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Book Review by Nicholas G. Karambelas Published in The Washington Lawyer Magazine
February 28, 2006—No. 11 (202) 785-8430

Book Review by Nicholas G. Karambelas Published in The Washington Lawyer Magazine

Washington, DC—The following book review by AHI Advisory Committee Member and Legal Counsel Nicholas G. Karambelas appears in the March 2006 issue of The Washington Lawyer Magazine.

An International Relations Debacle

The UN Secretary-General’s Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus 1999–2004

By Claire Palley
Hart, 2005

Review by Nicholas G. Karambelas

Aptly titled, An International Relations Debacle by Claire Palley documents in exhaustive detail the most recent initiative to solve the Cyprus issue. Named after United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Annan Plan went through five incarnations between 1999 and 2004, culminating in separate referenda held by the Turkish Cypriot minority and the Greek Cypriot majority in April 2004. The Turkish Cypriots approved the plan by 65 to 35 percent, whereas the Greek Cypriots disapproved by 76 to 24 percent. The Annan Plan did not take effect because it required the approval of both communities.

The Annan Plan is the latest in a series of failed attempts by non-Cypriot international actors to impose a governing structure and political process on the people who inhabit Cyprus. These failures began in 1878 when the Ottoman Empire ceded Cyprus to Great Britain and continued after Cyprus became a British crown colony in 1914 and into the Zurich Agreements under which the Republic of Cyprus was established and granted a stunted form of independence in 1960. After Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and began its illegal occupation of one-third of Cyprus, a succession of mediators from the United States, United Kingdom, and United Nations proposed plans to reunify Cyprus. In 1983 Turkey created a geopolitical entity in occupied Cyprus referred to as the Turkish Federated State of Northern Cyprus, which has purported to act as a state but which no other nation in the world, including the US, recognizes.

Fundamentally, the Annan Plan established a predominantly Greek constituent state and a predominantly Turkish constituent state each of which would compose a unified state with some form of federal government. Like each of the previous attempts, the Annan Plan failed because the drafters consciously ignored three basic principles of Western political philosophy: (1) each citizen possesses fundamental rights that enable him or her to participate in governing; (2) representatives elected by the majority of the citizens govern; and (3) an independent judiciary protects the rights of any minority of citizens and enforces the property rights of all citizens. Instead of providing a political structure based on these principles, the political structure set forth in the Annan Plan, as well as in each previous plan, enabled the Turkish Cypriots to exercise an absolute veto over fundamental governing decisions. Using the absolute veto, the Turkish Cypriot minority could effectively stall the entire governing processes of the nation. No Western nation has a political process in which a minority of any kind has that kind of absolute veto. By abjuring such fundamental principles of democracy, the Annan Plan drafters effectively assured that it would fail.

The drafters committed a similar error in the manner in which they purported to resolve the property issue. One of the most pernicious effects of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus is that the Turkish military has displaced the rightful owners of real property in occupied Cyprus, a number of whom are U.S. citizens. Since 1974 Turkey has encouraged and abetted the possession and use of this property by Turkish Cypriots. Turkey has also imported many Turks from Turkey and settled them on the land of displaced owners, contrary to every applicable treaty and norm of international law. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of the Council of Europe has expressly ruled in several cases that the only rightful owners of that property are persons who hold title under the laws of the Republic of Cyprus and that Turkey is responsible for wrongfully displacing and excluding these owners from their property.

Despite this clear jurisprudence, the Annan Plan established a highly complicated, ambiguous, and uncertain regime for resolving property matters. The regime was clearly designed to limit the number of displaced owners who could repossess their property. It required all claims asserted by displaced owners in the ECHR to be withdrawn, and that any displaced owner aggrieved as a result to seek redress from its constituent state. Because the overwhelming majority of displaced owners are Greek Cypriots, the practical effect of this provision would have required Greek Cypriots to pay the cost of the consequences of the Turkish invasion and continued occupation.

From the facts recounted in the book about how the Annan Plan developed, it is easy to blame Kofi Annan for the deficiencies in the plan. Certainly, the reported record of the Annan administration makes him “low hanging fruit” for assigning to him responsibility for any UN failure. It is also easy to blame the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots and the centuries of animosity between Greeks and Turks. However, the concepts underlying the Annan Plan as well as the poor draftsmanship of the actual text of the plan betray the hand of British, American, and other diplomats who were simply out of their depth.

The Annan Plan reeks of diplomats conjuring up pet theories of a consociational federation without regard to the individuals who must live with the results long after the diplomats have moved on to the next embassy reception. Diplomats should stick to negotiating and drafting treaties and other international agreements between governments. Constitutions and other documents which adjust the rights and obligations of individuals that must ultimately be vindicated or enforced in a court are the province of practicing attorneys, not diplomats with law degrees. Diplomats refer to ambiguous and vague provisions in a legal document as compromises. Practicing attorneys refer to such provisions as lawsuits.

Palley sees new opportunities for cooperation within the context of the European Union (EU). The Republic of Cyprus joined the EU on May 1, 2004. If the reunification of Cyprus is to occur at all, it will only occur within the context of the EU. The very legal rights, protections, and guarantees that the Turkish Cypriots claim will be denied to them in a reunified Republic of Cyprus are embodied in the three pillars of the EU, which are collectively referred to as the acquis communautaire. Yet, as the result of the continuing Turkish military occupation, the Cyprus accession documents state that the acquis communautaire is suspended in those portions of Cyprus occupied by Turkey. The Charter of Fundamental Freedoms and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, enforced, respectively, through the EU courts and the ECHR, can serve to safeguard the rights of the Turkish Cypriots in the same way in which the U.S. Bill of Rights and the U.S. federal courts have safeguarded the rights of minorities in the United States.

The future of the Turkish Cypriots lies in their becoming full-fledged EU citizens. That will only occur when Cyprus is reunified based on the fundamental principles of Western political philosophy as reflected in the EU acquis communautaire.

Beyond Cyprus, the strength of the book is that it provides an intimate firsthand view by a participant of international deal making, otherwise referred to as sausage making. Palley served as a consultant to the president of Cyprus during the period about which she writes. Because it focuses on the 1999–2004 period, the book does not contain much historical or political background, which is crucial to understanding how the Cyprus issue has evolved. Consequently, this is not the first book on Cyprus for the interested researcher or policymaker to read. However, it is an excellent and sobering case study of nation building at the international level. It should be required reading for the peoples of Iraq.

Nicholas G. Karambelas is a partner in Sfikas & Karambelas, LLP.


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