Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Gordon Brown blunders over Cyprus

Following Gordon Brown’s failure, at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April, to support the US on the question of Macedonia’s, Ukraine’s and Georgia’s NATO integration and to oppose the French and German appeasement of Russia and pandering to Greek nationalist megalomania, one might be forgiven for wondering if our new prime minister has any vision whatsoever in the field of foreign affairs. Unfortunately, his latest initiative vis-a-vis Cyprus does not give much ground for optimism. On the 5th of this month, Brown received the President of Cyprus, Dimitris Christofias (pictured), and signed with him a Memorandum of Common Understanding. The text commits Britain and Cyprus to the common goal of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal Cypriot state based on a single sovereignty as a solution to the long-running Cyprus dispute. The agreement was immediately condemned by Mehmet Ali Talat, the moderate leader of the internationally unrecognised Turkish Cypriot entity, because it pledged Britain to a model for a resolution of the Cyprus dispute that went beyond what Talat’s administration is prepared to concede, at least openly. As Ilter Turkmen of the Turkish Daily News writes, ‘One feels an urge to ask whether the support that the Gordon Brown government gives Turkey is weakened, compared to that of Tony Blair.’

Brown’s move is a blunder on every count. Christofias and Talat are both moderate leaders who seemed genuinely committed to reaching a mutually acceptable settlement; Britain has now helped to drive a wedge between them. However laudable the model for a Cyprus settlement outlined in the Memorandum may be, it is difficult to see how simply affirming support for it, in a manner that alienates one of the sides whose consent would be essential for its realisation, in any way helps to promote a settlement. The Memorandum has damaged the moderate Talat’s own domestic standing; he has now come under fire at home for having prepared the ground for it by allowing his Greek Cypriot counterpart to set the agenda in the reunification talks. The Greek Cypriot side was the one responsible for torpedoing the 2004 Annan Plan for Cyprus’s reunification; by undermining the moderate Turkish Cypriot leader and encouraging Greek Cypriot intransigence, Brown is making a solution to the Cyprus dispute less, rather than more likely.

Talat is the protege of the reformist, pro-European regime of the Justice and Development Party, currently in power in Turkey in the form of President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The undemocratic, ultra-nationalist elements that control the Turkish state apparatus are currently attempting to oust this regime through a judicial coup d’etat; any regime that replaces it is likely to be less democratic, more oppressive of the Turkish Kurds, more aggressive vis-a-vis northern Iraq and, indeed, less cooperative over Cyprus. Brown’s Memorandum with Christofias represents a further blow to our beleaguered friends in Istanbul. With France and Germany working to keep Turkey out of the EU while appeasing Russia in the Black Sea region, a region where we need Turkey’s cooperation, Brown’s blow against Istanbul is simply nonsensical.

Finally, and most inexplicably of all, Brown has chosen to reward Cyprus, a country that, relative to its size, is pursuing the most selfishly and destructively anti-European policy of any EU member. Although Christofias is undoubtedly an improvement on his bone-headed predecessor Tassos Papadopoulos, Cyprus under his presidency nevertheless remains committed to undermining, for its own petty nationalistic reasons, the two most threatened states in the Balkans (aside from Bosnia) – Kosova and Macedonia. Britain really ought to be punishing Cyprus, not rewarding it.

Nice one, Gordon.

Thursday, 12 June 2008 Posted by | Balkans, Caucasus, Cyprus, Former Yugoslavia, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, NATO, Russia, Serbia, Turkey | Leave a comment