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29th March 1998

Identity conflicts and EU

By Mervyn de Silva

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Violence makes news; organised violence claims at least a paragraph or two on the "foreign news" page. Protracted violence can claim more space and brighter display. If the domestic conflict gets more attention the reason is always the regional implications of the dispute, and/or the involvement of major powers. And soon we watch attempts at benign intervention by the United Nations and/or some Big Power which has some special interest, enlightened or not.

If the intervention is questioned, the answer is predictable - another country is already involved or is likely to be involved. Thus Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. This was not the case in Sri Lanka's "internal war", although Pakistan did offer direct (if modest) assistance, largely because the separatist terrorists were trained and armed by its rival, India.

It was the direct engagement of India in both the conflict and the "conflict-resolution" exercise that introduced the LTTE to the international media, and what is now a high level area of debate.

The Accord

As early as November 1984, President Reagan, already the uncrowned king of an increasingly unipolar world, wrote to both President Spyros Kypriano and to his Turkish counterpart, General Kenan Evren. The result was a "Summit" meeting between the two leaders. It was little more than an occasion for well-intentioned pledges and what is now called a "photo opportunity". But the agenda did include the critical issues that needed to be discussed openly and frankly and, hopefully resolved. These were the questions that had to be answered:

1. The pull-out of Turkish troops from Cyprus and a strictly agreed time-table

2. If agreement was reached - international guarantees

3. The right of all Cypriots to travel, live and own land anywhere in the Island.

Kypriano took a hard line. He was not prepared to discuss any other matters raised by the Turks unless these basic demands were conceded. What is often neglected by enthusiastic students of "conflict resolution" is that those who volunteer to participate in the exercise or assist it actively have a vested interest. That self-interest, sometimes strategic, will ultimately guide the participant's response to "Solutions" proposed by others.

Cyprus Armed

Readers may recall that Mr. Kofi Annan, the US Secretary General's debut as a top-level negotiator was Cyprus last year, though the more dramatic Iraq has now made that role seem a modest engagement. He was the first international diplomat to recognise the complex character of the new danger to regional and global peace. He realised that the "Cross Border" yes, internal conflict, divisive and cross-border in character, not only threatens peace and stability in newly independent states but threatens regional security.

The collective identity may be the moblising force but a common identity, race or religion, which links a community in one nation-state with the same community in a neighbouring country threatens peaceful inter-state relations just as it undermines the unity and territorial integrity of the state. This is the explanation at least partly, for the new World Disorder.

European Union

It was no surprise then to read the Reuter report filed from Edinburgh on Friday. At the two-day meeting of the European Union (EU) foreign ministers, the discussion on Cyprus was described as "tricky". Cyprus is one of six countries included in a list that the EU plans to approve for EU membership.

The French President Jacques Chirac introduced a pre-condition. The admission of Cyprus must wait till the Turkish Cypriots give a green light.

Hulftsdorp Hill

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