Friday, 26 March 2010

Cyprus update: more bad news

Just a quick update on the state of affairs in Cyprus regarding the Christofias-Talat talks. Predictably, they have got nowhere and will shortly break off so that Talat can campaign for the pseudo-presidential elections in the occupied areas scheduled for 18 April, 'elections' Talat is expected to lose to the ultranationalist Dervis Eroglu, who fervently believes in partition and the recognition of the 'TRNC'. Even though it is Ankara that decides Cyprus policy with minimum input from the Turkish minority on the island, Eroglu's 'election' would provide a useful alibi to Turkey not to be blamed for the failure of the talks. All that would be left for Turkey to do would be to manage the Greek threat to veto Turkey's EU accession; and Turkey must be calculating that it has more committed and powerful allies in the EU than increasingly discredited and impotent Greece and Cyprus to be able to trump any Greek veto card.

Indeed, it's becoming harder to see on what grounds the Turkish government now needs to take the risk to solve the Cyprus problem. Because not only does Erdogan not need further confrontation with the Turkish military that asking it to withdraw its troops from Cyprus would cause, and not only must he gauge that the EU has no real stomach to punish Turkey over the Cyprus issue; but he must now also feel that the legal tide is turning Turkey's way following the recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights vindicating the ethnic cleansing of northern Cyprus and dashing the hopes of 200,000 Greek refugees that their right to return to their land and property was a basic human right protected by international law.

The article below by Michael Jansen, which originally appeared here, explains more about the disastrous ECHR ruling:

Greek-Cypriot refugees see European rights court ruling as ethnic cleansers' charter
For Greek Cypriots who lost homes and businesses, a fair property settlement is key, writes MICHAEL JANSEN

MANY GREEK Cypriot refugees from the Turkish invasion of 1974 are coming to regard a recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights as an ethnic cleansers’ charter.

The ECHR decided that refugees seeking legal recourse are obliged to apply to a property commission established by Turkey, the power exercising control in the breakaway state recognised only by Ankara. This commission has resolved 85 of 433 cases brought before it, none involving full restitution of ancestral homes or lands. If applicants do not receive just satisfaction within five years they can return to the ECHR.

The ECHR observed that restitution may not always be possible because 35 years had elapsed since Greek-Cypriot applicants “lost possession of their property. The local population has not remained static . . . Turkish-Cypriot refugees from the south have settled in the north; Turkish settlers . . . have arrived in large numbers. Greek-Cypriot property has changed hands . . . whether by sale, donation or inheritance”.

The court also mentioned that bases housing 30,000 Turkish occupation troops could negatively affect restitution. Greek-Cypriot property constituted 58.2 per cent of land in the north, 16.2 per cent belonged to Turkish Cypriots and 22.8 per cent was public land.

Loukis Loucaides, a former judge on the ECHR (1998-2008), told The Irish Times , “This decision is a political judgment expressing positions incompatible with basic principles of international law and even with previous judgments of the court itself.”

He argued that under international law, an occupying country cannot expel inhabitants of an occupied area or deprive them of their property, dispose of expropriated property, settle its own citizens in this territory, or change laws or create institutions. With this judgment, he said the court is “illegally implying that the occupying country . . . may be justified in keeping properties to serve its illegal occupation” and “policy of ethnic cleansing”. He asked what the reaction would have been if during the second World War French citizens had been told to apply to Berlin for recourse after their rights had been violated by the Nazis.

In his view, “political pressures” have been exerted on the court by Turkey, the UK and US with the aim of securing a judgment Ankara favours. This judgment is “to my mind a catastrophe not only for human rights or for the Greek Cypriots but for the standing and credibility of the court itself”.

Other Cypriot lawyers agree. Constantis Candunis said, however, the Strasbourg judgment “does not impact on” the recent verdict of a British court awarding a Greek-Cypriot refugee damages for trespass and ordering a British couple to demolish their house built on his land. The British court also called on other European courts to uphold and implement decisions of courts in EU member Cyprus.

Achilleas Demetriades stressed the importance of the court’s statement that Turkey recognises its responsibility for what happens in the occupied area as well as for providing remedies for violations of Greek-Cypriot property rights.

Since Turkey will not allow Greek Cypriots to return to their property, he said mass appeals to the Turkish property commission could be considered so that Ankara could be compelled to “pay the rent” in the form of compensation for loss of use. He estimated that compensation claimed for the period from 1974 through 2010 could amount to $16 billion. He noted the ECHR still has to award damages on 30 cases decided before the recent judgment.

Cyprus president Demetris Christofias does not favour mass legal action and argues that “all aspects” of the Cyprus problem “must be resolved by political means”.

During 18 months of negotiations aimed at reunifying the island in a bizonal, bicommunal federation, Mr Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have not yet discussed the property issue.

This effort could be complicated by the ECHR’s decision.

The ruling could prompt developers in the north to rush to build on Greek-Cypriot property, making negotiations on property all the more difficult.


lastgreek said...

In his view, “political pressures” have been exerted on the court by Turkey, the UK and US with the aim of securing a judgment Ankara favours.-

It makes incredible sense to break away from America's grip. For starters, no more military purchases from them--not a dime.

M.Pandeli said...

How sad that yet again efforts to resolve property and political problems are heading for yet another failure. I want to believe that there will be a solution for both GC and TC and hope that Cypriot politicians will one day soon find the courage and will to find it.

John Akritas said...

M. It certainly looks that the talks are heading for failure, but I wouldn't put this down to an absence of courage or whatever from Cypriot politicians. A Cyprus solution is almost entirely dependent on what Turkey desires and does. If Turkey wanted a solution – indeed, one similar to the Annan plan, which is all that's on offer for the GCs – there would be one tomorrow. But Turkey's optimum solution remains recognition of the 'TRNC', not reunification. I should add that Greek and Turkish Cypriots are so far apart, the mutual resentment is so deep, that it is a fallacy to believe that reunification will bring 'peace'. It won't. Either Cyprus will be Greek or it will be Turkish.

Hermes said...

A timely discussion of the meaning of 1821. Perhaps watch it now because in 5 or 10 years these programs will be illegal.

M.Pandeli said...

John and Anonymous thank you for your comments. Talks solve nothing unless they result in agreements. According to Cyprus Mail the current Turkish Prime Minister is quoted as saying he is a man of his word and his word was that he would carry out the agreed wishes of the people of Cyprus including complete removal of Turkish troops. There is International Law, the ECHR and even the T. Cypriot Immovable Property Commission IPC which undoubtedly could improve its administration. The UN kept the peace since 1974 and we do need to bear in mind that the blame game is useless and the power game is very dangerous. Greeks and Turks are human beings "under the same sky and breathing the same air" and have the intelligence to find one day a solution to the benefit of both. I may not live long enough to see it, but I would like to think medieval thinking belongs to medieval times

lastgreek said...

The Cypriot Government did choose the path of " independence" rather than enosis with mainland Greece.-

The Cypriots--the native inhabitants of the island or their representatives--never had a choice in the matter.

Please don't blame the victims.

Greeks and Turks are human beings. . .

You don't say. There is one major difference that you have overlooked: The Turks are illegal, colonial occupiers on Cyprus. As far as i am concerned, said occupiers should be shot on sight. But then again, I am old fashioned in my thinking.

. . . but I would like to think medieval thinking belongs to medieval times.-

Had the Native Americans done some "midieval thinking," like kill the white man on sight, things would have worked out more favourably for them. If you visit Canada, I'd be glad to show you where we cage our Injuns, the few that remain.

If only the modern Greeks had just a little of the fortitude of their midieval ancestors.

Hermes said...

A bit off topic but an interesting article on Diaspora communities: