Friction over new British Sovereign
We have received the following article for publication from John Oakes which has been published in a number of media including T-Vine Media click here to view more.
Friction over new British Sovereign Bases deal
By John Oakes
The UK has entered into a new agreement with the Greek-Cypriot run Republic of Cyprus, relaxing planning restrictions on its Sovereign Bases at Akrotiri (Ağrotur near Limasol) and Dhekelia (Dikelya near Mağusa). The bases, which cover 98 square miles, or 3% of the island, are home to some 10,000 Greek Cypriots, as well as land and properties formerly owned by Turkish Cypriots.
The UK says the arrangement is important in allowing “increased flexibility for the development of private property” , giving greater freedom to residents and property owners within the bases, while safeguarding the UK’s effective operation of the Bases for military use. The agreement is described as an excellent example of the good cooperation between the two governments, and is said to “enhance considerably the prospects for investment and growth” in the Greek Cypriot republic.
But a government spokesmen for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus expressed dismay at both the timing of the agreement, the lack of consultation over the deal with other parties affected by the 1960 Treaty of Independence, and that the Bases deal makes no mention of the land formerly owned by Turkish Cypriots.
The TRNC’s Foreign Minister, Mr Özdil Nami, told BRT Radio: “What concerns and annoys us is that the United Kingdom did not inform us, did not consult with us beforehand. When they did, everything was already agreed. Of course, this is unacceptable.”
“There is a status formed in the 1960 Agreements. This is an example of yet another injustice imposed on us by the Cyprus Problem. Looking at the way this has occurred, it is a disappointing development.”
“This relaxation is something the Greek Cypriots have been demanding for nearly 50 years. Therefore, its realisation during Anastasiades’ January visit to London makes it look like a present given to them by the UK. Do British presents have a price? Is something going to be asked in return?”
Former TRNC President Mehmet Ali Talat said: “According to reports in the Greek Cypriot media, the new guardianship will apparently extend to the Turkish Cypriot properties within the bases, since the laws of the Republic of Cyprus will operate in the area in question. So, the British seem to have given away the Turkish properties in the bases to the Greek Cypriot side. A legal study [by the Turkish side] must be conducted [into this].”
He added, “Britain always does this sort of thing….it is totally unacceptable that it has now finalised an agreement with the Greek Cypriot side which could ultimately change the status of the bases completely.”
Historically, Archbishop Makarios and Turkish Cypriot representative Rauf Denktaş specifically initialled Appendix R of the 1960 Treaty, which highlighted that the land the British bases were on are sovereign British territory. It gave Great Britain the absolute right to dispose of the Sovereign Bases as she wishes. The clause was inserted to prevent a future Republic of Cyprus government claiming land back from the British government.
The recent agreement also commits the UK to helping the Greek Cyprus develop gas reserves in its Exclusive Economic Zone “in accordance with International Law”, and repeats the two governments’ continued commitment to a “State of Cyprus with a single sovereignty, single international personality and a single citizenship, in a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality”.
Commentators are already comparing the new deal with the notorious Memorandum of Understanding signed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and then Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, which among other things restricted the legitimate development of the TRNC culturally and economically. The Turkish Cypriot side claim both agreements are effectively a denial of the UK’s Independence Treaty status, where it has a duty as Guarantor to uphold Turkish Cypriot rights and interests on the island.