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Book Review by Gregory R. Copley on An International Relation Debacle: The UN Secretary-General’s Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus 1999-2004 by Claire Palley
August 8, 2005—No. 73 (202) 785-8430

Book Review by Gregory R. Copley on An International Relation Debacle: The UN Secretary-General’s Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus 1999-2004 by Claire Palley

WASHINGTON, DC—The AHI is pleased to bring to your attention an important book review by Gregory R. Copley on An International Relations Debacle: The UN Secretary-General’s Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus 1999-2004 by Claire Palley, 2005, Hart Publishing, Oxford, UK, and Portland, Oregon, USA. ISBN: 1-84113-578-X. 395 pp, illust., hardcover, $45.

The book review appeared in the July edition of Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy magazine. Mr. Copley, a foreign affairs expert, is the editor–in-chief of Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy magazine. Please find the text of the book review below, which is reprinted with permission.

On Incompetence

Rarely, in lives filled with books, is a volume found which has the power to profoundly influence minds with the compelling weight and wisdom of its facts and arguments, and with the movingly restrained passion of its compilation. Claire Palley’s work, An International Relations Debacle: The UN Secretary-General’s Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus 1999-2004 is such a book. No reader of this work could emerge from it unconvinced of the case it makes that the rush to force a "settlement" on the Greek and Turkish Cypriots in 2004 was motivated and executed with deceit, stupidity, and flagrant disregard for the sovereignty and freedom of peoples.

It is ironic that someone as committed as Claire Palley to international law and to the values enshrined by the United Nations’ founding documents should have felt forced to write such a damning indictment of the UN’s and the major powers’ roles in shaping the so-called "Annan Plan" for the reunification of Cyprus. Although the author served as an advisor to the Cyprus Government for many years, she resigned on April 30, 2004, six days after the April 24, 2004, referenda on the "Annan V" Plan in Cyprus, to write the book and to be off the Government payroll. It is understood that, although giving up her career to write this book, she has not taken any payment for it: a testimony to the strength of feeling behind it.

The book makes it clear, through an exhaustive documentation of events and statements from various officials—most of which witnessed, or understood through the author’s involvement—that from the UK and US perspectives and eventually through the UN, the big door prize was never a sensible or viable agreement for the Cypriot peoples, but was aimed to achieve virtually any kind of a deal before the May 1, 2004, Cypriot accession to the EU, to help decriminalize Turkey’s policy on Cyprus and to ease Turkey’s entry into the EU. The primary goal was to give the Turkish side an agreement it could endorse. If the UN, US, and UK could persuade the Cyprus Government to accept the plan—which was unlikely, because of its necessary bias to ensure Turkish acceptance—that would have been a bonus. The tight deadlines set by the UN were of interest and significance only to Turkey and its supporters promoting the Turkish candidacy to the EU. The deadline had no specific meaning for the Cypriots. In fact, the deadline was counterproductive in that, along with the progressively pro-Turkish nature of the proposal, the pressures being generated persuaded the Cypriot Government—correctly as the final text of the Annan V Plan showed—that all along there was an effort to impose on them a solution on Turkey’s terms. Moreover, the terms of the Plan relegated Cypriot state sovereignty into the garbage bin of history.

Claire Palley’s outstanding book will serve as the reference work for future studies of the Cyprus UN initiative but also as a case study of how not to conduct UN Good Offices Missions. It excels in comparing the various versions of the Annan Plan and how it progressively became even more pro-Turkish [the recalcitrant party throughout the 1999-2004 period of the initiative], reflecting the major bias of the UK and US, both of which had exerted strong influence on the UN (i.e.: how to accommodate Turkey’s concerns even by inserting, arbitrarily, a long list of last-minute demands by Ankara which were to serve Turkey’s interest without negotiation or consultation with the Greek or Cypriot Government sides). In retrospect, the insistence to commit the parties to allow United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to finalize the Plan proved to be a deceptive tool to accommodate Turkey’s concerns in order to have Ankara support the "final" plan. Little wonder that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was ecstatic when he announced—at his press conference in Switzerland right after the presentation of the "final" plan, just before the referenda—that the Plan reflected almost all of Turkey’s positions.

The book reveals how various agendas (both political and personal) of third parties were promoted at the expense of the two Cypriot communities who were the primary parties to the conflict and whose concerns should have been addressed as a matter of priority.

The first printing of Dr. Palley’s book was immediately sold out, and it is understood that it will be reprinted soon.

Dr. Claire Palley’s book will emerge as the definitive reference work on the Annan process with regard to Cyprus. The book is exhaustively footnoted, indexed, and appendixed. Researchers such as this reviewer will in future constantly refer to this work for definitive material on the subject.

But what is significant is that the book highlights the intellectual vacuums in which the British, US, UN, and Turkish officials were working in attempting to impose a solution on the Cypriots. They may have been forgiven in thinking that the Cypriots would have blindly accepted the 10,000 or so pages of the Annan V Plan which were thrust upon voters on March 31, 2004, just weeks before the referenda. After all, because Cyprus has been treated as a non-sovereign state for so long by Britain and the US (and, indeed, by Turkey), it was not expected that Cypriots would actually use their power at the ballot box to reject what they had been told in no uncertain terms to accept.

The voters’ overwhelming rejection of the Annan V Plan changed everything. It broke the spell about Turkey’s supposedly inevitable path into the European Union. It is now clear that this will not happen. It ended the period of trust under which Cyprus would in future accept the shackles which Britain has imposed on it; now it is likely that the Cypriots will start to force a new relationship, particularly (and initially) over the Troodos Mountain UK signals intelligence facility which offers unique capabilities to the UK and US. At the least, in the future, Britain will have to pay Cyprus for access to that facility.

No-one should underestimate the significance of the failure of the nominally UN plan to transform Cyprus into a non-state through the Annan V Plan. If the "food-for-oil" program in Iraq showed how corrupt the UN was, the UN Secretary-General’s so-called good offices mission on Cyprus showed how UN officials, and particularly Secretary-General Annan, had forgotten the tenets of the UN itself. Moreover, it showed that Annan himself was more concerned in having an agreement with his name on it than in achieving reunification and sovereignty for the Cypriot peoples.

Moreover, Dr. Palley’s book showed clearly the superficiality and arrogance of a number of US officials, and the overbearing incompetence—almost comic, but for the malice—of Britain’s anachronistic architect of the Annan V text, Lord Hannay. Only by blaming the Cypriot voters for exercising their sovereign and democratic rights have officials such as Hannay escaped their share of criticism and dismissal from public service.

Apart from being the textbook on the failure of the Annan V Plan and on how incompetent international diplomacy can be, Dr. Palley’s invaluable work serves as the starting point for considering the new phase of European development and the new, totally transformed, Eastern Mediterranean strategic framework.—Gregory R. Copley


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