A SENIOR United Nations officer once told me that Cyprus was the craziest posting he had ever been assigned to.
His troops in Lefkoşa were effectively keeping armed guard on indifferent shoppers and coffee drinkers. Visits to the “embargoed and isolated” North revealed, as he pointed out: “More Mercs, BMWs and four-by-fours than New York.”
Nothing in this Mission Improbable is more blatantly ridiculous than the so-called UN aid convoys that trundle up to the Karpaz carrying “essential supplies” to the few hundred Greek Cypriots living there.
Sacks of rice and flour, baby milk and nappies, distributed to these people as if they were no better off than the poor Rohingya refugees. The reality is they are free to shop for whatever they want, even pop down to Gazimağusa for a Burger King and an ice cream if they wish.
I am reliably informed that most of this largesse is sold on to the black market by its recipients, who must be laughing up their sleeves at the gullibility of UN officials. “Bag or rice mate? It fell off the back of a lorry!”
It seems that in the wake of the failure of Crans-Montana, our government is finally prepared to flex a little muscle and assert its independence. Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu declares that the UN convoys will, from tomorrow, be subject to TRNC import duties. Personally I would ban them altogether, but I think I can see the name of the game here. The GCs may not want the UN to capitulate to demands of our “illegal” regime and prefer to halt the UN lorries themselves.
The new hard-line attitude from the TRNC Foreign Ministry hints that the long-muted “two-state solution” may at last be considered attainable.
The Greek Cypriots would choke on such a prospect but they will learn that there is a price to pay for sabotaging Crans-Montana – anything that forces the two sides to look forward rather than constantly harking back to the events of the past 50 years
Whatever happens, it’s time to end the farce of the food convoys. Tahsin bey hints at more to come. “The UN is very upset about this kind of a change in their modalities but they’re going to have to accommodate themselves. This is just one example, many things will appear,” he told the AFP news agency.
I look forward to it. The UN has long ceased to be of any relevance to Cyprus. Its good offices mission has served only as a ventilator for the dead parrot that is the “peace talks”, while the peacekeeping force itself, Unficyp, has managed to become part of the famous “Problem” it was meant to help solve.
UN patrols on the “Green Line” are a nonsense. The GCs love them – and are happy to pay the bulk of their costs – because their presence reinforces their self-image of invasion and occupation by wicked Turks who would otherwise devour the whole island.
Meanwhile the rest of us pop back and forward for a pizza or a Starbucks while the international soldiers enjoy their fun in the sun – better than Ryanair!
Admittedly, recently there have been a few unpleasant incidents of visitors from our side being beaten up, in one case the perpetrator being a Greek Cypriot policeman. But in terms of a world crisis point, Cyprus just doesn’t make the grade.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the two sides to come up with “specific ideas” as to how they would come together again to restart the stalled process. Señor Guterres seems like a decent fellow but, respectfully, I would say to him: “Butt out.”
There are scores of other places where the UN just might do some good, so shame on them for wasting their time here.
US PRESIDENTS aside, those of us who try to amuse with newspaper columns are constantly trumped by real life. Last time, I told you about the foreign cockerels who disturbed neighbours in Hampshire with their “non-British” crowing.
But no flight of fancy, no extended bout of whimsy, could possibly have come up with the true story of the pair of Buddhists who released a haul of crabs and lobsters into the English Channel for a religious ceremony, only to be fined for causing “untold damage” to the environment.
Zhixiong Li and Ni Li paid £5,000 for the shellfish – 361 American lobsters and 350 Dungeness Pacific crabs – then threw them into the sea a mile off the coast of Brighton. They believe that returning animals to the wild is good karma.
“The world is your lobster, my son,” Arthur Daley famously declared, but it seems the great man wasn’t entirely right. The authorities were alerted after puzzled local fishermen started catching the non-native species.
Experts from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) quickly identified them as a serious threat to local marine life. The MMO is now spending thousands of pounds trying to recapture the Americans – even offering local fishermen a £20 bounty for every one reeled in.
So far 323 have been recovered but the most recent lobsters brought ashore were found to have been carrying “viable eggs”.
Miss Li, a banker, and estate agent Mr Li, pleaded guilty to a crime under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Miss Li was fined £5,300 and Mr Li £500. They were also ordered to pay £9,000 compensation to the MMO.
As with the lobsters, it’s probably too late now, but I’d like to think this case might serve as a warning about the spread of non-native species.
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