In one of its worst strategic decisions ever, the European Union (sadly, with UK acquiescence) had agreed that Cyprus should join the EU on 1 May 2004, whether agreement had been reached with the Turkish Cypriots or not
earlier this summer the eleventh international effort to strike a deal between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots was rejected by the Greek-Cypriot government – as every previous one has been. So, whatever its terms, will the next, and the next. It is time to end the charade that negotiated agreement to unite the island with a “bi-zonal, bi-communal” government will ever be possible; to partition the island, and give international recognition to the Turkish-Cypriot state in the north.
Turkey invaded Cyprus in late July 1974. But that was a reaction to a coup d’étât by Greece (run then by a far-right military junta), and elements of the Cyprus National in early July 1974 which ousted elected, Greek-Cypriot, President Makarios, and who narrowly escaped the plotters with his life. At the UN Security Council Makarios claimed that Greece had invaded Cyprus. The plotters’ explicit aim was to unite Cyprus with mainland Greece, regardless of the interests of the Turkish-Cypriot community (around one-fifth of the population), and international agreements.
After some Turkish-Cypriot enclaves had been subject to some pretty terrible atrocities, Turkish forces on the island were dramatically increased in August 1974. Tens of thousands of Turkish troops have been on the island ever since. The Turkish-Cypriot north later declared itself “The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC) but it lacks any international recognition save by Turkey itself.
The Greek junta itself fell as a result of the Cyprus coup. There was then a cease-fire. It can be argued, as many have done, that the Turks over-reacted by the number of troops they have stationed on the island ever since. But it’s hard to argue that the Turkish government should simply have sat on their hands. Certainly the UK would not have done, if it had been a British minority under such a threat.
Jack Straw was British Foreign Secretary 2001-6.