The unprecedented French intrusion into Cyprus complicates the politics of the disputed island since only Greece, Turkey and Britain could have a military presence there.
Paris has been recently taking an aggressive posture in the Mediterranean Sea to oppose Turkey’s increasing presence in the region.
In its latest move, France has deployed its military aircraft into southern Cyprus under Greek Cypriot control to deter Turkey’s action plan. Ankara has condemned Paris in strong terms, seeing it as a clear violation of international norms concerning the disputed island.
“The political status of Cyprus was determined by the Zurich-London Treaties signed in 1960. According to these treaties, what France does in Cyprus is totally illegal,” said Ismail Bozkurt, a Turkish Cypriot writer, who was once a member of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) presidential advisory council responsible for negotiations with the Greek Cypriot administration.
Located in the middle of the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus had both Turkish and Greek populations until the island was divided into two parts following a Turkish military operation aimed at protecting the island's Turkish minority in 1974. Ankara moved against the Greek-Cypriot military coup, which was aimed at dislodging the internationally recognised government of the Republic of Cyprus.
The island was divided into two political entities: one led by Greek Cypriots in the south and another led by Turkish Cypriots in the north, which became the TRNC in 1983, recognised only by Turkey.
Backed by much of the international community, the Greek Cypriots still pretend to represent the Republic of Cyprus in the south, which is considered by Turkey as the GCA.
Bozkurt refers to the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 under the treaties signed by Britain, Turkey and Greece. According to the treaties, Britain as the former colonialist power of Cyprus, and Turkey and Greece, as the protector states of respective ethnic communities in the island, became the three guarantor states of the Republic of Cyprus.
The treaties banned any other foreign military presence on the island. Since France is not a party to any of these agreements, its recent military presence in Cyprus violates the status of Cyprus, according to Bozkurt.
“I guess they [French] are also aware of [their illegal act]. As a result, they prefer to describe their presence as temporary,” Bozkurt told TRT World.
Contrary to the expectations of NATO members and regional observers, Paris has been reckless in its foreign policy moves, despite being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Instead of addressing the growing eastern Mediterranean conundrum within the norms of international diplomacy, Paris has recently shown its disregard for international law and prominent treaties, supporting warlords like Khalifa Haftar in Libya against the UN-sanctioned legitimate Tripoli government.
“What we expect from the international community, particularly the permanent members of the Security Council, to take an impartial stance and contribute to peace and stability both on the island and in the eastern Mediterranean region,” said Mustafa Lakadamyali, Turkish Cypriot Ambassador, representing the TRNC in Washington, DC.
“The ‘defence cooperation agreement’ signed between France and the Greek Cypriot administration is a violation of the 1960 Treaties. The agreement is a clear example of overlooking the true spirit and the primary principles – maintenance of international peace and security – of the UN Charter,” Lakadamyali told TRT World.
“France, with her actions, encourages the aggressor on the island, namely the Greek Cypriot administration, to continue with its provocative and hostile acts, as well as enhancing its military capacity,” Lakadamyali continued.
In order to counter Turkey’s increasing assertiveness across the eastern Mediterranean, France and Greece have strengthened their respective relations, using the Cyprus dispute as a launching platform to oppose Ankara in the region.
But it doesn't seem to derail Ankara from its regional goals.
For Ankara, the French-Greek Cypriot deal "will result in frustration.”
While the recent move of the French-Greece-Greek Cypriot axis has angered Turkey much, Britain, one of the guarantor states of Cyprus' political status, has appeared to be conspicuously silent over recent developments in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Their silence does not mean that they do not do anything. Probably, they keep their cards close to their chest,” says Bozkurt, the Turkish Cypriot political analyst.
He sees in that “a typical British policy,” which means not reacting until its own interests are threatened in clear terms.
“They would say something when someone says something negatively about their military bases in the island,” Bozkurt observed.
But Lakadamyali thinks that British silence might be more related to the former colonial power’s Brexit troubles.
“The UK still struggles with Brexit. They could not complete their negotiations with the EU and in this process, they do not want to pull the anger of Greece and Greek Cypriot administration, [both of which are members of the EU],” Lakadamyali said.
“Because the UK is so busy with Brexit and other internal issues, they could not pay attention much to issues [like the French-Greek Cypriot adminstration deal],” he concludes.