Sunday, April 18, 2004


politics / greece
Doug Merrill has posted a piece on Cyprus on Fistful of Euros, giving me an opportunity to state a few obvious things carefully avoided by most European commentary on the issue.

Some background material first: A very thorough recap of Cyprus' history from antiquity to now. A detailed account of the background of the Cyprus issue including a description of past plans for settlement.
For an even thorougher discussion I would recommend Christopher Hitchens' book on Cyprus (from back when he was sane), an anathema both to Turkish and Greek nationalists: Cyprus, Prisoner of History.

It is striking that almost totally absent from the discussion of the Cyprus issue is this basic fact: the "Republic of Northern Cyprus" is the outcome of an illegal invasion, occupation and ethnic cleansing of 200.000 Greek Cypriots (the majority in the area) from Northern Cyprus. Turkish troops invaded the island after a Greek junta/CIA coup against Makarios - and refused to leave or allow the return of the refugees even after democracy was restored in Cyprus. The extent of the crimes committed by the invaders of "Attila I & II), were well documented by the European commission of Human Rights. As Matthew Stowell pointed out in an article published November 2000:

Placing Turkey's invasion of neighboring Cyprus in a contemporary context, four times as many Greek Cypriots were killed by Turkish troops as Albanians were killed in Kosovo prior to NATO's intervention--and in one-sixth the time frame. Yet Serbia was bombed back to the Stone Age, while Turkey's occupation of Cyprus continues to enjoy tacit US support.

I would add that the scale of the cleansing is certainly comparable to Bosnia...

It is therefore not some small "concession" that the Greek Cypriot refugees are to make by not being able to return to their ancestral homes - all of them. It is a major point of huge sentimental significance - but also a matter of international law, justice and consistency. The Annan plan, among other things, not only overlooks the fact that an illegal invasion took place, but asks the Greek Cypriot community to pay for the remuneration of all property Greek Cypriots lost during the invasion, legitimizes settlers from Turkey (a war crime if I'm not mistaken), and allows Turkish troops (troops involved in war crimes against Greek Cypriots, that is) to remain on the island, for a practically indefinite period of time. The Annan plan, having provided for highly unusual arrangements that make a workable government difficult if not impossible, would lead to Cyprus' healthy democratic institutions being replaced by a system that gives final political authority to unelected judges, the chief of which will be a non-native: that's pretty close to becoming a protectorate and pretty far from democratic rule. The Greek Cypriots' security will depend on the goodwill of the Turkish troops as any disturbances (staged or otherwise) would allow the Turkish army to "intervene".
So at least one would expect there to be some guarantees from the UN, from the EU, somewhere, that the terms agreed will not be unilaterally annulled when and if powers in Turkey decide that they no longer serve their purposes. To be explicit: I am very worried about a possible change of political climate in Turkey (what happens if for some unrelated reasons Turkey's relations with the EU are seriously compromised?) and the army's role and views in general: the fact is that Turkey is a country where the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces actually gives a press conference to state the army's position on a matter of external policy. Will these guarantees be given? (If they are, there is a slight possibility that the "yes" vote might prevail.)

All this, plus the fact that Greek and Cypriot governments alike are under obscene pressure to say "yes" by the US (seen as a force that failed to protect international law in the island when it mattered - it helped stage the G/C coup in 1974 and supported the Turkish invasion) and the EU, for reasons that have little to do with the well being and security of either Turkish or Greek Cypriots... It isn't surprising that a majority says "no" ... More time was needed for a really thorough discussion among Greek Cypriots.

Having said all that, I do think that this is the last chance for peace and coexistence for both communities. I am reluctantly optimistic that the plan with all its shortcomings might lead in 10 or 15 years to something resembling a unified Cyprus, mainly because I see a will among Turkish Cypriots, to live together with their Greek Cypriot compatriots. The moving demonstrations against Denktas and the more recent ones, urging AKEL (the Greek Cypriot Communist party) to rethink its position (something that is not unlikely it seems) and support the "yes" vote, combined with the fact that the EU will provide a framework that might be able to see the new state through the less than perfect provisions of the Annan plan, lead me to see this plan as preferable to the realistic alternatives, the most likely of which is the de facto annexation of occupied Cyprus to Turkey (or the recognition of an unviable national entity, which boils down to pretty much the same).
If mainland forces from either Greece or Turkey don't interfere, and if the settlers are prevented from causing trouble, I think that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live together with no major problems, and together find a modus vivendi that will make the Annan plan less important...

So, in the end, I hope that the "yes" vote prevails next week. It still seems unlikely. Even if both the two largest G/C parties support it.

I hope I made the reasons that this will happen clear. I will return to the issue of Cyprus and the consequences of this deal for the EU, as well as the stakes hanging on next weeks vote, soon...

No comments: