Cyprus, a British colony for many years, gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, and according to Article 2.(2) of the Treaty of Establishment, the Republic of Cyprus is obliged to cooperate, in full, with the UK, in order to ensure the security and effective operation of the latter’s two military bases on the island, as well as the full enjoyment by the UK of the rights conferred by the Treaty.
When Cyprus joined the European Union, in 2004, the legal status of the British military bases in Cyprus was confirmed by Protocol 3 of the Treaty of Accession of the Republic of Cyprus in the EU, which bares the title, “The Base Areas of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Cyprus”. As stipulated in the said protocol, the Treaty of Accession of Cyprus to the EU shall not apply to the UK Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, except where there is such provision to ensure the implementation of the agreements set out in the protocol.
The extent of the UK’s sovereignty over the base areas is disputable, as they are not an independent state, since they do not have autonomous powers and are completely dependent on the UK. Clearly, the bases are not a colony, either, since the UK has never considered them as such because it has never transmitted any reports to the UN on the military bases, as it did for its other colonies. However, Britain did not only gain rights in 1960 insofar as the bases are concerned, but undertook obligations to Cyprus as it was a signatory party to the Treaty of Guarantee.
The Treaty of Guarantee, as stipulated in articles 1 and 2 of the preamble of the agreement, states that the contracting parties have a common interest and wish to cooperate to ensure the recognition and maintenance of the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus, as established and regulated by the Basic Articles of its constitution.
Article 1 of the Treaty of Guarantee contains the obligations of the Republic of Cyprus to protect its independence, territorial integrity and security, as well as respect for its constitution. However, Cyprus also undertakes “not to participate, in whole or in part, in any political or economic union with any State whatsoever.” Accordingly, the article declares and prohibits “any activity likely to promote, directly or indirectly, either union with any other State or partition of the Island”. In Article 2, the other contracting parties (Greece, Turkey and Britain) “recognise and guarantee the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus, and also the state of affairs established by the Basic Articles of its Constitution.” Greece, Turkey and Britain, likewise, undertake to prohibit, so far as concerns them, any activity aimed at promoting, directly or indirectly, either union of Cyprus with any other State or partition of the island.
Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, on the false pretext of protecting the Turkish Cypriots, Turkey continues to occupy 37 per cent of Cyprus’ territory, and the Republic of Cyprus has no effective control over this territory, despite the condemnation of Turkey by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.
The UK has never once exercised its above obligations to the Republic of Cyprus under the Treaty of Guarantee, and, instead, tolerated the invasion of Cyprus and has tolerated the ongoing Turkish occupation of 37 per cent of Cypriot territory, although the British continue to enjoy all of the rights and concessions of the Treaty of Establishment. The violation of the territorial integrity of Cyprus and the de facto partition of the island by Turkey, should never have happened with a guarantor country like Britain. The UK enjoys the use of its military bases in Cyprus and the cooperation of the Republic of Cyprus in relation to them, and in exchange undertakes to protect Cyprus but has failed miserably to do so.
The question to be asked is why an independent country, which is a member of the United Nations and a member of the EU, needs guarantor powers for its territorial integrity and security? That is a question as pertinent today as it was in 1960. After the so-called guarantor powers failed to exercise their duties to Cyprus, they continue to keep their spoils of the past colonisation of the country that they undertook to protect.
Recent events instigated by Turkey in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus magnified the extent of the failure of the UK to exercise its duties to the Republic of Cyprus as a guarantor power.
If Britain wants to maintain its guarantor status, then it should start to act like one, otherwise it has no reason and no legal basis to be in Cyprus.