Sloppiness all round

Looking at Jack Straw's visit to Cyprus

by Nicholas Karides, Director, ampersand communications ltd


In an interview with John Humphries on BBC Radio 4 on 1 February Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was asked to comment on George Bush’s tough words against Iran in his state of the union address. Straw, among other things, said that one had to bear in mind the different psychology of the US when dealing with Iran and pointed to the indelible mark left in the US psyche from the siege of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.


Though Britain is certainly not to be likened to Iran and Cyprus by no means to the US, Jack Straw would have been better advised to tread carefully when he visited Cyprus last January. The marks in the Greek Cypriot psyche from the colonial era are far deeper than those felt by the US about Iran.  And, however many Cypriot students study in the UK and however many British tourists visit the island those marks will continue to affect Greek Cypriot perception of British policy on Cyprus.


So, notwithstanding the inconsistent if not misguided position of the Cypriot government to demand that the Foreign Secretary not meet Turkish Cypriot leader Talat at his so called palace, Straw’s insistence has made matters worse for the future relations of the two countries.


Hot on the wobbly heels of Cherie Blair’s equally misguided decision to take on the Orams property case in the north, the New Laboured government in Britain appears to be upholding an arrogance not proper for the new world order and certainly not deserving of a Member State of the European Union.


The Cypriot government’s handling of the matter was - not uncharacteristically - sloppy, but the British government’s handling was worse in that it was deliberately sloppy.


We are in a situation where Cyprus - because of its inherent insecurity - cannot make constructive use of its rare position of power in the Cyprus settlement game. Unable to escape its legalistic problem solving methodology, it quite often falls straight into the trap of flaunting this relative power.


Great Britain, on the other hand, as a past colonial power, inherently unable to treat other countries with minimum respect, should be careful not to allow its own insecurities to run ahead of its deeper interests.


If marks in the psyche of countries are difficult to erase, grudges between politicians that have been publicly insulted are almost impossible to overcome. But politicians thankfully have short shelf lives.


Yet, unless Britain has decided to abandon its sovereign bases and its guarantor status on the island, or perhaps because it has begun to see eye to eye with a military controlled, money laundering outfit that the so called TRNC really is, Mr Straw should wonder how much his unnecessary show of power here may have advanced his country’s long-term interests. Not so much in Mr Papadopoulos’ mind, but inside the very intricate Greek Cypriot psyche. 

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