Introduction by Chris Elliott….
Having attended the recent British High Commissioner to Cyprus meeting with British expatriates in Northern Cyprus, I published a brief preview article and video review as this is the start of an in-depth look at the Cyprus Issue and the, it seems, UK reluctance to help the TRNC and the people living in it.
As a member of the British Residence Society and with their approval, I am sharing their review of the events and information gained at this meeting below.
An in-depth report was also published by the Cyprus Today newspaper and they had been given an exclusive interview with the United Kingdom’s most senior official in Cyprus, High Commissioner Irfan Siddiq, who sparked outrage at the meeting by referring to the second phase of the 1974 Turkish Peace Operation in Cyprus as a “land grab”.
They also quoted in their newspaper as follows:
“Referring to the events of 1974 following a question from the audience, Mr Siddiq – who later attempted to prevent this newspaper from publishing his comments at the public meeting by claiming he had been speaking “off the record” and warning that there would be “consequences” if we did – said: “The reality is that the 1974 conflict, some would argue . . . the intervention was justified under the system of guarantees.
“From my reading of history, there were two phases to that operation, and arguably, the first phase [on July 20] was legitimate, and the second [on August 14] was a land grab.”
His use of the phrase “land grab”, which the Oxford dictionary describes as an “act of buying or taking land illegally or in a way that is considered morally wrong”, triggered outrage among members of the audience.
One man shouted “you’re talking absolute garbage” and recommended that Mr Siddiq “read this book”, The Death of Friendship by Turkish Cypriot Türkan Aziz, while others said “No” and continued to interrupt Mr. Siddiq, who at one point threatened to walk out.”
I experienced these unhappy exchanges and had no wish to dwell on them in my introductory reports rather than plan to look deeper at why the UK seems reluctant to help the TRNC and people living and travelling to it in my next article and a video review.
Please note these are the interpretation of the meeting by the BRS Chair who was present at the meeting.
The presentation by the British High Commission at the Olive tree hotel, Catalkoy, brought no new surprises for residents living in the North.
His Excellency Irfan Siddiq opened his address by explaining the Commission’s stance on Cyprus which is supporting the UK Government’s role in working to the UN guidelines for bilateral unification of the island. He confirmed that he sees this as the answer to the Cyprus issue.
Although many in the room voiced their concerns that this route would no longer be an option and that it was time to look at a new alternative this still remains the UK Governments suggestion.
Let’s be fair! The BHC is on a hiding to nothing when it comes to the TRNC. We all need to understand that no matter what the BHC thinks personally, he is the representative of the British Government and has to support “The party line”
Yes, he made some glaring errors on history and land ownership for which the attendees were quick to jump on, but how much of this comes from advisors?
Direct flights were one of the main questions submitted and the stock reply came back as it’s the Chicago convention that will not allow direct flights. Nothing the HC can do here!
The issue of taking a TRNC registered motor car to the south was raised and the problem with the issuing of the TOM at the border. Slight confusion over who issued the document but the mike was handed to Christina Smith from the consulate who confirmed that this had been a “Brexit” problem but was enquiring from the ROC if visitors from the North could get a longer certificate due to weekend visits.
The HC brought up the subject of safeguarding and child protocols when a child is brought to the TRNC by a family member and then they cannot ascertain from the TRNC Gov. whether the child was safe. Some with professional backgrounds in the audience gave their experiences of being involved in such cases in the past and found the TRNC Police and Government very helpful in these circumstances.
A “Lively” exchange took place over his Excellency’s understanding of the history leading to the Turkish intervention. The HC had to explain that he had his interpretation and that others had different interpretations!
Questions were asked as to why the ROC has not apologised for events that had taken place in the past as well as why Politicians in the south are still being taught Enosis. The HC could not comment on RoC politics but had no knowledge of what they were being told.
A question was raised over the recent announcement referring to French and US military activity in the south seemingly in conflict with a constitution signed in 1960. The HC explained that the UN Security Council is allowed to support UN member countries and indeed this was the case.
Christina confirmed that neither the BHC nor the Consular anywhere in the world now deal with passport renewals and this should now be done online.
She felt that elderly and end-of-life care was a problem in the North and the consulate was there to offer advice and help with returning to the UK. This also goes for safeguarding and vulnerable persons and highlighted that the BHC Welfare team had been working with the BRS over some welfare cases.
The desk at the Consular in Nicosia will continue to be open for the collection of pre-arranged travel and legal documents.
There were many more questions that needed to be asked regarding actually living in the TRNC but the HC called a halt to proceedings due to time constraints and thanked everyone for attending saying that he would return in the future.
Unfortunately, some of the time was taken up with questions that were not in the remit of the BHC. I would advise our members to go on the Gov. uk website and look at the role of the BHC in Cyprus which explains clearly what they can and can’t get involved in.