Thursday, 6 July 2023
The British High Commissioner Irfan Siddique caused outrage at a meeting of British Residents by calling the second phase of Turkey’s 1974 Peace operation in Cyprus a “land grab”, Cyprus Today reports.
In a lengthy report published by Cyprus Today on 3 July, that Siddiq, who was appointed as British High Commissioner to Cyprus last summer, caused more than a stir, however he defended his comment. He told the British Residents meeting held at the Olive Tree Hotel in Çatalköy on Tuesday, June 27 that that this was an unpleasant truth, but truth nevertheless. Siddiq likened the second phase of Turkey’s military operation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There was no legal way to change territorial boundaries without UN support, he said.
“And if that is an uncomfortable truth, I’m sorry to share an uncomfortable truth, but it is a truth, which is why there is such a strong reaction to any attempt to change borders by military force, as we’re seeing in Ukraine now”, said Siddiq.
“The justifications are totally different, but the reality is the same thing, that the world organises to protect the core principle of territorial integrity.”
“From my reading of history, there were two phases to that operation, and arguably, the first phase [on July 20 1974] was legitimate, and the second [on August 14] was a land grab”, he said.
Siddique argued that politics were less a matter of fact but rather about people’s perception and noted that both Cypriot communities felt like victims.
Cyprus Today also reports that Siddique asked the publishers not to report his comment regarding “Turkey’s land grab”, claiming it was “off the record”.
Continuing to speak while some audience members heckled him, Siddiq went on to say: “I understand it’s emotive and I said I respect the frustration, but there’s no facts in politics, there’s perceptions. So it’s a reality that there was a . . . Greek military junta that stimulated a coup [on July 15, 1974], and there was a risk of Enosis [union of Cyprus with Greece] which triggered a Turkish military intervention. . . At that point, there was a pause in the fighting and before any agreement could be reached, there was a second wave, which took a lot more territory and land.
“It’s clear that there wasn’t confidence on the Turkish side that any political agreement would be satisfactory and therefore they wanted to create a boundary that gave them strategic depth and allow the presence of more Turkish troops.
“Now my view of international law is that first intervention was arguably justified because it was a direct response to this risk of Enosis and a change to the Constitutional status, which enables and allows for military intervention by the guarantor powers.
“But they [Turkey] did that to stop that risk [and] that risk was no longer there now once they’d come”.
Providing written evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee as part of a 2004 inquiry into British government policy on Cyprus, former British MP and barrister Michael Stephen listed the atrocities that had been committed against Turkish Cypriots across the island during the days between the first and second phases of the Peace Operation, these including the discovery of the mass graves of civilians, including young children, from villages such as Muratağa, Atlılar, Sandallar and Tochni (Taşkent). All of these horrific events were documented in detail by the international press.
He wrote: “Some people argue that having defeated the Sampson coup, and Makarios having returned to the Presidential Palace, Turkey should have withdrawn and left the Turkish Cypriots again at the mercy of Makarios, the man who had been responsible for the earlier massacres.
“That proposition has only to be stated for its absurdity to be appreciated. It must be remembered that UN troops had been in Cyprus since March 1964 and had failed to protect the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots were later to see what happened to the Muslim people of Srebrenica under international protection.
Siddique argued that politics were less a matter of fact but rather people’s perception and noted that both Cypriot communities felt like victims.
Although this was not the intention the whole meeting focused on the Cyprus problem, and issues affecting British residents in North Cyprus received scant attention.
Siddiq said that if one chooses to live in North Cyprus, one has to accept the consequences of living in legally unrecognised territory.
For the full article click here Cyprus Today