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Cyprus needs its own Good Friday Agreement

(Alamy)

4 min read

I am a Unionist. It is probably the most important part of my political philosophy.

Unionist versus Republican positions have divided the island of Ireland for over 100 years. However, there was a widespread acceptance and desire that we had to leave the bitterness and division of the past behind us. Through the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement we have had a tentative, somewhat peaceful solution to what was once seen to be insurmountable and irreconcilable differences.

The two-state solution on the island of Ireland is rooted in democratic principles. The initial separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the island was enabled by the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1920. That separation reflected both the Republican demand for independence from Britain and the equally determined desire of Unionists to remain part of the United Kingdom. For nearly 100 years there were periodic terrorist campaigns to take Northern Ireland out of the UK. These terrorist campaigns were encouraged by the constitutional claim that the Irish Republic made on the territory of Northern Ireland.

If in the future there is a scope for reintegration, an agreement like the Belfast/Good Friday agreement would allow for that

In an attempt to find a political solution to the troubles of the past, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was negotiated and designed to bring about a peaceful resolution to sectarian violence and establish a democratic means for resolving the territorial  problems we faced. The Agreement was supported in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It enshrines the democratic principles which maintain peace on the island, important cross-border relationships, and creates shared institutions between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The principle of consent drives these arrangements.

When I look at the recent history of Cyprus it is easy to draw parallels between the island of Cyprus and the island of Ireland. Both islands have communities that are deeply divided and have suffered from intense sectarian violence along religious and political lines.

It is my belief that the lessons we have learnt from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the ending of the Troubles can be applied to Cyprus and help to find a political resolution to the ongoing Cyprus issue.

On one side we have the Greek-backed and UN-recognised Cypriot government. On the other side we have the Turkish-backed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The partition of the island along the UN-maintained ceasefire line is a result of the 1974 coup d’etat and subsequent Turkish intervention. So far, all attempts to find a peaceful resolution have failed. The most promising plan, the 2004 UN settlement, was accepted by Turkish Cypriots but rejected by Greek Cypriots.

For me, it is a cut-and-dry situation. We have two communities that have irreconcilable differences, and the history of one side reneging on their constitutional and legal requirements. The current split originated in 1963 when president Makarios proposed and implemented unilateral changes to the constitution in defiance of the supreme constitutional court of Cyprus leading to a long series of events which eventually split the island.

In Cyprus this has clearly led to the Turkish Cypriot community withdrawing their consent from the ‘recognised’ Cypriot government. Instead, we have fully functioning governments, administrations and democratic systems on both sides of the border.

There is no reason, that I can see, that the TRNC cannot be accepted by the UN as an independent state; indeed, the 2010 International Court of Justice decision regarding Kosovo’s independence should grant further legality to the TRNC’s request. If in the future there is a scope for reintegration, an agreement like the Belfast/Good Friday agreement would allow for that.

The sensible choice would be for a mediator nation to broker this agreement between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. I believe that the UK could fulfil this role. We have historically been one of the most influential nations in the region, we governed Cyprus before its independence in the 1960’s, and we are party to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, which could act as a template for a future and lasting peace treaty in Cyprus. Not only are we a guarantor power of the island of Cyprus and both its communities, we also have an international responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

What is clear though is that the ongoing divide and the UN-enforced ceasefire cannot continue. It is not a healthy situation for Cyprus or the strategically important Eastern Mediterranean. Peace is always a worthy outcome, and it is something which should be pursued.

 

Sammy Wilson, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP for East Antrim

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