CYPRUS WEEKLY 14 September 2005
Law expert and ex-UN official slams Annan Plan
Law expert and ex-UN official slams Annan Plan
‘Throw it into the bin’
By Philippos Stylianou
A PROMINENT international law professor and former senior UN official
has criticised the involvement of the world organisation in drafting
the Annan Plan and called for it to be thrown into the bin to make
way for a more positive proposal.
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
The US citizen took early retirement during the tenure of the late
Sergio Vieira de Mello and today teaches at the Geneva School of
"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
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
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
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
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."
Use the quote below with Zayas portrait in email
RPOFESSOR 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