Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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Summer 2006 Issue 19

18 June 2006
Britain’s favourite ex-colony
Documents declassified under the thirty year rule and seen by Lobby confirm that from the beginning of 1974 Turkey made to the British government its demands for a geographical federation in Cyprus. Turkey even began to refer to a bi-zonal federation as its ultimate goal.

“It is important that we should avoid any suggestion that in favouring the geographical separation of the two communities as the most viable solution of the Cyprus problem, we are working for the partition of the island. We should use the term ‘bi-regional federation’.”
Foreign Office memorandum, 16 August 1974

On 11 February 1974 (some five months before the coup and invasion), the concept of a federation was demanded by Turkey. Recently declassified minutes of a meeting in Ankara between the Turkish Foreign Minister and the British Ambassador reveal that the Turks demanded a federal system in Cyprus to put the Turks on the island on the same footing as the Greeks. This concept is of course today still the main plank of Turkish foreign policy in Cyprus, the quest for “political equality.” And again it is supported by the United Kingdom.

Later that month the British High Commissioner in Cyprus was told by the Turkish government that federation could not work without the physical geographical separation of the communities. Indeed after the second Turkish invasion the Foreign Office noted in a stunningly honest memorandum the following: “it is important that we should avoid any suggestion that in favouring the geographical separation of the two communities as the most viable solution of the Cyprus problem, we are working for the partition of the island. We should use the term ‘bi-regional federation’”. 

So here in unambiguous language is for the first time, and from the Foreign Office no less, an explicit statement of British foreign policy in Cyprus: the partition of the island along ethnic lines but under the guise of a “bi-regional” (for this read bi-zonal) federation.

Presumably this explains why the United Kingdom did absolutely nothing to halt the illegal Turkish invasions in July and August 1974. Indeed further Foreign Office documents demonstrate that the Wilson government did exactly the opposite. Minutes from meetings with Turkish premier Bulent Ecevit and Cyprus president Makarios and a startling document dated 18 July 1974 confirm that the UK government actually connived with the Turkish government to destroy the 1960 constitution and treaties and planned to replace them with a new federation consistent with Turkish ambitions. 

Fast forward to 2004. The British and the Turks support the Annan Plan (drafted by Lord Hannay), which sought to impose a bi-zonal federal solution in Cyprus and also to legalise apartheid in Cyprus, despite it being a full member of the European Union. To British dismay however, the Greek Cypriots decided to stand up for their fundamental human rights and to reject the partition of the island, which the United Kingdom had sought for so many years. When seen in the historical context the reasons for British dismay are obvious: many years of conspiratorial planning with the Turks to legally partition the island on ethnic grounds but without calling it such were foiled at the Greek Cypriot ballot box. 

And how did Britain respond? Veiled threats, bordering on blackmail were made, suggesting that the occupied area would be opened up for business and direct trade. Property developers are allowed to advertise in the British high street and in the media to sell homes on Greek Cypriot land. Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, provocatively chooses to visit Talat, the pseudo ‘president’ of the occupied area at his ‘official residence’ and then complains bitterly in the House of Commons that Greek Cypriots did not treat him nicely when he went to the free areas of Cyprus. Now even Prime Minister Blair’s wife decides to join the party and agrees to defend the Orams in the English courts. 

The distasteful actions of the current British government to pander to the whims of the Turks merely damages its increasingly fragile reputation. They also add salt to the wounds of Greek Cypriots.