Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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28 July 2006
Meeting with FCO useful but obvious bias remains
London--Although it was obvious that representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were repeating the policy dictated to it by Ankara, at a recent meeting with a Lobby for Cyprus delegation, Lobby feels that the meeting was productive because the FCO learned, among other facts, that some of its positions are on weak ground – if not outright wrong.

London--Although it was obvious that representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were repeating the policy dictated to it by Ankara, at a recent meeting with a Lobby for Cyprus delegation, Lobby feels that the meeting was productive because the FCO learned, among other facts, that some of its positions are on weak ground – if not outright wrong.

AT the outset, Lobby made clear its concerns about perceived FCO bias against the Republic and the reference on its Cyprus website to ‘TRNC’. And, always in the background was Turkey’s hopes for accession to the EU.

Representing Lobby at the meeting were: Nick Kounoupias and Thrasos Vassiliades. The FCO representatives were Simon Wood, Head of Cyprus and Greece Section, and Edmund Rhys Bowen, who is the Cyprus
desk officer.

“It was clear from the beginning,” said Nick Kounoupias, that the FCO is seriously concerned about what may happen in the European Union, and would prefer that the United Nations take a leading role in seeking a solution to the “Cyprus problem” rather than the EU. Believing that there was no room for the EU to get involved, the FCO view is that the Annan Plan was fair and that, ultimately, the solution will be by way of UN-brokered discussions.

The apprehensions about Cyprus in the EU became obvious when the FCO indicated that it did not believe that Cyprus would use its veto against Turkey but that other European countries might. The FCO was referring to Turkey’s non-compliance with it Customs Union obligations, suggesting that the EU will find some way around this – forgetting that the rules were set by the EU and that Turkey is obligated to agree to and obey them.

The FCO view that the solution should be by the UN was emphasised by the statement that there could always be derogation from EU laws, if the Republic held out for an EU solution.

But the FCO’s greatest ignorance of the facts on the ground was evident in the matter of confiscated Greek Cypriot property. Though wedded to the Turkish viewpoint, and without a full awareness of the occupied area’s own ‘constitution,’ the FCO feels that the Property Commission in the occupied area is an effective remedy.

The FCO, however, is fully aware of the significance of the recent Aresti Decision by the European Court of
Human Rights.

Lobby pointed out to the FCO that ‘Article 159’ of the ‘TRNC’ constitution says that the illegal ‘TRNC’ now owns all Greek Cypriot property. So, it was asked, how can the Property Commission legally within its own laws return property to Greek Cypriots when the state that set it up “owns” the property? Despite this, the FCO apparently is putting a great deal of effort in helping Turkey justify this body.

In the Aresti case, the ECHR ordered Turkey to return to Mrs Aresti, her confiscated property in Famagusta, but it is in the fenced-off area – the ‘ghost town.’ Although it was conceded that the return of the Aresti property
could be “justified” in Ankara on the basis of its being ordered to do so, the possible return runs into the face of
‘Article 159.’

“It is apparent,” said Nick Kounoupias, “that the British Government has miscalculated if it thinks Greek Cypriots would engage in large-scale property exchanges or take compensation. The FCO representatives were told that the emotional attachment to land outweighed commercial logic in our experience. They seemed genuinely surprised and taken aback to hear this.”

What the FCO thinks of the results of the meeting may not be fully known, but another meeting is scheduled.