‘Warships block Cyprus gas exploration’: letter to The Times

The Times 'Warships block Cyprus gas exploration'

Letters to the Editor
27 February 2018

Dear Sir

Re: ‘Warships block Cyprus gas exploration’

I refer to your report published on 17 February 2018 (‘Warships block Cyprus gas exploration’). For a number of reasons, your report is, at the very least, misleading or apt to mislead. 

I am writing to you in my capacity as representative of an organisation founded by Cypriot refugees and forcibly displaced persons who fled to the United Kingdom, as a result of Turkey’s illegalities in the Republic of Cyprus.

To begin with, your report suggests that ‘the northern half of the divided island’ has a ‘Turkish-speaking’ population which is ‘closely linked to Ankara’. This is a distortion of the truth. In the aftermath of two inter-linked Turkish invasions of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey has not occupied ‘half’ of ‘the divided island’. Turkey has occupied 36 per cent of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, an independent sovereign state established by the United Kingdom in the Island of Cyprus; since 1974, the Turkish-occupied area has equated to 57 per cent of the coastline of the Republic of Cyprus. These statistics appear in a number of authoritative sources.  An example is an article written by Euripides L. Evriviades, the then Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the USA, which was published by the European Institute in European Affairs in the Fall of 2005 (‘Why Cyprus perhaps surprisingly wants Turkey to join the club’).

More seriously, your article was wrong to imply that the Turkish-occupied ‘half’ has a de jure ‘Turkish-speaking’ population. Before the two Turkish invasions, what became the Turkish-occupied area was largely populated by citizens and other lawful residents of the Republic of Cyprus who were ethnic Greeks or Christians.  However, by means of a cruel and otherwise inhumane programme of ethno-religious cleansing, Turkey forcibly expelled these people from their homes and other properties. These properties were then de facto repopulated by ethnic Turks or Muslims who had been forcibly uprooted from their homes in other parts of the Republic of Cyprus or illegally transferred from Turkey to the occupied area.

To quote from paragraphs 103, 123 and 484 of the Report of the European Commission on Human Rights, as adopted on 10 July 1976, as declassified on 31 August 1979 and as published by the European Court of Human Rights.

‘The fact that the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriot population has left the northern area of Cyprus as a consequence of the Turkish military action in 1974 is common knowledge and needs no corroboration by specific evidence. …  Expulsions of groups of Greek Cypriots from the area controlled by the Turkish army by their deportation to the demarcation line were described in a UN report based on UNFICYP information of 5 August 1974. According to this report some of the women and children of many villages were told to leave their villages and to cross the line into territory controlled by the National Guard. Others were transported, without their possessions, to Nicosia by bus and set free with instructions to cross the “green line” … The evidence [has shown] … that the taking of houses and land, looting and robbery, and destruction of certain property were effectuated by the Turkish forces. These acts must therefore be imputed to Turkey.’

All of this happened not only contrary to international law but under the noses of the United Kingdom, a ‘guarantor’ of the Republic of Cyprus, which looked the other way.

Your report also refers to ‘reunification talks’. This description is misleading. In this respect, I refer to the article entitled ‘What does ‘reunification’ really mean?’ (published by Agora Dialogue).  If you read that article, you will realise that these ‘talks’ have been designed to re-divide and to re-segregate the Republic of Cyprus – so as to appease Turkey, to satisfy post-1964 Turkish strategy and, to these ends, to create an inherently divided entity to be known as a ‘bi-communal, bi-zonal federation’.

To cap it all, your report resorts to misleading by omission. It does so by implicitly referring to President Erdogan’s gunboat diplomacy in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus, but without describing it as such. Nor does your report explain that Turkey is not a state party to scores of relevant instruments of international law. Above all, these include the UN Law of the Sea Convention 1982, not to mention the Additional Protocols of 1977 to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court 1998.

In view of the above, I respectfully suggest that your report contains inaccuracies, misleading statements or distortions or a combination thereof. Accordingly, I also suggest that your report is in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the IPSO Editors’ Code of Practice. In line with the requirements of the Code of Practice, I trust you will correct these promptly and with due prominence. I also trust you will issue an unreserved apology.

In the meantime, I hope that no other state in the EU falls victim to Turkish gunboat diplomacy or to crude neo-Ottoman concepts such as ‘bi-communalism’ and ‘bi-zonality’. However, for such unwelcome outcomes to be averted, at least three things need to happen. Firstly, Western states must stop appeasing Turkey. Secondly, Western states need to realise that by backing ‘bi-communalism’ and ‘bi-zonality’, they have undermined integration and other liberal democratic values at the south-eastern edge of the European Union. But thirdly, leading Western newspapers, such as The Times, need to start telling the unvarnished truth.