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Media Watch 2005

06 March 2005
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author:
Comment: The following editorial appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 6 March 2005.
US report a blatant threat


THE CONDEMNATION of the US State Department’s 2004 Human Rights Report on Cyprus was universal. Parties, politicians, commentators and newspapers all fired broadsides at the report, which they all agreed, was another example of the double standards employed by the hypocritical and arrogant US administration. Inevitably, they questioned the right of the US to judge the human rights records of other countries, asking by what authority it was acting as the world’s policeman.

This reaction was not restricted to angry public statements. On Thursday, Foreign Ministry permanent secretary, Sotos Zakheos, made representations to the US embassy about the report, which had deliberately contained inaccuracies and omissions. He said: “The report undermines the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, upgrades the secessionist entity and ignores on purpose the military occupation of one third of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey, as well as the massive violations of human rights of the people of Cyprus.” It was also debated at the House plenum, which issued a resolution saying, among other things, the report “distorts reality and constitutes an effort to upgrade the illegal regime.”
These were perfectly legitimate criticisms of the annual report, which appears to have signalled a new US policy approach towards Cyprus. Previous reports clearly stated that the US did not recognise the ‘TRNC’, but there was no such clarification in the latest one. Also, the occupied territory did not fall under the heading of the ‘Republic of Cyprus’ but was included as a separate section under the title ‘North Cyprus’. It also accused the Cyprus government of “continuing to block any effort by Turkish Cypriot authorities and international parties to open Ercan airport or any port in the north for travel to destinations other than Turkey”.

If anyone was wondering what US policy on Cyprus would be in the absence of a settlement, the report has provided a pretty clear indication of what we should expect – the upgrading of the north and its recognition as an independent entity. It might not be a legally recognised member of the UN but in all other respects it will be treated as an independent state. This is why, for the State Department, the occupation and the withdrawal of Turkish troops is not an issue. The priority is to help the north forge direct links with the rest of the world, which is a step towards establishing it as an independent entity, and the Americans are not alone in pursuing this objective. They have the support of the European Commission, which has been trying to open up the north to direct trade for months now but has been prevented from doing so by the legal obstacles placed by the Cyprus government.

To put it bluntly, the “biased and unfair” report is a blatant threat, informing us what will happen if there is no settlement in the foreseeable future. Some practical steps have already been taken. There was the former Secretary of State’s meeting with Mehmet Ali Talat, the visit of representatives of American companies to the north as well as efforts to introduce direct air links. If the latter were commercially viable – there is little or no demand for direct flights from the US to the north – they would have been inaugurated by now. But we should not be surprised if a non-EU charter airline soon starts flights to Ercan. And who is going to stop it? The Taiwan scenario, which many opponents of a settlement had dismissed as a hollow threat, seems to be on the horizon.

For the time being, all these are just threats, but it would be a very foolish politician betting against this US administration eventually carrying them out. And how are President Papadopoulos and his partner-in-arms Demetris Christofias going to stop the US? Will foreign ministry representations to the US embassy or the approval of hard-hitting resolutions by the House of Representatives stop such actions? Is the Cyprus government going to take on the US or is it under the illusion that the EU will help it? We should just consider how seriously the Bush administration had taken French and German opposition to its planned invasion of Iraq not to mention the disdain with which they had treated UN attempts prevent the attack.

We can protest all we like about US arrogance, aggression and contempt for international law but the painful truth is that we are in no position to do anything about it. Even the world’s most powerful countries are incapable of standing up to the US. International politics are about power and it would be criminally irresponsible for a state leader to behave as if he could take on the US and win because he has international law on his side. In our case, we cannot even rely on the theoretical support of the UN and the EU because President Papadopoulos has succeeded in falling out with them as well.

In a sense, the State Department report has served one useful purpose. It has exposed the true consequences of our government’s short-sighted, negative policies, aimed at maintaining the pre-referendum status quo, to people. Now Greek Cypriots may wake up to the fact that the European solution being promised by cynical politicians was nothing more than a cheap lie. At least the report has revealed the stark choice we are faced with – a solution based on the Annan plan or partition – something our politicians have calculatingly failed to do."