The Difference Between Northern Cyprus and Judea, Samaria

January 4, 2013 4:55 pm 14 comments

A neighbourhood in Ariel, Israel.

Anyone flipping through cable television channels with his or her remote control has undoubtedly come across programs about British and other retirees from Northern Europe seeking to escape the harsh climate where they live by venturing to one of the well-known vacation spots along the Mediterranean coast. The difficult problem that these buyers face is the soaring prices of properties over the last decade in places like Marbella, Spain, the French Riviera, or Italy’s Amalfi Coast, which leads many to look for more economical alternatives. As a result, many European buyers after 2002 have been flocking to Northern Cyprus, where a villa with a swimming pool can be bought at discount prices.

The main legal question that is not addressed with this new European property boom is the legal status of the area where these new homes are being built. It should be recalled that in 1974 the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, which had been an independent state since 1960 and took over 37 percent of the island. Tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots were expelled in this period in what they viewed was a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing by the Turkish army. In the aftermath of the invasion, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 353 which demanded “an immediate end to foreign military intervention” and called for “the withdrawal without delay from the Republic of Cyprus of foreign military personnel.”

The Turkish Cypriots declared their independence in 1983 by forming the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” an act that the U.N. condemned as “null and void.” Over the years, an estimated 160,000 “settlers” who came from Turkey moved into Northern Cyprus. In many cases, properties that had been left behind by Greek Cypriot refugees were given by the Northern Cyprus administration to Turkish Cypriots and to the Turkish settlers, who sold them to European buyers. To date, some 5,000 British citizens have purchased homes in Northern Cyprus despite it being a clear-cut case of an “occupied territory.” According to a BBC report, as many as 10,000 foreigners have bought up former Greek Cypriot properties in Northern Cyprus.

Is there any basis for comparing Northern Cyprus to the situation with the West Bank?

A number of glaring differences stand out. First, Israel entered the West Bank in a war of self-defense in 1967 when it faced an Arab war coalition that was massing forces along its borders. In contrast, the circumstances of the Turkish invasion were very different. Turkey did not face imminent attack from Cyprus, but rather was concerned with intercommunal tensions in Cyprus.

Second, there was no established sovereignty in the West Bank in 1967 that Israel violated; there was no Palestinian state while Jordan’s claim to sovereignty was rejected by most of the international community except for Britain and Pakistan. Moreover, there were earlier Jewish rights under the British Mandate, which never expired. Looking at the Cypriot case, prior to the Turkish invasion in 1974, the Republic of Cyprus was the undisputed sovereign over the entire island, including the area of Northern Cyprus.

Finally, the resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council in the two conflicts were very different. In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 242 which did not call for an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories it captured as a result of the conflict. The resolution suggested that the old armistice lines be replaced with secure and recognized borders.

Yet in the case of Northern Cyprus, the U.N. did not qualify its demand for a Turkish withdrawal by allowing, for example, the Turkish military to remain in even part of the island. Looking at these different considerations, it appeared that the international community should have judged the dispute over Northern Cyprus far more severely than the way it viewed the dispute over the West Bank, where Israel had multiple rights that it could exercise if it decided to do so.

However, in practice, that was not the case. As usual, on Dec. 10, the European Union declared yet again that it was “deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem.” Its statement made wild charges that Israeli construction in E1 “could also entail forced transfer of civilian population.”

It finally added that “the European Union reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace.” Ironically, while the EU releases harsh statements of this sort against Israel for any construction activity in West Bank settlements, it has nothing to say about tens of thousands of Turkish settlers that have moved into Northern Cyprus.

Nor are European governments condemning their own citizens who are seeking to build beachfront villas with swimming pools in territory that is technically still under Turkish occupation. European governments have warned their citizens that former Greek residents of Northern Cyprus may initiate legal proceedings in European courts against those who take over their properties. But there is no objection being stated in principle against European citizens moving into these territories in order to build vacation homes.

How does international law apply in these situations? There is a long-standing dispute over whether Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, for the protection of civilians, should be understood narrowly as prohibiting an occupying power from forcibly transferring its population into an occupied territory (the traditional Israeli and U.S. view) or should be interpreted broadly so that it even prohibits an occupying power from letting its citizens voluntarily move into an occupied territory (the European and Arab view).

But the European foreign ministries cannot have it both ways: they cannot condemn Israelis who build homes in the West Bank for violating international law, while they approve, in principle, or are at least silent about Turkish settlers and their European business partners who benefit from the lands Turkish Cypriots have taken over, as they develop what has been one of the hottest Mediterranean real estate markets for Europeans seeking a place in the sun.

14 Comments

  • 1980 UNSC – res. 476: “acquisition of terriotry by force is inadmissible….reaffirms the overriding necessity to end the prolonged occupation of Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem”. This was a simple call for withdrawal, without reference to any condition.

    As for “Judea and Samaria”…
    if settlers should be entitled to see their actions justified ipso facto because the “territory intended for the Palestinian state was the ‘formative territory’ of the Jewish people,” then the same consistent approach must be applied to the entire history of the region.
    Using the “formative territory” logic consistently would mean that Israel should give up the coast between Ashdod and Ashkelon, which was never a part of the ancient Israelite kingdoms. The numerous archaeological expeditions carried out over decades in Ashkelon – one of five ancient Philistine cities that today encompasses what was, until 1948, the Palestinian village of al-Majdal – have shown that it was never conquered by the ancient Israelites. And even if one assumes that there was a conquest, the occupation of an area for a few years does not mean that it represented part of the a “formative territory.” Otherwise, the many Philistine raids and occupations of Israelite towns as far east as the Jordan Valley would also make these areas “less” Israelite.

    As for “there was no established sovereignty in the West Bank in 1967 that Israel violated”:
    The legal definition of the term “occupation” is applied to a territory in which a foreign military force is able to exercise complete or partial military control, as well as civil-administrative control over infrastructures and the daily life of local residents. This helps to clarify the reason why no state or international organization recognizes as “legal” the settlements in the occupied territories, East Jerusalem included (see resolution n. 476, UNSC, Jun. 30, 1980). The Israeli High Court of Justice itself established that the application of the regulations on the matter of occupation depends on the effective military control exercised from outside the nation’s borders, and not from previous sovereignty over the territory of a specific state (HCJ 785/87). Therefore, the fact that the West Bank was occupied by Jordan until 1967 – an occupation which was opposed by the local population at the time, most of all by Fatah militants, to the point that King Hussein felt obliged to impose martial law – does not justify the use of the expression “disputed territories” in place of “occupied territories”. http://www.iai.it/pdf/DocIAI/iaiwp1306.pdf

  • @Kyriakos, I think you make a great point. I know almost nothing of the history of Cyprus, and we should all inform ourselves better before commenting. This goes especially for the leaders of the EU. If they want to condemn Israel, they too should be informed of the history, and if they intend to disregard it, they really ought to be called out on their Jew-hating and hypocrisy.

  • ….or the many thousands of acres of Jewish property stolen by eleven Muslim nations (1947-67) Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, etc?…or the billions in business assets, homes, public buildings for 850,000 refugees most of whom were accommodated in Israel and are now more than half the Jews of Israel.

  • What an ill written article. The lack of accuracy in this report makes me, to be honest, sick. Before reporting, it is important, if not paramount, that you provide accurate context to the Cyprus situation. What were the reasons for Turkey’s invasion? Euoka-Eunosis. This is coming from a Greek Cypriot. What about the Turkish cypriots who have lost property in the southern part of the island? this report is absolutely shocking.

  • Would you care to let the Western world why Turkey invaded in 1974? Do you think it had anything to do with the Military junta in Greece kidnapping the president and, with their old friends, the ever charming EOKA, killing unarmed Turkish Cypriot families and even Greek Cypriots that opposed the planned illegal union with Greece. Even the Greek Cypriots admit this.
    And what about the Turkish Cypriot land left in Southern Cyprus that the Greek Cypriot government has built has built airports and power plants on?
    I hope you are not treating your readership as ignorant peasants, as the Greek Cypriot church tells it’s followers the Turkish Cypriots are.
    Please – let us be constructive before we lose more by continuing to be greedy, nationalist and stupid again.

    • Thank you very interesting and extremely correct comment. I hope some people would care to read more about Cyprus History and find out what really had happened there prior to 1974 and what kind of disaster the nationalism could bring up. It was the folks fromboth sides who suffered most in that little pretty island, because of the joint operation of the politicians and the church fathers.

    • The majority of the population in a country that is also the historical population of thousands and thousands of years of that country has the right for self-determination. Is not a nationalistic issue is the international law. Nationalistic issue would be to claim Persia or something or all foreigners out of one country. Is Turkey that is holding the land and does not let the refuges to go back home and not anyone else.

      • Well, you should studymore history of Cyprus. Cypriots had their own country, which they ruined with their own hands with the great help of the mainland Greeks, because they wouldn’t give the Turks a little room to live with whom they had lived side by side for centuries. I don’t blame most of the Greek Cypriots here at all, they are very nice people,the blame here goes to fascist EOKA-B guerillas and Greek Junta of Greece. Your ideas prety much conform to those of the Turkish government people, in may ways. I have lived in Cyprus for numbar of years, I have close friends from both sides, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, I speak Greek and Turkish. I have almost read every book on History of Cyprus.

  • Ellinas Diasporas

    There is another difference between the cases of Judea and Samaria and the occupied territories of Cyprus. Judea and Samaria have had an unbroken Jewish presence (sometime small sometimes large) for over 30 centuries. There was no Muslim presence on Cyprus prior to the Ottoman Turkish conquest of 1571. Please avoid using the term ‘Northern Cyprus’; the correct phrase is ‘occupied territories of Cyprus’. Anything else is construed by Ankara as legitimising its illegal occupation of a part of another sovereign state, an EU and UN member.

    • There were no Europeans in America before 1492, let’s kick all the Americans out of there. Is that the logic here? How many centuries would one need to call a place home? Please be more specific. I would call the northern part of Cyprus, North Cyprus, “occupied territories of Cyprus” is not a geographical term.

      • So if someone comes and conquers your country and ethnic cleanse your population then the world should accept it???? When you are in a place for thousands and thousands of years before somebody, that took your land by war!!! and your are still the 82&% percent of the population the land is yours, but even if you don’t have even one citizen there, after an ethnic cleansing or a genocide, (like in Asia Minor) the land is still yours.!!! If the years are passed the doesn’t change. Now about the Americans yes they did a terrible think to the indigenous people over there as they did a terrible think to the Japanese when they have nuclear two cities!!! That doesn’t legalize every awful think that happens around the world. Now of course if we had more people like you around then the only solution will be to take nuclear weapons and vanish each other since if we vanish each other then we can take our land back.

  • EOKA GREEK TERRORIST MASSACRES OF OVER 400 British Men, Women & Children from 1955-1960
    EOKA B GREEK TERRORIST GENOCIDE OF OVER 12,000 Turkish Cypriot Children, Women & Men from 1963-1974

    • EOKA fought to liberate Cyprus from the evils of British colonialism as did many other nations under that same evil. And far more Greeks were assacinated by the british during the almost 200 years of british elegal colonial rule, and the only genocide in Cyprus was the one carried out by the turkish invaders after the ottoman conquest in 1571AD?

  • Lysi-australia

    How can stolen property be sold and it be legal?What is this world becoming? What with international laws?What with any laws?When do they count?Who decides?

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