The Republic of Cyprus is entering into an unpredictable phase in its troublesome history. If the economic crisis was 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 yet to come – it could turn out to be a blessing or 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 of Cyprus. Flouting international law, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglou keeps on threatening the Republic’s existence, insisting that Turkey will not stop its search for gas inside the EEZ unless Cyprus abandons its exploration. In 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, will then hold Cyprus hostage. Ankara would ultimately take control over Cyprus’ affairs 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 it negated that “guarantor status” the day it 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 are true. Add a tactical delaying equation into 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 Cypriot government has totally failed to anticipate, overt this public perception from the start and 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 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 Cypriot 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 organization that advocates “turkishness” to be supreme above all. Those that disagree are treated as enemies of the state with serious repercussions – often with murder.
Faced by such an 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, charged with “public disorder” and incarcerated for breaking the “law” of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – a pseudo-state not recognized by any other country except Turkey.
Out of such uncompromising behavior, 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: benefit from Cypriot citizenship and be treated as European citizens, enjoying all citizenship privileges, and at the same time actively pursue ways to plot and destroy the Republic. That is considered treason! In Turkey, such behavior is deemed to be “unturkishness” with serious repercussions.
Under the present conditions, it is obvious that 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 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 sides in a referendum, and not necessarily by politicians.
All things considered, the Cypriot government is under immense pressure from all fronts to negotiate the gas deposits as 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 naive 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 the citizens whether they are: Greeks, Turks, Armenians, British, Russians and more. Turkish-Cypriots are not entitled to special privileges not provided to others. The country’s national wealth belongs to all its citizens equally and without exceptions. Those rights are enshrined in the Constitution, protected by Rule of Law and enjoyed by all Cypriots.
It’s saddening, however, to see the Turkish-Cypriot minority being swallowed up by the presence of thousands of Anatolian Turks, imported to change the island’s demographic character. 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-Cypriot 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 island’s reunification and for both sides to live peacefully in one democratic and unified, EU member-state, Cyprus. 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, 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 is 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…