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Media Watch 2005

03 March 2005
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following editorial appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 3 March 2005.
Government tells US to butt out

Outrage over damning human rights report

GOVERNMENT and politicians yesterday told the US it should butt out of the affairs of a sovereign EU member state and to stop acting like an arbitrary global policeman following criticisms levelled against the Greek Cypriot side in the US State Department’s Human Rights report for 2004.

Socialist EDEK accused the US of “monumental hypocrisy” while House President Demetris Christofias said the content of the report constituted an “unfriendly act”.

In addition to taking issue with two aspects of the report, Greek Cypriots were further angered yesterday by Washington’s view that the movement of American weapons into the north by Turkey did not violate any arms embargo agreements.

Political parties lined up to take pot-shots at the report and blasted the US for blatantly attempting to upgrade the status of the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state in the north.

In the report published on Tuesday the US accused the Greek Cypriot side of continuing to block any effort by Turkish Cypriot authorities or international parties to open Tymbou (Ercan) airport or any port in the north for travel to destinations other than Turkey.’

It also said the government, in the weeks leading up to the April 24 referendum on the Annan plan, had pressured the media to support its ‘no’ position and had blocked international mediators from appearing on television. The government said it would be making representations to the US over the report “to put the record straight.”

The Greek Cypriot side believes the US deliberately ignored the 1974 Turkish invasion in the report as part of its continued attempts to upgrade the status of the north to reward the Turkish Cypriot side for their ‘yes’ in the referendum.

“The report does not explain why the operation of the airport near the Turkish occupied village of Tymbou is illegal. It does not point out that this is due to the continuing Turkish occupation,” government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said.

"The report does not conform to fundamental principles of international law which all UN member states, including the US, say they respect and observe.”

DISY leader Nicos Anastassiades said it was a clear attempt to upgrade the north and that the Greek Cypriot side should be concerned as the US reports are used to shape American foreign policy. “It is clear that there is a differentiation in policy probably towards a Taiwan-type arrangement for the north,” Anastassaides.

He also criticised the US comments on the deployment of American weapons in the north and said the US knew very well why Tymbou airport was classed as an illegal exit and entry point.
“If Miami it was occupied by the Cubans, would the Americans allow them to use the ports and airport,” he said.

Anastassiades said it was unacceptable for one country to publish a report on how much another independent and sovereign country respects human rights, and questioned who gave the US such authority.. He said as a member of Europe there were organisations to carry out such tasks, and that it was not for the Americans to decide.

Similar statements were made by the other political parties.

“We expected a more reliable and objective position from the country that likes to present itself as an agent for international, legals and human rights,” said DIKO’s Nicos Cleanthous..

AKEL spokesman Andros Kyprianou said he was not surprised by the report, which he said has more to do with American “political expediency” than with human rights, while the use of US weapons in the north contradicted international law.

Kyprianou said he also noticed how the US reported on the human rights situation in other countries but never looked on its own doorstep.

”It is obvious that a report on human rights written in such a provocative way does not serve the issue of human rights but policies of the US government and the new order of things,” he said.
Christofias said the report has created disappointment that the report was not objective and appeared to totally disregard UN Resolutions.

“I am sorry to say that such reports do not help to create the best conditions for Cyprus-US relations to continue smoothly,” he said. “I am also sorry to say that this action can be categorised as unfriendly to the Cyprus Republic”.

This is a policy the US has been pursuing since the referendum because the Greek Cypriots had the temerity to say ‘no’ in the referendum, Christofias said.

EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou said the report was a monument to hypocrisy and unfairness.
“It is unfair, discriminatory, arbitrary and not objective,” he said. “It is the US exploiting its might so it can present itself as the international inspector and warden.”

He added that the US should consider its own mass violations of human rights in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I wonder if the US has forgotten the UN resolution on Cyprus, which they voted for as a permanent member of the Security Council,” he said.

Washington has defended the publication of the annual human rights reports saying they are required by Congress to compile them, and are used as a tool for policy making in the future.
“The reason we don't do a report on ourselves is the same reason you wouldn't write investigative reports about your own finances or something; it wouldn't have any credibility. Someone else needs to do that,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy Human Rights and Labour Michael Kozak

“It's not that we're against being scrutinised, and indeed we are scrutinised by many other organizations – Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International. The Chinese do a report on us each year, have told us that one is in the mail.”"