‘Throw it into the bin’
By Philippos Stylianou
Alfred De Zayas is one of an eight-member panel of international experts who were in Cyprus recently to present their report on the solution of the Cyprus problem to president Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
He was directly involved with the United Nations for 25 years, reaching the position of Secretary in the Human Rights Committee and Chief of Petitions.
The US citizen took early retirement during the tenure of the late Sergio Vieira de Mello and today teaches at the Geneva School of Diplomacy.
"It is unfortunate that this half-baked plan was given the name of the Secretary General," Professor Zayas said.
"And having been a staff member of the organisation for many years, I am dismayed that the advisors of Kofi Annan thought that they could use the name of the Secretary General in connection with a plan that is incompatible with many resolutions of the Security Council, of the General Assembly, of the UN Commission on Human Rights, as well as with general principles of international law and the UN Charter."
In his hour-long interview, Zayas spelled out more clearly the plan’s inconsistencies with the principles of international society, but revealed that the panel of experts of which he was a member had been divided over whether in their report they should show consideration to the Secretary General.
UN had its chance
He also said that the UN has had its chance with the Annan Plan and failed and therefore should not become involved in the panel’s proposal for a constitutional convention of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to draft a new constitution for the island. On the contrary, he noted. there was an important role for the EU to play in this context.
Asked to explain how a plan so at odds with international law received the stamp of the United Nations the Professor said: "As a former staff member of the United Nations I regret that profoundly. I consider the Annan plan to be fundamentally flawed. To put it in common language I consider that plan to be a non-starter. It is so incompatible with international law and international human rights norms that it is nothing less than shocking that the organisation would bend to political pressure and political interest on the part of my country of nationality and Great Britain, in order to cater for the interests of a NATO partner.
"I would have advised the Secretary General, had I been in his staff, to keep his fingers out of it. I think that the UN and Kofi Annan personally lost face, I think that they lost a degree of credibility, because they endorsed a plan that was fundamentally sick."
Probed further to say if there had been any regrets on the part of the UN for trying to push such a plan down the throat of the Greek Cypriots, especially in the light of official statements that the Annan plan was still a going concern, Zayas said the plan was so bad that it could not and should not be revived.
He added:"There is no question that the democratic voice of the Cypriot people was so loud that the organisation felt embarrassment, and you could read that embarrassment in the press release issued by the UN immediately after the results of the referendum became known.
Respect for will
"Obviously, the Secretary General was not going to excuse himself, it is not common in diplomatic practice to do so, but certainly in the house, in the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Legal Office in New York people were embarrassed, because we in the United Nations are the bearers of the principle of self-determination, democracy, rule of law and obviously we have to respect the will of the Cypriot people. And they spoke loud and clear; it was not a decision of 51%, it was 75.6% something. And that being the case, obviously the Secretary General realized that very fundamental errors had been committed."
Zayas then noted that some of the members of the expert panel, although totally agreeing with the analysis about the plan’s incompatibility with international law, would have preferred to save the face of the Secretary General.
"To put it differently, some felt that we should have just made our proposal without reference to the Annan Plan. I belong to those who believe that, bearing in mind that there are attempts to revive the Annan Plan, then it is important that prominent international lawyers say we believe that the Annan Plan is so flawed that it cannot and it must not be revived. So, since the plan is evidently not dead in the agenda of the UK and in the agenda of the US, it must be addressed, and that’s why we satisfied ourselves with putting our proposal forward."
Yet, the proposal of the eight experts for a joint Cypriot constitutional convention bears one striking similarity to the Annan Plan: it too asks for the ensuing constitution to be put to separate referenda on both sides of the divide.
The American professor said this had been another sticking point for the panel, but in a joint paper, compromises had to be made. "I have reservations about it; I thought a single referendum would be better in the end, but I can live with two referenda."
Regarding the essence of the proposal, Professor Zayas said:
"The Constitutional Convention must be agreed by the two communities and only them.
"I personally don’t want to see the UN involved in this process. I think the UN had its chance and failed. I would like to see the EU assume its responsibility vis-‡-vis its new member. I think it is in the interest of all 25 to help Cyprus to achieve a constitution that would strengthen its democratic representation and would allow reunification of the island."
And he followed his argument through: "I would like to see for instance the abolition of the powers and privileges of the guarantor powers. I think that in the year 2005, 45 years after the process of decolonisation, 45 years after the UN adopted countless resolutions on self-determination, it is anachronistic for Britain, Turkey and Greece to have anything to say on what happens on the island of Cyprus. It is the concern of the Cyprus people alone to draft their constitution."
Honour and privilege
He noted that the process might take years and expressed the belief that the EU could provide advisory services and technical assistance. He let it be understood that the role of the panel of experts ended in submitting their report but noted the following: "We hope that the two communities will find merits in the proposal and that they themselves take the initiative and carry it forward. But if we as technicians are called at a later date to help, it would be our honour and privilege to do so."
The professor, who has made the landmark judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Loizidou v. Turkey an essential part of his international law lectures at the Geneva School of Diplomacy, was particularly very disappointed with his country’s policy on Cyprus and the world at large:
"Morally it is very, very problematic," he said.
"Personally not only am I committed to international human rights and international law, I am also a Roman Catholic and I very much believe in the Sermon of the Mount; and I would like to see my government and in particular my president read the Sermon on the Mount, and in particular the section that talks about the peacemakers – Blessed are the peacemakers, Mathew Ch.5, Verse 9. The vocation of the United Nations is based on Mathew 5; it is based on that obligation to liberate mankind from the scourge of war."
He said only then their proposal for a constitutional assembly would succeed if the Annan Plan were thrown in the bin, and he described the present situation as having an elephant in the room.
"Instead of talking about the elephant in the room, you gonna talk about some painting on the wall. I think I would rather see the elephant disappear and not ignore the fact that there is a problem, and then once that is completely gone, then our positive proposal will have a chance of success…"
But what are the chances of getting rid of the Annan Plan when even the official Greek Cypriot side says it can be improved upon?
"I think it is not salvageable, quite honestly. I think it cannot be saved, and if it were saved I think it would be a major disservice not only to the Cypriot people but a disservice to international law; because everything that we at the UN have tried to build over 60 years, the norms of international law that have emerged in international treaties, in resolutions of the Security Council, would be weakened if not made ridiculous by an arrangement that essentially ignores them, makes them irrelevant or acts completely against the letter and spirit of those treaties and resolutions."
PROFESSOR ALFRED DE ZAYAS: "Everything that we at the UN have tried to build over 60 years, the norms of international law that have emerged in international treaties and in resolutions of the Security Council would be weakened, if not made ridiculous by an arrangement that essentially ignores them, makes them irrelevant, or acts completely against the letter and spirit of those treaties and resolutions."
Link to source: http://alfreddezayas.com/Interviews/cyprusweekly.shtml