We cannot rule out the possibility of “satellite states” or close allies of Turkey recognising the illegal puppet regime in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus at Ankara’s behest, this however, will signify a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and general international law rules, says Aristoteles Constantinides, Associate Professor of International Law and Chairman of the Department of Law at the University of Cyprus. To address a situation like this, the Republic of Cyprus may impose countermeasures and utilise its membership in the EU, which is able to exert influence through various means, he says.
In statements to CNA about the possibility of countries sympathetic to Turkey recognising the illegal regime, Constantinides said that “from a legal point of view, the Republic of Cyprus is adequately shielded, at various levels.” He explained that there are UN Security Council resolutions, such as 541 of 1983, as well as general international law rules, which afford strong legal protection. “All countries are obliged not to recognise entities that have been created as a result of serious violations of mandatory provisions of international law” as is the prohibition of the use of force, he says, and notes that this rule was violated during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
“The pseudostate was declared on territory illegally occupied by Turkey, as a result of the Turkish invasion” he said, pointing to the international community’s obligation to avoid recognising this state of affairs. This obligation, he added, stems from general international law, while “Security Council resolutions come on top of that to impose a similar obligation in a much more eloquent, formal and unambiguous manner.”
Countries recognising a similar state of affairs or entities are violating international law and the Republic of Cyprus could react in a number of ways, Constantinides went on. Apart from its response on a bilateral level, or in coordination with Greece, the Associate Professor of International Law hinted to EU leverage, which could take various financial or diplomatic forms.
Constantinides did not rule out the possibility of some countries, considered to be Turkey’s satellites, “crossing the Rubicon” and recognising the illegal regime in the northern, Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus. According to reports, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and the Tripoli-based government of Libya are among those ready to recognise the illegal regime.
The Associate Professor of International Law said that in the case of Azerbaijan, recognition would weaken its legal position on Nagorno-Karabakh, although Baku emerged strong after the recent military operations in Southern Caucasus, with the contribution of Turkey. As for Libya, he said that the government in Tripoli may be internationally recognised, however “there is a strong sense of a temporary setup” due to developments in the country.
Nicosia may also mobilise international organisations to counter efforts for recognition, such as the Commonwealth – where Pakistan is also a member – or the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Constantinides said. He pointed to the leading role Egypt plays in the OIC, as well as to Nicosia’s improved relations with key countries of the OIC, such as Saudi Arabia.
The Associate Professor of International Law said finally that Nicosia may take recourse to the International Court of Justice against countries that may proceed with recognising the illegal regime, in case they have already acknowledged the Court’s jurisdiction. As for a possible response on the part of the Security Council, Constantinides said that a statement reaffirming previous resolutions is likely, as was recently the case with Varosha, after Turkey violated UN resolutions regarding the status of the fenced off part of Turkish-occupied Famagusta.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.
An illegal breakaway entity declared independence unilaterally, on November 15, 1983, in the areas under Turkish occupation, an action condemned by the UN Security Council and the international community as legally null and void.