same time the European Union for granting the Republic of Cyprus full membership. Moreover, he describes Cyprus’ admission to the EU as “the worst strategic decisions ever”.

Straw, who at the time was in charge of Britain’s foreign policy and from that post agreed to accept Cyprus as a member of the EU whether agreement had been reached with the Turkish Cypriots or not, charges the Greek Cypriot side for the failure of all reunification talks from 1974 onwards. “Endless, mainly UN-sponsored, negotiations have taken place since. A reduction in Turkish troop numbers have been part of these negotiations. One of the most important was the 2004 ‘Annan’ plan, painstakingly negotiated by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his special representative for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, to provide a federal, ‘bizonal’ and ‘bicommunal’ constitution. The plan was approved overwhelmingly in referenda by the Turkish Cypriots but was rejected by an even bigger margin by the Greek Cypriots”, Straw concludes that the Republic of Cyprus refusal to sign the so called “Annan” plan was based on its unwillingness to share power with the Turkish Cypriot community.

“For any negotiation of this kind to succeed, both sides have to be able to gain something. But, from the Greek Cypriot point of view, conceding political equality with the Turkish Cypriots means giving power away. If the quid pro quo had been EU membership, a deal in my view would have been agreed. But without that, the reality is that however well intentioned, no Greek Cypriot leader will ever be able to get their electorate behind a deal. The status quo for the south is simply too comfortable”, Straw continues, adding that the Republic of Cyprus “has hardly acquitted itself as a model member of the EU” due to the banking crisis of 2012-2013, “caused in part by Cyprus’ role as Russia’s offshore banker of choice”.

The article caused strong reactions in both Nicosia and London, as the former member of Labours’ cabinets called the international community to acknowledge the reality and “recognise the partition of the island. That would be far more likely to improve relations between the two communities than continuing the useless merry-go-round of further negotiations for a settlement that never can be”.

British Cypriot Labour MP Bambos Charalambous Rejects Straw’s Article

On his behalf Bambos Charalambous, a Labour Party MP for Enfield Southgate with Cypriot ancestry, issued a statement describing Jack Straw’s article as “ill informed”, while stressing the Labour’s former Foreign Secretary view on the Cyprus Issue does not represent the party. “We pledged in our manifesto to ‘give our strong support to those countries already working to end decades of division, including… Cyprus’,” reads the statement. Charalambous adds that the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn “has long been a friend of Cyprus” and that Emily Thornberry “is doing an outstanding job as Shadow Foreign Secretary in supporting peace”. “We should all be working towards a unified Cyprus with equal respect and regard for the rights of all the citizens of a united Cyprus”, the Labour MP underlines, while reminding Jack Straw that he was the UK Foreign Secretary when the Republic of Cyprus joined the EU.

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.