July and August in Cyprus always bring a volley of celebrations for some; commiserations and condemnations for others! This has been going on for the past forty years with little chance of changing the status quo.
As time goes by, two historical events emerge each year to rekindle the old grey cells trapped in a time warp: (a) Turkey is not prepared to abandon its occupation of Cyprus and (b) the Republic has been unable to establish a long-term foreign and defense policy to deal with the Turkish aggression; patchwork of sorts has always been the norm!
As a result of a string of unwise policies and political decisions, Cyprus is confronted today with insurmountable problems; the nation is in near bankruptcy, with possibly more Troika loans on the way, but above all, the demographic transformation in the occupied area has become irreversible.
Unwittingly, Turkish-Cypriots are equally trapped by Turkey’s expansionist ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean. They believed that Turkey invaded the island for their sake but as it transpired that was never the case but a ploy.
It is assessed that no more than 70.000 Turkish-Cypriots are living in the occupied area, as opposed to an estimated 400.000 Anatolian settlers imported by Ankara to change the demographic character of the island. Of course, no official figures are available. Inevitably, in a few years’ time, the Turkish-Cypriot nationals will vanish forever and will exist in name only unless they do something about it.
Under the present talks, Cyprus will inevitably be partitioned in the guise of a BBF, a Bi-zonal, Bi-communal Federation (an apartheid style pseudo-federation) and would also be impossible to remove the settlers from Cyprus – the government already agreed to allow 50.000 Anatolians on “humanitarian” grounds. Those numbers are deceptive and are subject to interpretation depending on who is doing the counting.
When that happens, freedom of movement and Muslim population growth for the small island will become a social demographic time bomb. It’s no coincidence that the occupied area is systematically inundated with new mosques built everywhere across the land, as a sign of conquest and continuity.
Unfortunately for Cyprus, Turkey’s behaviour is well-recognized, having a reputation for signing agreements knowing it would not honor them. The present negotiations face a similar fate. The Turkish-Cypriot leader Mr. Eroglu behaves in a similar manner of utter inflexibility. A classic example of Turkey’s political arrogance is the following agreement, which makes it plainly obvious.
The sixth paragraph of Article 49 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which Turkey signed and is a party of, provides that: “The Occupying Power (of any territory) shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. Turkey continues to do exactly the opposite in Cyprus.
The other victim of Turkey’s occupation is the ancient city of Famagusta/Varoshia – once a bustling city and now one of the few, if not the only, ghost city in the world. To this day, Ankara refuses to allow the return of its legal property owners and refugees (220,000) to go back to their homes. It also rejects requests to allow UN or even US experts to enter the forsaken city to study its condition for re-habitation.
Covertly, there is a master-scheme behind Turkey’s decision and that is to not relinquish control over its trophy. Agreement or not, there is a good suspicion that Famagusta/Varoshia would be populated by a wave of a new breed of influential Turkish settlers and business-people to re-establish a thriving city with its deep port facilities and naval access to the world. Natural gas-related industries can’t be excluded.
The election of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offers little hope of a policy change. Turkey’s obstinate position will continue to remain as hard as a rock and will take a shrewd statesmanship to reverse its intransigence – something that Cyprus is not famous for!
Meanwhile, Mr. Erdogan’s election promise to his people for a “New Turkey” does not necessarily include solving the Cyprus problem. There are more pending matters such as the Kurdish problem and also the Islamic State (ISIL) threat. It is reported that 10% of ISIL Jihadist militants are Turks. The Erdogan government acknowledged that significant Sunni-Turkish nationals are being recruited by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and are paying high salaries for their loyalty.
The growth of these Jihadist groups could pose a serious threat to Turkey’s stability but also to the occupied sector of Cyprus. That would be the worst nightmare for the Republic of Cyprus.
Meanwhile, time waits for no-one and as time goes by, there are underlying concerns that a Turkish-Cypriot State under the Protectorate of Turkey (or province) cannot be brushed aside as a fantasy. Mr. Eroglu, the hawkish Turkish-Cypriot leader, keeps repeating those same threats and has not backed down once from such aspirations. Now that Mr. Erdogan has been re-elected, things can change rapidly; he may well be the one Turkish leader to divide the island for good. His official visit to the occupied area soon is not without a purpose.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if one day a declaration was issued stating that a Turkish-Cypriot State has been born. That is how Turkey operates – prolong a problem long enough until the timing is right and then strike! If that were the case, a new “democratic” pseudo referendum would seal the fate of Cyprus. A similar tactic was applied to create the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), which no country recognizes, save one, Turkey.
One cannot deny that Turkey is the key to a solution but unless they sit around the negotiating table, the problem will never be resolved. Deciding not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus is not helping.
Negotiating with the Turkish-Cypriot leadership on the other hand – good as it may sound politically – is actually hopeless because Turkey dictates events and not the Turkish-Cypriot politicians. It was never a good idea to start them in the first place and a bad political move to hold talks on the basis of “two ethnic communities.”
In fact, the political charade of the talks must come to an end until a better political environment presents itself to allow meaningful discussions to resolve differences; partitioning the island on a BBF is not one of them!
While the Turkish-Cypriots enjoy the privileges as citizens of the Republic offered by EU-Cyprus, its leadership and some political parties, ironically, driven by nationalistic ideas, such as the Grey Wolves, are actively pursuing a policy to break up the Republic.
One cannot have it both ways. The Turkish-Cypriots must choose to either be full citizens of the Republic of Cyprus or not. Citizenship however cannot be a selective process but it comes as one package, complete with its advantages and disadvantages; no special privileges for some and less for others! Citizens cannot decide and choose to retain some of the privileges of citizenship that suits them and drop others; this is inconsistent with the concept of a nation and citizenship!
In Turkey, such dissidence is punishable by imprisonment for “unturkishness” which is considered a crime under the Constitution. Mr. Erdogan believes “turkishness” must be treated like a sacred cow that no one should dare to tamper with – imprisoned Turkish journalists are a good example of “tampering with the sacred cow.”
All things considered, is there a light at the end of the dark tunnel for this torn island?
That depends entirely on what the Cypriot government plans to do in the next couple of years; either continue the same ineffective and appeasing policy or go on the offensive. The wishy-washy policy of the past must come to an end and be replaced by a new strategy which makes it abundantly clear that Turkey will never become an EU member without Cyprus’s approval, unless they withdraw their troops from Cyprus.
Most importantly, the new policy should include an appeal to all Turkish-Cypriots, that Greek-Cypriots, as citizens of this island, are more than ready to reunite. The media also has a major role to play on promoting this initiative of peace and reconciliation. One cannot deny that it is more beneficial to reunite the island as one country as opposed to remain a divided nation under the threat of a gun and Turkish military occupation.
So far, the people’s voice has been muzzled and it’s necessary to finally speak out as one unit in the name of peace, free choice and justice. When that starts to happen, will be the start of a Revolution of the Mind and will not be a bad thing.
The old taboos will gradually fade away and be replaced by a new chapter in the history of Cyprus; a chapter of a progressive and prosperous multicultural Cypriot society and one that people have never seen or enjoyed before!