Affiliated with the University of Nicosia
Fifth June 2008: A turning-point in Anglo-Cypriot relations?
By Emilios Solomou
Senior Fellow, Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs
The visit of President Christofias to London and the meeting with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has resulted in the signing of a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ that has been greeted with satisfaction by some but at the same time has been criticised or looked at cautiously and apprehensively by others.
This agreement of
Historically there is
a lot that connects Cyprus with Britain.
Cypriots probably learn, while
still at school, of the “visit” of Richard the Lionheart to Cyprus in
Expectations as to a
future were high. However, this
period of euphoria did not last long since soon nationalism began to grow amongst
the Greek Cypriots who would be asking for self-determination and union of the
island with Greece. This was to
inaugurate a long period of conflict between the Greek Cypriots and the British that
would climax in the armed struggle of the Greek Cypriots against British colonial
rule in the years
This rather uncomfortable relationship has continued through the Zurich- London Agreements in 1960 and independence, to the events of 1963-4 and 1974 and the attempts to find a solution that climaxed in the Annan Plan. The Plan was rejected by the vast majority of the Greek Cypriots, something which could not have pleased its real creator Lord Hannay. The post-referendum period saw a steady deterioration in Anglo-Cypriot relations that manifested itself in the policy pursued by Britain in the European Union where they appeared to be supporting the Turkish-Cypriots and Turkey on every occasion. Diplomatic incidents like the planned visit of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw produced further strain in relations and confirmed in the minds of most Greek-Cypriots, British hostility towards them and bias in favour of the Turks.
British politicians and successive British governments view things differently. They state Britain’s consistent support for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem and their commitment to peace and stability in the area that would promote the welfare of all the inhabitants of the island of Cyprus.
These are the perceptions that prevail. It is not easy for anyone to change them over a short period of time but there is sufficient groundwork on which to build a better relationship. The Cypriots have been affected by the legacy of British colonial rule. The majority speak English and many have friends or relatives in the Greek-Cypriot community that live in Britain. The largest percentage of tourists are British and traditionally they have been well received. A substantial number of young Cypriots graduate from British Universities every year. There are many other things that could be pointed out as positive elements in Anglo-Cypriot relations at grass-root level.
Now is the time to capitalise on the results of the meeting of Christofias and Brown and place Anglo-Cypriot relations on a new footing based on mutual understanding and respect.
Britain is a key player in any attempt at a solution of the Cyprus problem and a new perception that is acting as an ‘honest broker’ will certainly go a long way toward facilitating the peace-making process.
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