A truly comprehensive plan for the Cyprus dispute

A truly comprehensive plan for the Cyprus dispute

It seems from what the analysts are saying, the coming year must see a resolution of the long-festering Cyprus issue – “or else!” Never mind that neither the details of a workable deal nor the scenario for “or else!” is exactly clear.

So how about we step back and in the spirit of democratic renewal, the “Turkish model” for the Middle East and so many other innovative ideas, and reconsider the whole process? Let’s confront all the frozen conflicts in the Mediterranean together. After all, the Russians have a plan for “Central Asia,” the Europeans talk of mediating “in the Caucasus,” the Americans have their “Reengagement in Asia.” Comprehensiveness is the order of the day.

Setting Cyprus aside for a moment, Spain has seven territories disputed by Morocco, including two enclaves within Morocco (Ceuta and Melilla) itself plus five islands barely off the coast. Spain, in turn, has been upset for centuries by the British hold on Gibraltar on her southern coast; in fact, those two countries are actually the first to enter the European Union with unresolved boundary disputes, not the Republic of Cyprus as frequently assumed. And then there is Corsica, which last rejected a deal to resolve its problems with France in 2003.
Apples and oranges? No. My point is, if we are to frame political discourse as a morality play, then let’s make the drama complete. All these conflicts are residual of the colonial age, of practices and purposes without function in the 21st century.

Cyprus was wrested from the Ottomans by Britain in 1878, first under “lease,” and in 1914 made a prize of war. In 1925 it was declared a Crown Colony. We have all pretty much memorized the rest of the story.
As to Gibraltar, the British seized it from Spain in 1713. They have argued about it since, and it was under Spanish blockade until 1985. As to Spain’s footholds on the opposite shore, they have had many rulers but have been exclusively in Spanish hands since the 15th century. The Spaniards returned most of their Moroccan colony in 1956. But alas Spain held on to these outposts, last nearing blows with Morocco in 2002.

And then there is Corsica, independent when the French took it in 1768 to essentially settle a bar bet with the city state of Genoa. Never mind that Corsica had been an independent republic for 13 years and was not really Genoa’s to barter away. It is a minor point, but Corsica’s first constitution was written in Italian. There is still an independence movement on the island, by the way, and talks of a new status with France continue.
It’s only fair to add that of all these, only Gibraltar is still recognized as a “colony” by the United Nations. But the common theme running through all of these disputes is the legacy of colonialism. Certainly seems to me it is time to move on.

We have “Operation Enduring Freedom” to resolve problems from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa. Remember the European Union’s regional “Balkan Stability Pact,” covering seven nations, phased out in 2007.

With a “Mediterranean Peace Plan,” let us clean up all the colonial legacies in the sea at once. 

Of course there is one other such legacy. We’ll save that for another day.