Letters to the editor: Cyprus Today’s report of High Commissioner’s comments was accurate
FOLLOWING the visit from his Excellency the British High Commissioner, Irfan Siddiq, to the Olive Tree Hotel in Çatalköy on June 27, I have been asked by some of our members who didn’t attend the event whether reports on what were said were correct.
Well, I was there and can say that the article in last week’s edition of Cyprus Today (British diplomat causes outrage, July 1) was accurate.
It did feel that any discussion on previous events in Cyprus provoked a one-sided reply and I would question the information being provided to Mr Siddiq by his advisers.
When I first visited North Cyprus for a cheap holiday in 1993, I knew nothing about the history of the troubles on the island and believed what I had previously seen in the UK media.
Like many, I fell in love with the place and people, returning many times before settling after retirement.
During these visits I stumbled across a book written in English giving an account of both sides of the troubles. I was shocked and was stirred on to find out more about the modern history, whilst keeping an open mind.
I would like to think that our government representatives do the same but pressures of modern day living mean that they rely more on these influential advisers. Perhaps some of these are not as unbiased as perhaps they should be.
I have always found the British High Commission and Consulate staff very helpful in welfare matters concerning expats based in the North, but there is only so much that they can do due to the UK Government stance on the North’s isolation.
Mr Siddiq mentioned the British Residents Society lobbying campaign and, whether it was genuine or a sarcastic comment, he wished us luck!
Well, the campaign is starting to make an impression on how Cyprus is viewed and we will continue fighting for the end of the discrimination that we and Turkish Cypriots find ourselves in.
We hope that his Excellency will return for more meetings and that next time more time can be spent on issues affecting life for expats in the TRNC rather than the history.
British Residents Society,
Mr Siddiq should be ashamed of himself
WHEN I went along to the meeting held by the British High Commissioner Irfan Siddiq on Tuesday, June 27, I did not really know what to expect.
As I drove up through Çatalköy, I was thinking that as the invite mentioned sending questions in advance, maybe this would be a quick Q&A session on some of the issues British expats were experiencing because they chose to live here, and are therefore part of the isolation imposed on the TRNC, followed by a little social time and a chance to meet the British High Commission staff.
After all, I thought, how long would it take to answer questions on direct flights, the one-day “T.O.M”, and the 90 day on, 90 day off in 180 border crossing rule?
I didn’t expect it to last as long as it did, and I certainly did not expect to hear and witness that which unfolded before my eyes.
Initially a very informative talk was given by Mr Siddiq. Most of it was not new to those who understood the position and policies of the UK in relation to Cyprus and the Cyprus problem.
We were reminded that British citizens on both sides of the Cyprus divide are third country citizens now, since Brexit, and come under a new set of rules.
He referred to the citizens of the North as Turkish Cypriots and to the citizens of the South as Greek Cypriots.
I did wonder if he was choosing his words carefully because of where he was speaking, and also wondered if this is how he would refer to the two sides if he was talking at a meeting South of the border. He did not refer to the North as the TRNC at all.
He also reminded us several times that he was a diplomat. Following his talk, questions were invited from the floor, and not as I expected from any questions forwarded so “diplomatic” replies could be given.
Questions were as expected and there was one long statement made by a gentleman who was quite angry at the British High Commissioner and the British Government, and he stressed in his statement that he had a very long association with Cyprus as a whole.
Then, for some reason, Mr Siddiq, replying to a question about the events of 1974 and the role (I would say lack of) of the British Government, said the second phase of the Turkish Peace Operation was planned as a “land grab” and likened it to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
That statement provoked uproar in the room and members of the audience began shouting at him and heckling him. He appeared taken aback by the response.
After some order returned naturally to the room, from then on he was heckled by several people. One of his comments to the now unhappy audience was that either they should let him talk or talk themselves.
There was also controversy and further reactions of dismay to his statement that the 1960 Constitution does not exist anymore. This is not the case.
It may have been amended in parts, but the Turkish Cypriots are still entitled to representation in the Republic of Cyprus government, even though they do not choose to after being forced out and in not agreeing to the 13-point amendments made by Archbishop Makarios in 1963.
As Mr Siddiq left after closing the meeting, I moved across the room in his direction to speak with other attendees.
I was a few feet away from a conversation that he was having with Eltan Halil of Cyprus Today, in which Mr Siddiq was very animated, sounded angry and said “do what you want but there will be consequences”.
This, I understood, was a direct response to being told that his public words would be reported as well as the pre-meeting interview he gave to Cyprus Today.
I respect Eltan for remaining calm in a situation where someone of the highest position representing the British Government was shouting at him in his face. Not very diplomatic I would say.
He then very quickly left the room. Maybe I was the only one who noticed, but he was not in any danger of being lynched, that is for certain.
I will say this in my personal summary of this event. Since when did the High Commissioner become the mouthpiece of the Republic of Cyprus and come out with Greek Cypriot rhetoric straight from the RoC false history text books and the current rhetoric to compare the events of 1974 with Ukraine?
As a diplomat, was he conveying this as the representative of the British Government or because this is factually incorrect information he has been fed by the politicians and people he speaks to in the South?
Was it a faux pas or something that he personally believes? I would say he, in the very least, needs to study the history of this island a little harder.
While Mr Siddiq said that the Turkish intervention was prompted by a Greek coup to depose Archbishop Makarios, he did not refer to what the coup really was – an invasion.
He really needs to understand why the second phase of the Peace Operation went ahead after 25 days of a ceasefire with the Greek Cypriots continually delaying negotiations and building up arms surrounding the Turkish Army in the narrow corridor it created from Girne to the outskirting villages of Lefkoşa.
Meanwhile, at the same time in the rest of Cyprus, Greek Cypriot extremists and Eoka members were hanging on the words of Nicos Sampson, who said, “let them come, they will not find any Turkish Cypriots to save”.
They were killing Turkish Cypriots, massacring whole villages, even a whole school of children, and dumping them in mass graves on rubbish tips. Mr Siddiq needs to feel ashamed of himself.
After this I don’t think he will have the face to return to speak to expats in the TRNC.
Siddiq knows nothing about what happened in Cyprus
WHILST it was a step in the right direction for the British High Commission to arrange a meeting with British citizens living in the TRNC, sadly the meeting was exactly as I expected (British diplomat causes outrage, Cyprus Today, July 1).
I do not know who the British High Commissioner’s advisers are and I do understand that he is a diplomat and has to be “diplomatic”.
However, that was not the case. Calling the second phase of the 1974 Turkish intervention a “land grab” shows he knows nothing about what was happening on the island to prompt the second phase.
His likening of the situation to what Russia is doing in Ukraine was disgraceful. But in a way it proves to the Turkish Cypriots that without a guarantor power, no-one can stop any invasion.
Sadly, almost all of the British High Commissioner’s comments were almost word for word what the Greek Cypriot side has been saying.
His constant comment that there are conflicting narratives again shows his lack of respect for what happened to Turkish Cypriots.
I asked him to look into the constitutions of all the political parties in the so-called Republic of Cyprus to see if they still advocate Enosis (unification with Greece). I sincerely hope he does.
I also asked him to investigate the Greek Cypriot school books. We in the TRNC have amended our history books to rid them of derogatory terms.
I mentioned that from my information the books in the South no longer mention the Greek- Greek Cypriot coup of July 15, 1974, making it seem that Türkiye just decided to “invade” for no reason.
The issue of the missing in Cyprus was also mentioned and again I mentioned that people need to look at the dates Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots went missing.
The so-called Republic of Cyprus blames all missing on Türkiye, whereas most of the Greek Cypriot missing went missing before Türkiye intervened!
A few comments from the participants said we need to leave the past in the past! That’s easy for non-Turkish Cypriots to say.
One thing that absolutely shocked me was that the British High Commissioner said that the 1960 Constitution is no longer in effect. It would be interesting to know if this is official UK policy.
Whilst it is true that this is the case, as the Greek Cypriots usurped the Government in 1963 after the Bloody Christmas attacks, my understanding is that any agreement, treaty signed between countries can only be dissolved in the same way it was agreed upon.
If this is the case, then there is nothing to “unify”. Why is the British High Commissioner insisting on talks for a settlement and agreement to “unify” the island.
Another point is will the UK be giving up the bases it gained under that treaty?
My understanding is that the UK no longer wants to be a guarantor on the island. Similarly the Greek government has also said they do not care about the system of guarantees.
If the unilateral intervention of Türkiye is no longer valid this is very dangerous for Turkish Cypriots. Look at what’s happening between Russia and Ukraine! No international organisation or country/group of countries can intervene! This is what the Greek Cypriots and Greece want. The mention of Greek Cypriots feeling threatened by the presence of Türkiye in Cyprus is exactly what the Greek Cypriots are saying.
The Turkish Cypriots and Türkiye will never agree to the lifting of the guarantor status of Türkiye.
As a Turkish Cypriot I need acknowledgement from the elected leaders in the South to do the following if I am to feel that they really want a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus:
1. Acknowledge that the conflict in 1974 was started by the Greek Cypriot side.
2. Apologise for this.
3. Publicly announce that the South denounces Enosis. Unless this is done, I have no belief that there will ever be a settlement/agreement.
As for terminology used when talking about the people living in Cyprus, the British High Commissioner, Irfan Siddiq, referred to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot COMMUNITIES??
On the island of Cyprus, we are a PEOPLE. This means we have the right to sovereignty, whereas a community does not. I urge everyone to use the correct words.
I would also like to put out a call to other organisations representing British citizens – please work together with all other organisations.
I await some feedback regarding the questions I asked but am not holding my breath.
Hatice Salih Kerimgil
Coordinator of the Association of Turkish Cypriots Abroad
These letters originally appeared in the print version of Cyprus Today dated July 8, 2023