103rd Anniversary of the British Annexation of Cyprus – Dr Klearchos Kyriakides, Director, ERPIC Democracy and Rule of Law Program, 7th November 2017
103rd Anniversary of the British Annexation of Cyprus
Dr Klearchos Kyriakides
Director, ERPIC Democracy and Rule of Law Program
This short presentation marks a significant anniversary in the history of the island of Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean region. I’m referring to the 103rd anniversary of the annexation of the island of Cyprus by the King of England on Thursday the 5th of November 1914.
Now, why on earth 103 years after this event should we be casting our mind back to this event? I’m going to put forth three main reasons, among others, as to why the annexation of the 5th of November 1914 is of enduring significance to the island of Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The first reason is that the annexation reminds us that the United Kingdom was stabbed in the back by Turkey as a result of Turkey’s alliance with Germany at the start of the First World War, which began in August 1914. And that act of betrayal on the part of Turkey, and indeed it was an act of betrayal, required the United Kingdom to respond, and respond in the way that it did, firstly by annexing the island of Cyprus, and secondly by declaring war on Turkey.
A little bit of background is needed here in order to understand this first point that I’m making. The Ottoman Turks invaded the island of Cyprus in 1570, the proceeded to conquer the island in rather blood-soaked and unsavory circumstances in the following year, 1571. The Ottoman Turks ruled, or rather misruled, the island of Cyprus from 1571 until 1878, against the background formed by Russian advances at the expense of Turkey and in general malaise in the Ottoman Turkish Caliphate and Empire. The Sultan of Turkey had to cut the deal with the British in secret in what was then known as Constantinople, and this deal was cut on June the 4th 1878. And under that deal the island of Cyprus was assigned to be occupied and administered by the British under the terms of the Anglo-Turkish Convention of Defensive Alliance of that date, that is to say the 4th of June 1878. That convention, as the name suggest, was meant to seal an alliance of defensive nature between the British and the Turks, but in the subsequent years the Turks rather let the British down by gradually peeling away from the British and moving towards Germany. And the alliance between Germany and Turkey was eventually clenched in 1914 and that formed the background to the events of 5th November 1914, in other words the British annexation of the island of Cyprus and the British declaration of war against Turkey.
Now, the contemporary significance of this is that over the last few years, I would suggest, Turkey under Prime Minister and now President Erdogan have been engaged in a campaign of backstabbing: stabbing the British in the back and stabbing much of the rest of Europe in the back through various activities that are well documented and in the public domain. That’s important for everyone to grasp that Turkey has proven itself to be, over the decades and indeed the centuries, to be a rather unstable and unreliable state, and unreliable “friend” of Europe. And what happened between 1878 and 1914 should serve as a warning to the West, that Turkey cannot be trusted, either to abide by the terms of agreements it has just entered into, or to act in the interest of democracies in the world.
The second reason why the annexation of the 5th of November 1914 is so important is that it formed the backdrop to a number of subsequent events. Most immediately, of course, it formed a backdrop to what became the Armenian Genocide, the Hellenic Genocide, and the Assyrian Genocide, all three of which were preceded by Turkish declaration of war against the British and other allies of the British, and it was also of course accompanied by the declaration of a holy war by Turkey. That was a short-term development. And this, of course, led to the eventual dismantlement of the Ottoman Caliphate and Empire, the crushing defeat inflicted on Turkey by the Treaty of Lausanne, and, as part and parcel of the treaty of Lausanne of 1923, the confirmation by Turkey to be recognized as lawful the annexation of the Cyprus proclaimed by the United Kingdom on the 5th November 1914. That was achieved by article 20 of the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923.
That was the short-term relevance of what occurred on the 5th November 1914. But the longer-term relevance was that with the onset of the Cold War during the late 1940s and 1950s, the British decided to forget and turn the blind eye to what had happened during the First World War, and the British decided to bring Turkey back into the picture as regards the then British Crown Colony of Cyprus. So in the 1950s, or more specifically in 1955, following the outbreak of the EOKA campaign against the British imperial rule, the United Kingdom convened a tripartite conference in London, and it was at this tripartite conference that the British effectively gave Turkey a locus standi in the constitutional future and indeed legal destiny of the island of Cyprus. At that tripartite conference the participants were Greece, Turkey and the UK. The population of the island of Cyprus, as so often has happened in the history, was shut out of this conference. Of course, this conference formed a backdrop to what occurred in the first week of September, when we saw a pogrom in what is now known, by Turkey at least, as Istanbul, where the Greek and Christian population of the city was targeted in a coordinated and calculated campaign, which eventually resulted in the constructive expulsion of what was left of the Greek population of that historic city.
The 1955 tripartite conference was just a stepping stone on route to what was eventually achieved in 1959 with the Zurich-London Agreements and the Treaties of 1960, which was the fully-fledged reincorporation of Turkey into the affairs of the island of Cyprus. This was achieved with the three treaties of 1960: the Treaty of Establishment, to which Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Cyprus became parties, the Treaty of Guarantee of 1960, to which the same four parties were involved, and a Treaty of Alliance, to which Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus, but not the United Kingdom became parties. So in spite of the annexation of 5th of November 1914, and in spite of article 20 of the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923, the United Kingdom oversaw the subsequent reintroduction of Turkey into the affairs of the island of Cyprus and what became on the 16th of August 1960 the Republic of Cyprus. I would suggest that this was a neo-imperial stitch-up, an attempt by the final and the penultimate imperial powers on the island of Cyprus to protect their position, to exploit their strength and to take advantage of the vulnerability and the political immaturity of the population of what was the Crown Colony of Cyprus and what became the Republic of Cyprus.
And we are still living with this neo-imperial arrangement today. During the course of the year 2017 we saw the so-called conference on Cyprus unfold in Switzerland, in secret. The conference unfolded from the 11th of January 2017 until the 7th of July 2017. At that conference there were 5 parties, to use the terminology deployed by the United Kingdom and the United Nations. The five parties were: Greece, Turkey, the UK and “the representatives of the two communities: the Greek community and the Turkish community”. The Republic of Cyprus was not present at the conference that was designed to determine its own legal and constitutional future. But the final and the penultimate imperial powers of the island of Cyprus were represented at that conference. And I would suggest that this is a classic example of neo-imperialism in action. And regrettably people have just gone along with this as if it’s normal behavior. I would suggest the Republic of Cyprus and its citizens need to wake up and ask themselves a number of fundamental questions: do they really want to see their sovereign state kept in the hands of the last and penultimate rulers of Cyprus, because that’s effectively what has been unfolding.
The third reason why the annexation of the 5th of November 1914 is so important is rather interesting. As far as the constitutional law of the United Kingdom, and indeed the constitutional law of the Sovereign Base Areas are concerned, it would appear as if the source of the claim to sovereignty over the Sovereign Base Areas by the United Kingdom is to be found in the annexation of the 5th of November 1914. The Republic of Cyprus was established on the 16th of August 1960, subject to the maintenance by the United Kingdom of two areas of the island of Cyprus, which continue to remain under British sovereignty, or if you prefer, two areas over which the UK continue to assert British sovereignty. It would appear, based on a number of cases that have gone before the courts, and it would also appear from a number of other sources, which is Halsbury’s Laws of England, that the source of British sovereignty, or the British claim to sovereignty over the two Sovereign Base Areas is indeed the annexation of the 5th November 1914. That’s a topic for another day, but that’s a third major reason why the annexation of the 5th of November 1914 is so important.
So to sum up, I’ve given you the three reasons, among several reasons I could cite, as to why the Annexation Order in Council of the 5th of November 1914 is of enduring relevance to the island of Cyprus, the Republic of Cyprus that was situated in the Republic of Cyprus on the 16th of August 1960 onwards, the Sovereign Base Areas over which the UK asserts sovereignty, the UK itself and Turkey. It’s an incredibly important moment in history and I hope that this short contribution has illuminated your understanding as to why we should mark this occasion. Thank you.