By Andreas C Chrysafis
December, 2014 (No 65) ©
The Republic of Cyprus is entering into an unpredictable phase in its troublesome history. If the economic crisis were not bad enough, it is also facing constant provocation by Turkey while the bi-communal negotiations have come to a dead end due to Turkey’s military threats. As for the natural gas bonanza the verdict is not out yet – it could turn out to be a blessing or it could develop into a curse; only time will tell!
Meanwhile the political situation with the Turkish Cypriot side is getting nowhere. Irrespective of how hard the government tries to bridge the gap between the two it’s getting wider by the day. After forty years the negotiation results are dismally disappointing. It demonstrates that there is not much hope for reconciliation in the foreseeable future because Turkey blocks progress and prefers to keep its military trophy. The talks are simply a smoke screen!
With the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits within the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Turkey has become more aggressive and keeps flexing its military muscles against the Republic. Flouting international law, Turkey’s Prime Minister Mr Ahmet Davutoglou keeps on threatening the existence of the Republic insisting that Turkey will not stop its search for gas inside EEZ unless Cyprus abandons its exploration. At his official visit to Athens recently he stated: “Let’s solve this issue in order to exploit our energy resources and connect possible natural gas resources with Greece through Turkey”.
Turkey is determined to bully its way to gain some rights over Cyprus’ natural gas deposits and if successful, it will then hold Cyprus hostage. Ankara would ultimately take control over the affairs of Cyprus through the back door. Turkey justifies those lawless tactics by siting its “guarantor status” under the 1959 London/Zurich Agreement. Ironically Ankara suitably ignores the fact that she negated that “guarantor status” the day she chose to invade the island.
In fact, Turkey has a long-term strategy on the Cyprus question and it’s quite an effective one: implant false propaganda into people’s minds including doubts and lies; keep repeating them and soon people will start to believe those lies as truth. Add a tactical delaying equation in the brew and soon an illegal action is accepted as “reality”. In the lapse of time, people not only forget historical events of atrocities but also the new generation hardly cares about the past. For Turkey, this strategy is already yielding positive results!
Today, most outsiders across the world believe there are two separate countries on the island – the North Turkish Cyprus and the South Greek Cyprus! This is an area where the Cyprus government has totally failed to anticipate and overt this public perception from the start and to expose Turkey for what it is; a military aggressor that has illegally occupied a sector of the Republic of Cyprus.
In view of such complex developments, the political climate in Cyprus is forever evolving and yet remains the same. The Turkish Cypriot administration has now also decided to challenge the legitimacy and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus – just like Turkey does. The Eroglu administration is actually questioning the sovereignty of its own ancestral country; strange analogy in an effort to serve “motherland” Turkey.
Recently the Turkish Cypriot negotiator Mr Orun at a book presentation at the London School of Economics publicly repeated those declarations by saying that: “he and his “government” do not recognize the existence of the Republic of Cyprus”. Such controversial and crude statements coming from the Turkish Cypriot chief negotiator for a solution, means a campaign is in full gear to mislead. It also confirms that the talks are simply a Turkish charade designed to deceive; in fact they were never sincere from the start.
Unless the Cyprus government confronts these innuendos effectively and ridicules these campaigns with action, things could escalate and get worse. Closing the crossings in the UN Buffer zone may trigger a way for the Turkish Cypriot administration to come to its senses and negotiate in good faith.
However, in its ambitions to establish a Turkish Cypriot state, the hawkish Eroglu administration has been very active to break links with the Republic. Advocating “turkishness” – a word used by Mr. Erdogan – it has now become a slogan to encourage nationalistic views similar to those shared by the Grey Wolves (Ulku Ocaklari); an influential terrorist neo-fascist organisation that advocates “turkishness” to be supreme above all else. Those that disagree are treated as enemies of the state with serious repercussions – often with murder.
Faced by such ultra-nationalistic environment Turkish Cypriots today are not even permitted to declare their ancestral birthright. It is considered illegal to fly a Republic of Cyprus flag in the occupied area; a flag that was unanimously and democratically adopted as the national flag of the Republic by both the Turkish and Greek Cypriot population.
A classic example of such oppressiveness is the case of a young Turkish Cypriot couple living in Famagusta, Koray Basdogrultmaci and Cinel Senem Husseyin. As Cypriots they were flying Cypriot flags outside their shop and were both apprehended by the police, changed with “public disorder” and incarcerated for breaking the “law” of TRNC – a pseudo-state not recognized by any other country except for Turkey.
Out of such uncompromising behaviour there are serious questions that come to the surface; does the silent majority of the Turkish Cypriot population truly want a solution to the Cyprus problem or not? If so, how can negotiations proceed when the Eroglu regime, his “ministers” and Turkey publicly claim not to recognize the existence of the Republic of Cyprus?
Turkish Cypriots cannot have it both ways: to benefit from Cypriot citizenship of the Republic; and be treated as European citizens; enjoy all citizenship privileges and at the same time actively pursue ways to plot and destroy the Republic? That is considered treason! In Turkey such behaviour is deemed to be “unturkishness” with serious repercussions.
Under the present conditions, it is obvious the Turkish Cypriot side does not want a solution other than to establish their own separate state as the result of Turkey’s 1974 military invasion of the island. In doing so they hope to enjoy EU Cyprus membership and also grab a share of the natural gas handed to them on a silver platter. This will never happen! But, it is possible if and when a solution is adopted by both peoples in a referendum and not necessarily by politicians.
All considered, the Cyprus government is under immense pressure from all fronts to negotiate the gas deposits as a part of a solution. Pressure comes from all sides but especially from the newly appointed UN Special Adviser Mr Espen Barth Eide – a Norwegian career diplomat. In fact he has been quite outspoken and cavalier with his new “ big idea for a solution” and that is: to negotiate the natural gas simultaneously alongside the talks! All the political parties in Cyprus including the government flatly ridiculed his naïve suggestion.
That aside, the Rule of Law and Equality must always be held supreme. Under those terms, no ethnic minority should be able to demand special privileges from the state other than those available to the rest of citizens whether they are: Greeks, Turks, Armenians, British, Russians and more. Turkish Cypriots in fact are not entitled to special privileges not provided to others. The national wealth of a country belongs to all its citizens equally and without exceptions. Meanwhile those rights are enshrined in the Constitution protected by Rule of Law and enjoyed by all Cypriots.
It’s saddening however to see that the Turkish Cypriot minority being swallowed up by the presence of thousands of Anatolian Turks imported to change the demographic character of the island. Along with that comes friction and the erasure of an ancient culture for political expediency. If no steps are taken to combat this devious ethnic cleansing, it is only a matter of time before the Turkish community vanishes forever.
This should be avoided at all costs but only the Turkish Cypriots can prevent such a tragedy facing their community. The choice is strictly theirs to decide. The surest way to prevent this indigenous cleansing by Ankara is the reunification of the island and for both people to live peacefully in one democratic and unified Cyprus EU – member state. Cyprus will then leap forward to great prosperity; prosperity shared equally by all citizens under a new constitution.
Today is a good day to start! Turkish Cypriots must break their silence and come out and be counted; for they have been silent for far too long! One nation, one nationality, one-man-one vote, equality and social cohesion it’s the only way forward to peace and security. All else will end in failure!
An olive branch is out there; all one has to do is to reach out and grasp it…
Andreas C Chrysafis
Author – Writer – Artist