Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Saving Apostolos Andreas

Below is another memorandum provided to me by Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia, this time regarding the condition of Apostolos Andreas monastery, Cyprus' most important religious shrine, located at the easternmost tip of the Karpas peninsula, and which is in urgent need of restoration. The Turkish occupation authorities have been deliberately neglecting Apostolos Andreas monastery, allowing it to deteriorate as part of a policy to wipe out all traces of Greek culture and history in northern Cyprus.

(It's also worth pointing out that a couple of weeks ago on the feast day of St Andrew – 30 November – the Turkish occupation authorities refused to allow Bishop Christoforos to perform the liturgy at Apostolos Andreas. The celebrations were attended by 2,000 of the faithful, who were subject to harassment and petty humiliation by the 'police' of the occupation regime, who put on a show of force at the monastery, searching pilgrims and being present in the church itself, where they insisted on filming pilgrims and the service). [See news story

St Andreas Monastery, Cyprus

Apostolos Andreas monastery, built at the headland of the Karpas peninsula, on the spot where the Apostle Andrew is said to have come ashore on his way to Asia Minor and Greece in the 1st century AD, has been a major pilgrimage site for Cypriots. The monastery exists in a unique landscape that preserves its natural beauty and its rare indigenous flora. The monastery's complex is also of unique architectural interest, consisting of a composite central building at the heart of which is the church, and a group of isolated buildings positioned around a spacious square.

At the eastern end of the monastery complex is the smaller and earlier St Andreas church, built during the Lusignan period (in the 14th century). At the south end, there is a small yard surrounded by a tall stone wall for protection against the sea. At the eastern end of the church, lower than sea level, one can find the sanctified water spring, the source of which is a system of underground channels built under the earlier church. West of the earlier church, and at a higher elevation, there is the later church. This is a large building, dating back to 1851 and is a typical example of 19th century Cypriot church architecture. The buildings of this period combine elements from local architectural traditions with neo-gothic, neo-renaissance and neo-classical aspects. Along the south side of the church, there is a broad gallery with five arches.

The Management Committee of Apostolos Andreas monastery could begin immediately with the implementation of a number of restoration operations. The whole project has been designed to take place in two or three phases, while the restoration of the earlier Lusignan-era church could begin as soon as possible.

The committee is in a position to announce that all the necessary restoration and other relevant plans developed by the group of professors and experts from the University of Patras' Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering are ready, having been approved by both the church and state of Cyprus.

However, for restoration work to begin on the monastery, permission is required from the Turkish Cyprus 'authorities'. This permission has been outstanding for 10 years. The University of Patras team that will undertake the work has proven expertise in projects of restoration and has been honoured by Europa Nostra for its previous works, which include the Sinai monastery in Egypt, the Vatopedi monastery on the Holy Mountain of Athos and the Acropolis in Athens.

The following are essential before work can begin on the monastery:

a) The clearance of the monastery precincts from street vendors and traders, whose stalls and tents not only impinge on the sanctity of the site but also present an obstacle to the restoration works;

b) The use of a special drill for the soil and technical research in relation to the medieval chapel;

c) The commencement of the main works on the historic core of the monastery, i.e. the historic temple, the chapel, the adjacent cells and the immediate monastery precincts; and

d) The agreement must be safeguarded and guaranteed on the basis of European principles, so as to make certain that the works will be carried out in accordance with the adopted plan.

The proposed restoration of the monastery has as an immediate objective the protection of the high cultural and historic value of the monument in its natural surroundings, which are of unique environmental and ecological value. The monastery has for generations of Cypriots and over centuries been a holy pilgrimage site and symbol of the common heritage of the island. For the past three decades, headed by the Reverend Zacharias, the monastery has continued under difficult circumstances to try and meet the spiritual needs of Greek and Turkish Cypriots and live up to its reputation as a source of the island's collective memory.

Bishop of Karpasia, on behalf of the Committee of Karpas Communities.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Memorandum of the people of the Karpas peninsula

I've been given by Bishop Christoforos of Karpasia the following memorandum, which speaks for all the Greeks of this the most beautiful region of Cyprus, calling for it to be returned to its legitimate inhabitants and for it, in any future settlement, to be administered by the proposed Greek Cypriot constituent state.

Memorandum of the people of the Karpas peninsula
In view of the current talks to resolve the Cyprus issue, being deeply concerned about the future of the Karpas peninsula (which is defined as the area starting from, at its western boundary, a line running from the villages of Akanthou and Trikomo and extending east to Cape St Andreas), we state here the position of the whole of the peninsula's Greek Cypriot people, who overwhelmingly form the population of Karpasia.

1. We state that we fully support a federal system of government that will be in accord with the summit agreements and the resolutions of the United Nations, which will make provision for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus; confirm human rights and the three basic freedoms (freedom of settlement, freedom of movement and the freedom to own and use property); and which will exclude any right of unilateral military or other intervention. Consequently, we support the bi-communal talks currently taking place between President Dimitris Christofias and Mr Mehmet Ali Talat, hoping that these will come to a conclusion with an agreed solution.

2. The Third Vienna Agreement
After the capture and occupation by the Turkish army of the Karpas peninsula on 14 August 1974, some 12,600 Greek Cypriots remained in their homes in Karpasia – this amounted to two-thirds of the total Greek population of the peninsula. On the 2 August 1975, the Third Vienna Agreement was signed by Glafkos Clerides and Rauf Denktash, under the aegis of the UN secretary general, Kurt Waldheim. This agreement stipulated, inter alia, that every assistance would be afforded to the Greek Cypriots who remained in the Turkish-occupied north to live a normal life, including rights to education, the exercise of religious beliefs, medical care by doctors of their choice, as well as freedom of movement. In addition, the agreement allowed for those who had previously been expelled to be reunited with their families in Karpasia. This agreement was never implemented. In fact, the Turkish army continued to expel Karpas Greek Cypriots from their homes, so that by September 1976 only a few hundred Greek Cypriots were left, where they remain until today enclaved.
The immediate adoption and application of the Third Vienna Agreement will indicate Turkey's credibility and trustworthiness, prove that it has the potential to honour its signature in any future Cyprus agreement, and will afford the opportunity to the people of the Karpas peninsula to return to their homes, under Greek Cypriot administration.

3. The organisations, local authorities and the whole of the population of Karpasia unanimously state and demand that in any future settlement the Karpas peninsula forms part of the area to be administered by the proposed Greek Cypriot constituent state, for the following reasons:

a) This will result in natural justice, meet the expectations and justify the struggles and sacrifices, not only of the enclaved Karpas people, but all the Karpas people, who are overwhelmingly Greek Cypriot.

b) Cyprus is heavily dependent on tourism for its economic viability. With the Karpas peninsula as part of the proposed Greek Cypriot constituent state, this state will have access to a much greater portion of Cyprus' coastline. Currently, the Republic of Cyprus is in control of just 37.5% of the total length of the coastline of Cyprus.

c) The St Andreas Monastery located at the easternmost tip of the Karpas peninsula is the most important religious and cultural centre of Cyprus' Greek population. It must be liberated so that Greek Cypriots from all over the island can exercise their religious rights without hindrance or restrictions.

d) Such a settlement of the status of the Karpas peninsula is justified on historical and religious grounds, given that Karpasia has, down the ages, always been settled by Greek Christians.

4. We are convinced that the demands of the people of Karpasia are just and must be taken into account during the current talks. We will not accept a solution that will not make provision for the return of the Karpas peninsula. It must be realised by all concerned that for any solution to be viable, it must be just, otherwise, like the Annan plan, which was heavily biased against the Greek Cypriots, it will not be approved.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Greek-Americana from Annabouboula

Αbove are some songs from and a profile of Greek-American band Annabouboula taken from a a BBC documentary made in the late 1980s/early 1990s on what various ethnic groups were up to musically in New York City at the time. The first song Annabouboula plays is the classic rembetika/Smyrnaic song
Lily Skandalaria (Scandalous Lily), composed by Panayiotis Tountas and originally sung by Roza Eskenazy.

During the clip, one of the band members mentions the classic rembetika songs of Giorgos Katsaros, played on guitar and recorded in America, and three of which I've made available in Radio Akritas. These are:

1. Βρε τι μάγκας που μαι εγώ;
2. Βρε μάγκα το μαχαίρι σου (Το κουτσαβάκι); and
3. Πίνω και μαραζώνω (Αθηναίισσα).

The last two songs were written by Anestis Delias. See
here and here for more on Delias.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The more things change, the more they stay the same

It was nice to hear from people saying they were missing this blog, as well as Sphaera Ephemeris and Antipodes. I, too, would like to see more action from these two last blogs, though we still have Stavros at My Greek Odyssey and there's good articles about Greece on RIEAS, even if I strongly disagree with its last piece suggesting Greece use Turkey's Islamic turn to foster closer strategic relations with Israel. I see no point in Greece flirting with Israel, which, it should be noted, continues, at Turkey's behest, to buy up large tracts of Greek land in occupied Cyprus, particularly in Kyrenia and Karpasia, to build casinos, hotel complexes and marinas.

While I've been away, it's become obvious that Cyprus is going the same way as Greece – i.e. down the tubes. Greece and Cyprus will finally achieve Enosis, down the tubes. Greece seems incapable of renewing itself, no matter now many opportunities the country is presented with, while Cyprus – both politically and economically – is also sinking fast. Christofias is a complete idiot and I'm embarrassed that he is the president of Cyprus. The so-called 'peace talks' are, as I have always stated, a farce, a trap set by the Turks – who, if they don't get another Annan plan, will engineer the breakdown of the talks, claim reunification is impossible and suggest it's time for the international community to recognise the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'.

It seems Antonis Samaras will become leader of New Democracy. I've always liked the man's professed patriotism, though it would be naive to invest too much hope in him. It would be intolerable if Dora Bakoyiannis were to emerge victorious.

Anyway, chronia polla to all Stelios' and Stellas since today is the name day of Agios Stylianos; and below is a documentary from ERT from the 1980s on Stelios Foustalieris, the great boulgari player and exponent of Cretan rembetika or tabachaniotika. For me, Foustalieris is as great a musician as Tsitsanis and Vamvagaris. I've written previously about Foustalieris here. The video above is Foustalieris' version of Όσο βαρούν τα σίδερα.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mass grave with 800-1,000 Greeks reported near Lapithos

In a report (see here, in Greek) in the Cyprus edition of Kathimerini, Andreas Paraschos writes of the existence of a mass grave containing the remains of between 800-1,000 Greek Cypriots located near the occupied village of Lapithos, in the Kyrenia district. The alleged site of the mass grave has been designated by the Turkish army as a military zone. It is fenced off with barbed wire and signs have been erected warning about mines, although the Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika, yesterday reported that 'everyone can walk around in that area as he wishes. No mines have been found until now.'

Paraschos refers to the testimony of Savvas Mastrappas, enclaved in Lapithos until 28 October 1975 and who, after coming to the free areas, gave details to the Cypriot police of the mass grave; and to more recent witness accounts from Turkish Cypriots, who confirmed the existence of the mass grave, declaring its existence an 'open secret' among Turkish Cypriots in the region, some of whom, indeed, would periodically dig up the site and remove skeletons for medical studies.

The Mastrappas account
From March 1977, Savvas Mastrappas gave a series of depositions to the Cyprus police in which he described what he knew of the places of burial of Greek Cypriots killed by Turkish invasion forces. In one of these depositions, Mastrappas says: 'In July 1974, when the invasion occurred, I remained with my wife in our village [Lapithos]. I came to the free areas in October 1975. Apart from us, in Lapithos there must have been 40-50 other Greek Cypriot enclaved. Because I knew a little Turkish and other languages, the Turks put me in charge of the enclaved and I moved around somewhat more freely than the others. Four or five days after the fall of Lapithos, a Turkish Cypriot I knew called Ahmet from the [Turkish Cypriot village of] Photta came to our village, along with a police officer called Nizet. Ahmet came to my house and during conversation told me that the Turkish police observed the collection of between 800-1,000 Greek Cypriot bodies from the region of Lapithos and Vasilia, who were then buried in a place known as "Agni", close to the little harbour, where the villagers from Lapithos kept their fishing boats…'

In another part of his deposition, Mastrappas says: 'One day, it must have been around October-November 1974, when I went with a Turkish policeman named Mehmet – I think he was from the village of Kazaphani – and with a Briton from the British embassy, to the place known as "Koufi Petra", so we could place a British flag on a house there owned by a Briton, I noticed a fire in the place known as "Agni", just east of the orchards of Savvas Frantzieskou. Mehmet told me it was the Turkish army that had started the fire, in order to burn the bodies of Greek Cypriots uncovered by the rain. And, indeed, two-three days previously, it had rained heavily…'

Turkish Cypriot accounts
Paraschos then goes on to report that on a recent visit to Lapithos, he spoke to Turkish Cypriots in the area, and one said to Paraschos: 'I'll take you to a place near the sea where missing persons are buried.' I asked him: 'How do you know there are missing buried there?' 'It's an open secret here in Kyrenia and many Turkish Cypriots know that some people dug up skulls for medical purposes.'

According to this Turkish Cypriot, Paraschos writes, a teacher-friend of his told him that he dug up a skull for his daughter, who was training in medicine. Indeed, when this teacher-friend wanted to get hold of a skull for his daughter and started asking around where he could get one, he was told at the local cafe that many others had similar 'needs' and that the only way was to enter the fenced-off area and dig up Greek Cypriot dead. 'Don't be scared,' he was told, 'you won't be the first. Others have done the same.' And this is what he did. Despite his fear that since the area was fenced-off as a military zone, he went there, waited for a while, to see if there was any soldiers patrolling the area and when he saw there was not, he entered, dug, found what he was looking for, took it and left…

Monday, 7 September 2009

British Council and George Soros behind pro-Turkish EU report

The so-called Independent Commission on Turkey released a report today – Turkey in Europe: Breaking the Vicious Circle – extolling the perceived virtues of Turkey’s EU membership and criticising the EU for stalling over Turkey's accession process. Naturally, the report has a section devoted to Cyprus and how the failure to resolve the division of the island is adversely affecting Turkey’s EU prospects. In relation to Cyprus, the report entirely reflects the Turkish point of view. In fact, it regurgitates the Turkish position so completely that it could well have been written by the Turkish foreign ministry. For example, the report says:

‘The EU brought this problem [i.e. the problem Cyprus poses for Turkey’s EU accession] upon itself by accepting Cyprus’s one million inhabitants into the Union even though they had yet to resolve their inter-communal differences.’– i.e even though the Republic of Cyprus easily fulfilled EU membership criteria, the EU was wrong to let the Republic of Cyprus join – and the Cyprus problem is not one of invasion and occupation, but of damaged relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Also: ‘The republic broke down in 1963, when the Greek Cypriots excluded Turkish Cypriot leaders from government and drove the Turkish Cypriots into barricaded quarters of towns and isolated villages.’

This is, of course, hook, line and sinker, the Turkish propaganda version of events. A more honest history would acknowledge that the Turkish Cypriots were engaged in a political and terrorist campaign aimed at partition and that they voluntarily withdrew from the organs of state and any isolation and ghettoisation they suffered was self-imposed, as Turk nationalists sought to concentrate the island’s Turk population in preparation for Turkish invasion and enforced ethnic division.

On closer inspection, we discover how independent this so-called Independent Commission on Turkey really is. Its front men and women are mostly has-been Eurocrats – including: Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland; Emma Bonino, former European Commissioner; Michel Rocard, former prime minister of France; Hans van den Broek, former foreign minister of the Netherlands; and Marcelino Oreja Aguirre, former foreign minister of Spain – but it’s the report’s sponsors that tells us who it is furthering Turkey’s interests and serving Turkish propaganda, and they are: 1. The British Council – the UK’s ‘international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities’; and 2. The Open Society Foundation – which is an arm of George Soros’ nefarious Open Society Institute.

The whole of the report can be read here, while below is the extract that refers to Cyprus.

A new urgency in Cyprus
The Cyprus problem is approaching a new and critical crossroads. After five years in limbo following the Republic of Cyprus’s entry into the EU, developments over the next year will likely determine whether or not the island will be indefinitely divided. The EU member states bear a political responsibility for the current situation. It also faces a political imperative to do its utmost to encourage Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reach a satisfactory conclusion to the ongoing talks, which look like the last chance for a federal settlement.

The difficulty of reaching this objective is small compared to the likely complications of failure. EU governments will be caught between loyalty to a member state and their important strategic interests in Turkey. Failure in the talks will mean further hindrance of cooperation between the EU and NATO because of Cyprus-Turkey differences, and continued blockage in opening more chapters that could bring the EU-Turkey negotiations to a standstill. Cyprus has remained peaceful for decades, but the EU has unfastened the balances of the old status quo and, with tens of thousands of troops on the island, this is a conflict that might unfreeze.

The EU brought this problem upon itself by accepting Cyprus’s one million inhabitants into the Union even though they had yet to resolve their inter-communal differences. It has thus imported the whole tangled history of the island into its inner councils. The troubles started in earnest after independence from Britain in 1960, when the 80% Greek Cypriot community and 20% Turkish Cypriot community set up a joint republic, guaranteed by Britain, Greece and Turkey. The republic broke down in 1963, when the Greek Cypriots excluded Turkish Cypriot leaders from government and drove the Turkish Cypriots into barricaded quarters of towns and isolated villages. After the colonels’ regime in Athens backed a Greek Cypriot coup in Cyprus in 1974 that aimed to unite the island with Greece, Turkey invoked its right to intervene as guarantor and staged a military invasion, eventually occupying the northern 37% of the island.

Impending membership of the EU in 2004 changed many Cypriot dynamics. Years of UN-mediated talks on a deal to reunify the island and remove Turkish troops had not progressed far due to continued old-style nationalist grandstanding on both sides. But at a referendum, the Turkish Cypriots, backed by Turkey, voted 65% in favour of the UN-brokered deal, known as the Annan Plan, whereas 76% of Greek Cypriots voted against it.

Even though the EU had publicly and insistently backed the Annan Plan, it nevertheless allowed the Greek Cypriots to enter as the sole representatives of the island. One of the Republic of Cyprus’s first actions as a member was to force the EU to break its political promise to reward the Turkish Cypriots for their “yes” vote, blocking a Direct Trade Regulation that would have allowed Turkish Cypriots direct access to EU markets. Greek Cypriot embargoes on Turkish Cypriots were first criticized by UN Secretary General U Thant as a “veritable siege” in 1964, and in 2004 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said “the Turkish Cypriot vote has undone any rationale for pressuring and isolating them”.

In response to the perceived unfairness, Turkey then back-tracked

on its obligation under the Additional Protocol to the 1963
Association Agreement to open its airports and sea ports to
Greek Cypriot traffic.

The situation is not hopeless, however. The Greek Cypriot community registered a notable change of heart in presidential elections in February 2008. In the first round, two-thirds of the electorate voted for candidates who campaigned on compromise strategies for reunification. The ultimate winner, President Demetris Christofias, soon embarked on a promising new round of talks with his counterpart, Mehmet Ali Talat, who had led the Turkish Cypriots to vote “yes” to the Annan Plan.

These talks are registering significant progress, but risk succumbing to complacency and are running short of time. First and foremost, responsibility for reaching a settlement lies with Cypriots themselves. But they need the full support of EU governments and Turkish decision-makers in Ankara. EU leaders can achieve this through frequent visits to the Cypriot communities and leaderships on both sides of the island, to raise their morale and attract positive popular attention to the process; by sponsoring eye-catching bi-communal projects and interaction between two communities that can rekindle enthusiasm for reunification; by regular visits to Ankara to underline that Turkey is on track to membership of the EU and that continuation of its existing support for a Cyprus settlement will help it reach the EU goal; and by persuading Greece to use its influence to intercede with the Greek Cypriot community, explaining the benefits of compromise and normalization with Turkey. EU leaders should also make clear how wrong the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey both are to believe that pressure from Brussels alone can force changes in the other’s antagonistic positions. For a Cyprus settlement to gain traction, officials from the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey will also have to meet and learn to trust each other.

Failure to reach a settlement this year will be costly to all sides. EU leaders must challenge the apparent view in both Cypriot communities that the status quo is sustainable indefinitely and show that peace through compromise can bring many benefits. Turkish Cypriots will win full citizenship rights and integration into the EU, with all the economic and political advantages that entails. Greek Cypriots will be able to live without fear of Turkish soldiers manning a line through the middle of their divided capital, will see the island become a real east Mediterranean hub through full access to Turkey, the region’s biggest economy. According to a study by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), the Cypriot economy will grow by an additional ten percentage points within seven years. Both Greece and Cyprus will gain a more pro- European Turkey as a neighbour that will be inclined to settle conflicts over the Aegean and Mediterranean territorial waters. Turkey will win a more open negotiating road for EU membership, greater stature in Europe and official language status for Turkish in the EU. At the same time it will lose the financial burden of its Cyprus garrison and the subsidy consumed by the Turkish Cypriot administration.

Since the EU and Turkey are currently paying the political cost of the Cypriots’ failure to compromise, EU leaders should engage more actively to prevent the Cyprus problem derailing Turkey’s accession process. This process is essential for Turkey’s transformation and is of vital importance to the EU and Cyprus as well. Alongside their efforts to support a settlement on the island, the EU should search for ways and means that lead to the fulfilment of Turkey’s commitment to open its airports and sea ports to Greek Cypriot traffic, a development that would immediately release eight chapters to the Turkey-EU negotiating process and win time to reach a fuller Cyprus settlement. The EU could do this through reviving its 2004 promise to end Turkish Cypriot isolation through direct trade and try to overcome obstacles to direct international flights to the Turkish Cypriots’ own airport.

The EU must assume its responsibility for the injustices and absurdities of the situation. The whole of Cyprus is theoretically now part of the European Union; on the other hand, the acquis communautaire of the Union is officially suspended in the north; at the same time, the European Court of Justice has ruled that Greek Cypriot court judgments about the north are enforceable throughout the Union. A Cyprus settlement, and the need for all sides to avoid provocations and work for a solution, is now urgent. Grandstanding between gunboats and oil survey ships in the waters around Cyprus, Turkey and Greece in November 2008 shows where deepening frustrations may lead: similar frictions between Turkey and EU-member Greece very nearly resulted in armed conflict in 1987 and 1996, crises which the EU was powerless to solve and which had to be settled by the United States. The Turkish Cypriots in April 2009 voted in a new, more nationalist government, signalling that without a settlement Mehmet Ali Talat may lose his seat in the April 2010 presidential elections to a candidate less committed to a solution. Non-solution and neverending negotiations in Cyprus will raise tensions on the island and will indefinitely block the EU-Turkey process. If old friends like Talat and Christofias fail to reach a federal settlement, it is hard to see how anyone either inside or outside Cyprus will ever mobilize behind a new effort. Yet managing the alternative, the partition of Cyprus, will be extremely divisive for the EU. European leaders have compelling interests to work with priority commitment for a negotiated Cyprus settlement in 2009, because the chance of a federal solution and demilitarization of the island will certainly not come again in this political generation.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Isle of the Dead

Above is the opening sequence from Isle of the Dead, one of the nine extraordinary horror films made by Val Lewton (Vladimir Ivan Leventon) in the 1940s. The best of the nine are Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and Seventh Victim. Lewton, a Russian émigré, was fascinated by Slavic and Greek supernatural folklore, which informed many of his films. In Cat People, the tragic heroine is Irena Dubrovna, who is convinced she is from a tribe of devil worshippers in Serbia; while in Isle of the Dead, the action is set in Greece during the Balkan wars and involves the obsessively austere, tyrannical, hubristic General Nikolas Pherides (played by Boris Karloff) preventing a group of travellers from leaving a small island hit by septicemic plague, which Pherides fears will reach his troops on the mainland. As Pherides' stringent measures to contain the plague fail and his charges die one by one, the general loses his mind and begins to persecute a beautiful young woman, Thea, who he believes is responsible for the deaths, asserting she is a vrykolokas (vorvolakas), an undead creature that haunts the living world and murders and drinks the blood of its victims.

Isle of the Dead
isn't the best in the Lewton series – Seventh Victim is his masterpiece, I believe – but it contains many of the doom-laden elements that characterise his films – loneliness, obsession, madness, the liminal state between life and death, catalepsy, premature burial, sexual desire, repression and repulsion, the potency of the supernatural and the irrational and, above all, the supremacy of thanatos.

g Read more about the vrykolokas in Greek folklore
here and here.

g You can watch Isle of the Dead in its entirety at youtube, where you can also see all of I Walked with a Zombie, Body Snatcher, Seventh Victim, Leopard Man, Ghost Ship and Bedlam.
g The Greek island in the film is inspired by Pontikonissi, off Kerkyra, which Lewton visited and extensively photographed, having become mesmerised by the depiction of the island in Arnold Böcklin's painting Isle of the Dead.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Christofias postpones Talat meeting after Turks prevent Morphou pilgrimage

The meeting due to take place tomorrow between President Christofias and Turkish occupation leader Mehmet Ali Talat inaugurating the so-called second phase of Cyprus negotiations has been called off. This was done at the insistence of the Greek side following today's events at the Kato Pyrgos-Limnitis checkpoint during which the occupation regime refused to allow 650 pilgrims from the Tylliria and Paphos districts to cross into occupied Morphou and attend services at the Monastery of St Mamas, whose feast day it is today.

The Cypriot government thought it had an agreement with the Turkish side that if it allowed Turks living in occupied Cyprus to cross without checks to the Turkish Cypriot enclave of Kokkina to commemorate the battle that took place there in 1964 (in which Turkish aircraft strafed and dropped napalm on Greek villages to prevent Cypriot forces from overrunning the terrorist TMT stronghold of Kokkina), then Greek Cypriot pilgrims would be allowed, on the same terms, to enter occupied Morphou and attend the St Mamas celebrations.

The Turks made their trip to Kokkina, on 14 August, unimpeded and, up until yesterday, and despite rumours to the contrary, the Christofias government was insisting that the occupation authorities would allow the Morphou crossing to take place without the pilgrims being forced to go through rigourous ID checks.

However, today, as soon as the pilgrims crossed into the occupied areas, the buses in which they were travelling were halted by 'police' from the occupation regime, who proceeded to board the buses and carry out stringent, Kafkaesque ID checks, taking several people off the vehicles and declaring they would not be allowed to cross. After three hours of harassment and calculated humiliation – during which time the services at St Mamas had finished – the Greek Cypriot pilgrims felt obliged to abandon the pilgrimage and return to the free areas.

Three points emerge from the incident.

First, it reveals the fundamental flaw in Christofias' policy towards the Turkish occupation. The man thought that efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem had gone nowhere since the Annan plan in 2004 because of the inflexible and forensic approach taken by former president, Tassos Papadopoulos, and that all that was necessary for the start of a meaningful process aimed at reaching a mutually acceptable Cyprus solution was goodwill, gestures and reconciliation mantras.

Yet, the Turks have interpreted as weakness Christofias' goodwill and gestures and taken advantage of his reluctance to pin the Turks down on detail so that, after almost 18 months of Talat-Christofias negotiations, the Turks have not deviated one inch from their long-term aim of a confederal two-state solution in Cyprus – the Turks as 'masters in the north, partners in the south' scenario.

Second, it's all very well for Christofias to postpone the start of the second round of talks in protest at today's events; but we all know he'll be there for whenever the meeting is rescheduled and the same process as before will take place: he'll put forward the Greek minimalist positions and the Turks their maximalist positions. Eventually, the talks will grind to a halt, allowing the Turks to declare that reunification is impossible, partition is the only way forward and the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' now deserves recognition, like Kosovo. As such, the talks – and the flimsy basis on which Christofias agreed to them – were a trap that Christofias fell into. Today's incident, therefore, was not simply intended to humiliate the Greek Cypriot side and show who is 'master' in the north, but also to poison relations on the island and undermine the negotiations, prove their worthlessness. (Turkey, it must be stressed, would like nothing more than for the talks to collapse).

Third, the history of Greek-Turkish relations since 1922 tells us that any agreement the Turks enter into is not worth the paper its written on. For the Turks, an agreement is merely a means to an end, which will be discarded the moment it no longer serves Turkey's purpose. Thus, it was entirely predictable that the 'agreement' reached over Kokkina and St Mamas would not be adhered to and that the 'assurances' given to the Cypriot government were meaningless.

This raises Papadopoulos' question during the debate over the Annan plan: how can the Greek side be sure that Turkey will abide by any commitments it enters into? In fact, it was this question that Christofias claimed was the deal-breaker for him over Annan, i.e. he was not convinced that the plan provided the mechanisms to ensure Turkey would do what it agreed to do and not even last-minute phone calls from US secretary of state Colin Powell to Christofias assuring him that the USA would insist Turkey honour its commitments managed to persuade Christofias to change his mind.

The Papadopoulos question, therefore, remains of paramount importance. If the Turks cannot be trusted to keep to an agreement on the simple matter of a religious pilgrimage, then how can we expect the Turks to fulfill any obligations it enters into on matters of much greater significance, such as the withdrawal of Turkish troops and settlers from Cyprus, the return of territory and so on?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

RIK reports slaughter of 320 Greek Cypriot prisoners

Above is the report (with English subtitles) that appeared on last night's RIK news regarding the article in the Turkish Cypriot daily, Afrika, in which a Turkish Cypriot described witnessing the massacre of 320 Greek Cypriot prisoners by Turkish soldiers during Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The massacre is alleged to have happened on the beaches of Karavas, which is an occupied Greek village in the Kyrenia district. For my original post on the massacre, go here.

Monday, 31 August 2009

320 Greek Cypriot POWs bayoneted to death

The Cypriot daily Phileleftheros reported today another massacre of Greek Cypriots carried out during the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. The newspaper quotes an article that appeared in the Turkish Cypriot daily, Afrika, in which a Turkish Cypriot eyewitness recalls that up to 320 Greek Cypriot POWs were bayoneted to death by Turkish soldiers at the end of August 1974.

The massacre occurred when eight buses, each containing 40 Greek Cypriot POWs, were driven to the shores of Kyrenia in preparation for transfer to prisoner camps in Turkey. At the same time as the POW buses arrived, Turkish soldiers were disembarking from ships as part of the Turkish invasion force. On discovering who the POWs were, Phileleftheros reports, the Turkish soldiers attacked the Greek Cypriot prisoners with bayonets and slaughtered them all on the beach.

According to a Turkish Cypriot eyewitness, who admitted he was petrified by the rage and ferocity of the Turkish soldiers, from the blood of the murdered POWs the sea became red.

The Turkish Cypriot eyewitness believes that the victims of the massacre were buried in a spot near the Mare Monte Hotel in Kyrenia.

* The video clip above is the RIK News report on the story, with my English subtitles.

Friday, 28 August 2009

The House of Strangers and Greek tragedy

Above is the opening sequence from House of Strangers, an American film noir from 1949. Thematically and stylistically the film is a precursor to The Godfather. The protagonist in House of Strangers is Max Monetti – played by Richard Conte – the smartest and toughest of the four sons that belong to successful immigrant banker, Gino Monetti, played by Edward G. Robinson. Conte later portrayed Don Barzini in The Godfather but, in his heyday (1940s and 1950s), Conte specialised in depicting tough, working-class, immigrant heroes – Conte himself was the son of Italian immigrants. Notably, Conte played Nick Garcos in Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway (1949) based on A.I. Bezzerides' classic crime novel Thieves' Market.

The plot of House of Strangers revolves around the hatred of three of the sons for their overbearing father and the misplaced loyalty that Max shows the old man that lands Max in prison for seven years, coming out of which he vows revenge on his less scrupulous siblings, who've since taken over their father's business, declaring: 'Vengeance is a rare wine. A joy divine; says the Arab. And I'm gonna get drunk on it.'

Revenge is, of course, a major theme in Greek classical culture, which regarded it as a demonstration of hubris, a move towards becoming apolis, that is someone who 'exits from the political community of men (and the concrete result cannot but be death, flight, or exile)' [Castoriadis, Cornelius: Aeschylean Anthropogony and Sophoclean Self-Creation].

These themes of revenge, hubris and becoming apolis are often present in the best film noirs and Westerns of the 1940s and 1950s, which sometimes allow the hero to accept the strictures of civilised society and rejoin it, and sometimes reveal that there's no way back for him into society and 'death, flight or exile' is all he can expect.

The screenplay for House of Strangers was written by Philip Yordan, who penned a number of significant film noirs – House of Strangers, The Chase, Edge of Doom, The Big Combo, Detective Story – and Westerns – Broken Lance, Johnny Guitar, The Last Frontier, Day of the Outlaw, The Man from Laramie – in this period. Yordan admitted the influence of Greek tragedy in his work:

'I detest a certain type of modern would-be "hero", people who are obsessed only by getting their daily bread. I have tried to react against this petty bourgeois mentality and attempted to discover again the purity of the heroes of classical tragedy. I have always wanted to re-create a tragic mythology, giving a large role to destiny, solitude, nobility.'

g The whole of House of Strangers can be seen in 12 parts on youtube or downloaded as a torrent from here.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

APOEL savours Champions League glory

Two Greek teams have made it through to this year's group stages of the Champions League, Europe's pre-eminent club-football tournament. They are Olympiakos Piraeus, who tonight beat Tiraspol 1-0 and go through 3-0 on aggregate; and APOEL, who defeated FC Copenhagen 3-1 tonight in Nicosia and win 3-2 over the two legs.

This is the second year in a row that the champions from Cyprus have made it through to the Champions League group stages. Last year, Anorthosis qualified and performed well and, this year, Cyprus' best supported and most successful club side, APOEL (Αθλητικός Ποδοσφαιρικός Όμιλος Ελλήνων Λευκωσίας – Athletic Football Club of the Greeks of Nicosia), will try their luck. Like Anorthosis, APOEL is a club steeped in nationalist politics and its players and supporters have historically been associated with EOKA and its aims. Well done to APOEL and good luck in the Champions League group stages!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Greece burns… but who are the arsonists?

Many thoughts spring to mind watching on Greek TV the fires wreaking havoc and destroying towns and suburbs north east of Athens. One, obviously, is horror at the ecological disaster, the further ruin of the Greek landscape and the property and way of life in Greece's small towns. Second, is disgust at the government's wholly inadequate response to the ever-present danger of wildfires in Greece. You would have thought that, given that these huge fires are an annual event, Greece would have the best-prepared, trained and equipped fire-fighters and volunteers in the world, able to prevent or deal promptly with outbreaks before they reach these overwhelming proportions; but this is clearly nowhere near the case. Third, I can barely watch the TV news reports of the fires, which seem to revel in the images of catastrophe they have captured and can't resist presenting a complex news event as if it were a Hollywood disaster film. Fourth, the hysterical and hyperbolic presentation of the fires obscures and minimises the most significant detail of these Attica fires, which is that they were started deliberately and in a co-ordinated fashion, and overlooks the most pertinent question, which is: who are the arsonists?

There are a number of possibilities.

A. The mentally disturbed or sociopaths.

B. Land developers.

(But since the fires were started in a number of different locations, simultaneously, and in remote, inaccessible areas, A and B do not seem likely in this case, which leaves:)

C. Anarchists, attempting to bring the same destruction to Attica's environs as they brought to Athens proper during last winter's riots.

D. Albanian immigrants, who have any number of grudges against Greece. (In Britain, those who carried out terrorist attacks on London's transport system in 2005 were disenchanted Pakistani, West Indian and Somali immigrants).
E. Turkish agents. Given that Greece and Turkey are in a state of cold war over the Aegean, Cyprus, Thrace and so on, it would be naive not to acknowledge that Turkey will have as a significant aim the weakening and destabilisation of Greece economically, politically and psychologically.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Turks say no to return of Morphou, pin hopes on Russia

The current negotiations between President Christofias and leader of the Turkish occupation regime in Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, are a humiliating farce that reveal just how low Cypriot Hellenism gripped by defeatism has sunk. Take for example this article (in Greek) in the Cypriot daily Politis, which explains that the Turks will refuse to hand back the western Cypriot town of Morphou and its satellite villages – home to some 10,000 Greeks before the Turkish invasion – because of the town's economic significance – the Morphou plain is the most fertile and productive region in Cyprus – and the social costs of returning it – the fact that the up to 50,000 Turkish settlers and Turkish Cypriots dumped in Morphou and its satellite villages would have to be moved to make way for the return of the area's legitimate inhabitants.

Now, because Morphou was always expected to be returned to Greek control in any settlement – indeed, even the 2004 Annan plan envisaged its return – and because Christofias has said that there cannot be any solution without the return of Morphou to Greek control, Politis suggests that the Turkish insistence on keeping Morphou may be a bluff in order to forestall any Greek demands for the return of a portion of the Karpasia peninsular, i.e. the Turks are using Morphou as a bargaining chip to hold on to all of Karpasia. Personally, I don't think the Turks are mentally sophisticated enough to bluff and it's better to take their threats at face value; but either way we see how invidious these negotiations are, demanding as they do that Greeks decide which piece of their land – Morphou or Karpasia – will be surrendered to the Turks.

Another article in today's Politis that caught my attention referred to the increase in Russians holidaying and buying stolen Greek property in the occupied areas, particularly in the Kyrenia region. Apparently, following the European Court of Justice judgment against Linda and David Orams, British interest in Greek land and property in occupied Cyprus has ground to a halt, but interest from Russia – which is, of course, outside the EU and not affected by the ECJ ruling – has, according to Turkish Cypriot 'estate agents', jumped by 50 percent. There might not be anything to this story, and of course we shouldn't take too seriously what is said by Turkish Cypriot 'estate agents' trying to talk up the 'market'; but this does follow on from last week's visit to Turkey by Vladimir Putin presaging closer Russo-Turkish economic ties during which the Russian PM said he expects the Blue Stream gas pipeline project to pass through Turkey and northern (i.e. Turkish-occupied) Cyprus and that he wanted Russia to develop economic relations 'with both parts of Cyprus, including the Turkish part'.

Again, Putin's statements might not mean anything – the Blue Steam project is a long way off and I'd be amazed if Putin understands the intricacies of the Cyprus problem – but they do reflect how vulnerable Cyprus is to shifting strategic alliances and Turkey's increasing economic, diplomatic and political leverage.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Wire as Greek tragedy

The Wire – the US TV crime series set in Baltimore – is a brilliant piece of drama, superbly written, acted and so on. Its creator, David Simon, insists that Greek tragedy is the inspiration for the show:

'Much of our modern theater seems rooted in the Shakespearean discovery of the modern mind. We’re stealing instead from an earlier, less-traveled construct – the Greeks –lifting our thematic stance wholesale from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides to create doomed and fated protagonists who confront a rigged game and their own mortality. The modern mind – particularly those of us in the West – finds such fatalism ancient and discomfiting, I think. We are a pretty self-actualized, self-worshipping crowd of postmoderns and the idea that for all of our wherewithal and discretionary income and leisure, we’re still fated by indifferent gods, feels to us antiquated and superstitious. We don’t accept our gods on such terms anymore; by and large, with the exception of the fundamentalists among us, we don’t even grant Yahweh himself that kind of unbridled, interventionist authority.

'But instead of the old gods, The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It’s the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomic forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no decent reason. In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed. Greek tragedy for the new millennium, so to speak. Because so much of television is about providing catharsis and redemption and the triumph of character, a drama in which postmodern institutions trump individuality and morality and justice seems different in some ways, I think.'

In fact, to make Simon's point about The Wire as Greek tragedy, the second series features a powerful, impregnable Greek crime organisation, which runs Baltimore's drugs and prostitution rackets, as one of those postmodern Olympian forces that play with, torment and control humans and their destiny. In the clip above, Baltimore docks union boss Frank Sobotka and his nephew Nick have got in too deep with the Greeks and are going to have to pay the price – to the musical backdrop of Stelios Kazantzidis! Indeed, the second series is liberally laced with Greek music.

Also worth mentioning is that one of the writers/producers for The Wire is George Pelecanos, the Greek-American crime writer. Pelecanos' novels – which include a trilogy featuring PI Nick Stefanos, and another three with Dimitris Karras as the main protagonist – are based in Washington DC and are similar to The Wire in many respects.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Where can Cyprus go for justice?

For those calling for Turkey to be tried for war crimes in Cyprus, the example of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is often cited, so it's worth making a couple of points regarding the ICTY to see why this is not the path to justice that Cyprus can expect.

The ICTY, established in 1993 following a United Nations Security Council resolution, is an ad hoc court with the remit to try individuals – not organisations or governments – accused of war crimes during the conflicts that characterised the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. To establish a similar court for Cyprus would, therefore, not only require UN security council approval – impossible to imagine given the permanent presence of Turkey's allies, Britain and America, on the UNSC – but would also require significant resources and time to conduct plausible trials with the appropriate quality of evidence given that the crimes were committed 35 years ago.

More importantly, the ad hoc type of court that is the ICTY has effectively been superseded by the International Criminal Court, which is a permanent tribunal established to try cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The ICC was established in July 2002 and cannot investigate crimes before this date. Moreover, Turkey has so far refused to sign the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and, therefore, the ICC has no jurisdiction over Turkish citizens.

This leaves Cyprus with two options, both unsatisfactory. One is recourse to the Council of Europe, which can issue reports and urge its members – including Turkey – to abide by its recommendations and, in extreme cases, expel countries from its ranks – as happened to Greece during the period of the junta. And, secondly, there is the European Court of Human Rights, which monitors the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and has already, in rulings in 2001 and 2008 (see my post
here), found Turkey guilty of violating the human rights of missing Greek Cypriots and their families, and ordered Turkey to pay compensation and provide information on the whereabouts and fate of the missing. So far, eight years on from the original ECHR ruling, Turkey has done neither.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Will Turkey ever pay for its Cyprus war crimes?

I've been surprised by the amount of coverage the execution of the National Guardsmen and the murder of the family from Lapithos – mother, father and two handicapped children – has received in Greece, on the TV news and in the newspapers. Cyprus is not usually an issue that registers in the Greek media – I've heard Greek newspaper editors say that stories on Cyprus are guaranteed to see their readership figures plummet – and, indeed, this lack of coverage of Cyprus is behind the ignorance most Greeks have regarding the Cyprus issue, a state of affairs that Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus commented on last week, observing that not only have we [Cypriots] failed to impress on the international community the facts of the Cyprus problem, but, he added, even more distressing is the amount of Greek officials and politicians he has encountered who know so little of the situation in Cyprus. Perhaps Cypriots are guilty of narcissism and of expecting others to share and understand their problems and obsessions; or perhaps Greek ignorance and indifference to Cyprus is a reflection of the kind of society Greece has become, one in which 'national issues' are regarded as anachronistic, a burden, an impediment to modernisation and Europeanisation.

Nevertheless, the recent revelations of Turkish atrocities in Cyprus did seem to make an impression in the Greek media, which is a good thing. No such coverage, of course, occurred in the international media, which has been seduced, one way or another and for a variety of reasons, by Turkey's pretensions to be a regional power, and where any reference to Turkish barbarism would have had the Turks screaming Islamophobia and racism and the Western media cowering. (Indeed, my impression is that to avoid upsetting Turkey and the so-called Islamic world, to avoid being branded racist or Islamophobic, the Western media has succumbed to the worst kind of censorship, i.e. self-censorship).

Anyway, none of this has anything to do with the point I started out wanting to make in this post, which is connected to this frequently asked question: why, given the irrefutable and well-documented barbarism that defines the Turkish invasion of Cyprus – the murders, executions, rapes, looting, ethnic cleansing and so on – have the governments in Cyprus and Greece neglected all these years to denounce Turkey internationally for war crimes and failed to insist that Turkey and those politicians, soldiers and paramilitaries responsible for the atrocities are brought to justice, preferring instead to repeat platitudes about Turkey needing to open its archives or Turkey needing to comply with European Court of Human Rights rulings urging Turkey to account for the 1,619 Greeks missing since the Turkish invasion?

The answer is simple: our leaders in Cyprus and Greece have never regarded making Turkey accountable for its war crimes as an intrinsic part of a Cyprus settlement, but, in fact, as an obstacle to that settlement, petrified, as they are, that any Greek campaign to bring Turkey to justice will antagonise Turkey – Turkish hysteria regarding the Armenian genocide is well known – and make that country even more unreasonable and unwilling to find a 'solution' that ends its occupation of the island.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Turk soldiers murdered handicapped children in Cyprus

Above is a piece, with English subtitles, from last night's Cyprus TV news reporting that the remains of a family of four killed by Turkish soldiers during Turkey's invasion of the island in 1974 have been identified. The father, mother and their two handicapped children, from the occupied village of Lapithos, were buried under a lemon tree in the grounds of the home and their remains discovered and handed over to occupation authorities in 2002 by the Turkish settlers occupying the property as they were building an extension to the house.

Not only are we shocked by the bloodthirsty cowardice of Turkish soldiers; but we also wonder about the Turkish settlers in this story, who shamelessly and without, apparently, any disturbance to their consciences, reside in and enjoy the property of a family so brutally murdered.

Lapithos is also the town where a good proportion of the 8,000 Britons who have settled in occupied Cyprus now reside, including the notorious criminals David and Linda Orams, who were ordered earlier this year by the European Court of Justice to return the land they have usurped to its rightful owner, Meletios Apostolides, a judgment awaiting ratification or otherwise by the English Court of Appeal in November.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Remains of executed Cypriot soldiers identified

Now we know what happened to the five National Guardsmen taken prisoner by the Turks in August 1974, the moment of whose capture became one of the most shocking images of the Turkish invasion, representing the drama and fate of the 1,619 missing Greeks. The five were executed and thrown down a well in the Turkish Cypriot village of Tziaous in the occupied Mesaoria region. The well was excavated earlier this year – in total, the remains of 19 Greek Cypriots were found in it – and this week the five National Guardsmen were identified. They were 1. Antonakis Korellis, aged 30, from Kythrea; 2. Panicos Nikolaou, aged 26, from Achna; 3. Christoforos Skordis, aged 25, from Dhali; 4. Ioannis Papayiannis, aged 23, from Neo Horio, Kythrea; and 5. Philipos Hatzikyriakos, aged 19, from Ammochostos.

The remains of the other 14 Greek Cypriots found in the well have yet to be identified.

The five soldiers were from 398 Infantry Battalion and were captured by the Turkish army at the start of the second phase of the Turkish invasion (14 August 1974) near the Turkish Cypriot village of Tziaous as the Turks advanced through the Mesaoria towards Ammochostos. According to the Cypriot daily Phileleftheros (see here and here), the Turkish army, in a hurry to get to Ammochostos, didn't want to take prisoners with it and left the five in the custody of Turkish Cypriots, who executed them and threw them down a well, next to the village mosque.

In another photograph from the scene of the capture, a Turkish soldier offers and lights a cigarette for one of the five prisoners, Ioannis Papayiannis.

Ioannis Papayiannis, according to his sister, had just finished his studies in England and was on his way back to Cyprus, via Greece, when the coup against President Makarios took place. Maria Papayiannis recalls that after the first Turkish landing, her brother volunteered and joined up with the 398 Infantry Battalion. Between the first (20 July) and second (14 August) invasions, she says, her brother returned to their home village of Neo Horio, Kythrea, twice, to take a bath, before hurriedly returning to his unit to defend his country and meet his brutal death.

The photographs documenting the capture of the five National Guardsmen were taken by a Turkish journalist embedded with the advancing Turkish army. He was eventually arrested by Greek Cypriots in Nicosia and his material confiscated.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

This far and no further with Ankara

Just to follow on from comments and discussion on this post regarding an increasing number of Greek voices being raised urging the government to respond to Turkey’s provocations in the Aegean and Cyprus by vetoing – when it is reviewed in December – Turkey’s EU accession process, below is an article (my translation) by Giorgos Delastik that appeared in the Athens daily, Ethnos, last week and which stresses the importance of Greece defending its sovereignty around Kastellorizo and that one way to do this would be to block Turkey’s EU membership talks, sending a clear message to the Turks and, indeed, to the international community, that Greece is no longer prepared to tolerate Turkey's shenanigans.

This far and no further with Ankara
The course of Greek-Turkish relations are extremely troubling. Turkey’s violations of Greek airspace in the Aegean have taken an even more aggressive turn, since Turkish pilots now engage not just in mock dogfights with Greek fighters, but also mock bombardments of outlying Greek islands, such as Agathonisi and Farmakonisi. At a time when, in five months, Turkey’s EU accession process will be judged, principally on the basis of whether or not Turkey has opened its ports and airports to traffic from the Republic of Cyprus, the well-known extreme Turkophile Carl Bildt, foreign minister of Sweden, which currently holds the EU presidency, has justified the Turkish occupation of half of Cyprus as a legitimate consequence of the junta’s coup against Archbishop Makarios, and given us a foretaste of the position the EU presidency will adopt in December.

The government of prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to despatch Turkish vessels to investigate hydrocarbon resources in the Greek continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone around the Greek island of Kastellorizo, attempting in this way the de facto invalidation of Greek sovereignty in the area.

Only last Sunday, the Sunday Ethnos, published an extremely interesting article by professor of political economy, Theodoros Karyotis, member of the Greek delegation to the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea, which reveals the extent of the diplomatic Waterloo that threatens Greece in the critical question of the delineation of the Greek Exclusive Economic Zone, and specifically its delineation with Cyprus and Egypt.

The article shows the significance of Kastellorizo and how if Greek sovereignty there is undermined (as appears to be happening because of the desperate inadequacy of Greece’s response to Turkish provocations and Egypt’s unacceptable [pro-Turkish] positions), Turkey will end up with sea borders with… Egypt. This would be a dramatically negative development not just for Greece, but also for Cyprus.

Unfortunately, as if these continuous negative developments weren’t enough, what's worse is that no serious political figure in Greece is interested in these matters.

Prime minister Kostas Karamanlis is preoccupied above all else with how to extend the survival of his faltering government for a few extra months. He doesn’t even have time to consider what all these developments in the Aegean mean in the light of the Obama policy of upgrading Turkey's geopolitical status or how to manage the consequences by, for example, taking advantage of the strong opposition of France and Germany to Turkey’s EU accession.

And for certain Karamanlis doesn’t have the time or inclination to go to the heart of the matter, which would be the radical reorientation of his and his government’s anachronistic policy of fanatically supporting, without preconditions, Turkey’s EU membership; a policy that induces both anger and amusement among Greece’s EU partners.

As for the leader of the official opposition, Giorgos Papandreou, he subordinates everything to his call for early elections and his desire to enjoy the fruits of power. The result of this approach is that he condemns, in the same tone and manner, the incompetence of the Karamanlis government over the Vatopedi scandal, Greek-Turkish relations or measures to tackle swine flu, never managing at any time to convince anyone.

The Karamanlis government would be doing the country a great service, just before, as seems likely, it leaves office, if it were to do that which it has not done for the six years it has been in power: to stand up to Turkey and block its EU accession negotiations, insisting that, for them to restart, Turkey must end hostile actions against Greece and that there must be the settlement of the whole range of Greco-Turkish issues. The New Democracy government would directly undermine Greece's interests, if, despite all the outrages Turkey is committing in the Aegean and Cyprus, it consents to the continuation of Turkey’s EU membership negotiations.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

‘I love the barren islands of Kastellorizo and Rho’

So, the Turks tried to put on a little theatre on Rho (see report in English here, in Greek here). Expect them to come back, and keep coming. Their intentions are clear. They want, as usual, that which does not belong to them. The answer to the Turk comes from Despina Achladioti, the Lady of Rho (read her biography in English here, in Greek here), who for 40 years, until her death in 1982, aged 92, was the island’s only resident and every morning would religiously raise the Greek flag, lowering it in the evening, in full view of the Turkish coast:

I love the barren islands of Kastellorizo and Rho.

With the Greek flag raised and my love for Greece deep-rooted in me I survived all the hardships…

Of course, life in Rho is not so pleasant, but you feel Greece intensely, lost as you are amid the sea, a few hundred metres from the Turkish coast.

I want them to put the Greek flag alongside me in my tomb.

Τα ξερονήσια του Καστελόριζου και της Ρω τ’ αγαπώ.

Με την Ελληνική σημαία υψωμένη και την αγάπη για την Ελλάδα βαθιά ριζωμένη μέσα μου πέρασα όλες τις κακουχίες…

Βέβαια η ζωή στη Ρω δεν είναι και τόσο ευχάριστη, αλλά νιώθεις πιο πολύ την Ελλάδα, χαμένος όπως είσαι στο πέλαγος, λίγες εκατοντάδες μέτρα από τις τουρκικές ακτές.

Την ελληνική σημαία θέλω να μου τη βάλουν μαζί μου στον τάφο.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Turkey-Fyrom axis

Below is an article by Ioannis Michaeletos, which I came across on Serbianna.com, that draws our attention to how Turkey is trying to restore its hegemony in the Balkans and, in particular, how it is exploiting the anti-Greek hysteria in Fyrom to induce that country to enter its orbit.

The attempted satelization of FYROM by Turkey
Turkey’s geopolitical view of the the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, has become informed by 'neo-Ottoman policy', which is as an attempt by Turkey to re-establish as spheres of influence former provinces of the Ottoman empire.

Part of the neo-Ottoman project involves Turkey taking under its wing small countries like Fyrom.

The Turkish minority in Fyrom
There are around 80,000 ethnic Turks in Fyrom. They date their settlement back to the Ottoman era, when they were either transferred from Asia Minor or were locals converted to Islam, often forcibly. They are mostly concentrated in the areas of Vitola, Tetovo, Reshen and Sendar Zoupa.

In general, the Turkish community in Fyrom retains good relations with the rest of the Muslim minorities in the country that number up to a third of the population, approximately 800,000 people. It is estimated that in the next generation or so, the low birth rates of the Christian Orthodox population and the emigration of Skopjans to Western Europe will make the Muslims the majority in Fyrom, thus changing the political and social landscape, possibly in an irreversible manner.

The main political group that unites the Turkish minority is the Turkish Democratic Union. It publishes numerous newspapers and periodicals and has its own radio and television stations.

Moreover, there are about 60 Turkish state schools in Fyrom and a college in Tetovo. In addition, private institutions offer Turkish language and culture lessons – subsidised by Ankara – while the University of Skopje offers courses on Turkish studies.

Over the past few years, bilateral cultural agreements between Fyrom and Turkey have been signed, while Turkish university and state officials often visit the Ottoman-era monuments in the country and actively promote their maintenance through generous subsidies.

There are frequent public relations campaigns, joint seminars and conferences where Turkish institutions advertise the 'importance of the Ottoman legacy' in the country.

Also noteworthy is the Fetullah Gulen foundation, an all-powerful Islamic cultural and civic society apparatus in Turkey, which advertises itself as pursuing a unique form of 'Turkish Islam', and maintains language schools in Skopje, while Gulen himself has visited Fyrom and met local leaders.

The Turkish minority in Fyrom has a powerful presence in the political arena and its members serve in many branches of public life, one notable example being Srgan Kerim, a high-ranking diplomat who, for a term, was chairman of the UN general assembly.

There is also a well-developed nexus between the Turks in Fyrom and Istanbul that encompasses both cultural exchanges and, most importantly, commercial ties. It is estimated in Istanbul that 100,000 people claim descent from the Turkish minority in Fyrom, with a number having attained important positions in Turkey's diplomatic and military establishment.

In general, Turkey, due to its continuing conflicts with Greece, follows a policy of embracing any state that has differences with Athens. Moreover, Fyrom's geopolitical location between Albania, Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria, provides an ideal foothold for Turkish political influence in the Balkan peninsula.

On 6 May 2008, the president of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, visited Skopje in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to exploit Fyrom's disappointment at what it perceived was Greece’s veto, a month earlier, over Fyrom's attempt to join Nato.

During his four-day visit to Fyrom, Gul promised wide-ranging economic co-operation with Skopje and Turkey's strong support for Fyrom's Nato aspirations. Nationalistic circles in Fyrom played along with Gul and portrayed Turkey as a regional benefactor.

The international link
Fyrom-Turkey co-operation also extends to the international level. The so-called United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), which is based in the USA, received $300,000 last year from the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), which is guided by the Turkish diplomatic corps in the USA and whose aim is to support and pursue Turkish state policy in the USA.

The money from the TCA to the UMD was given to allow the UMD to establish an office in New York, from which, it seems, Turkey expects the UMD to lobby against Greece and Greek interests.

The TCA's president, G. Lincoln McCurdy, was from 1998 to 2004 the general director of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) in Washington, the foremost Turkish lobbying group in the USA. He also served in the US consulate in Istanbul from 1980-1984 and has, since then, maintained strong links with Turkey. During McCurdy's presidency of the TCA, the organisation's legal counsellor was Gunay Evinch, who is also the legal counsel for the Turkish embassy in Washington and attorney for the Assembly of Turkish American Associations.

Evinch is the main link between the TCA and the UMD. On 20 July 2008, he was spotted at a demonstration in the USA holding a placard reading 'Greek troops have occupied Macedonia'.

Evinch, also known to have strong links with Turkish Cypriot political circles, has stated in interviews in the Turkish media that 'Turks and Macedonians [sic] are best friends' and has expressed thanks to the Skopjans for 'the support they give to Turkey'.

Crime connections
In Vienna, immigrant Skopjans involved in heroin smuggling include in their ranks Turkish minority members, but not Albanians from Fyrom, who operate independently and often antagonistically with their Fyromian compatriots.

As far as the heroin trade is concerned, its main Balkan transit route is Istanbul, Skopje and then on to Western Europe. In Fyrom, Turks from Turkey have not only established themselves, in co-operation with the Kosovo mafia, as significant drug barons, but they have also made Fyrom a useful base from which, in co-operation with local criminal groups, they are able to conduct their human trafficking and illegal immigration activities.

The main aim of Turkey in its relations with Fyrom is to gain political influence. Since Ankara follows the same policy in Albania, Bosnia and, most recently, in Sanjak in Serbia, one can conclude that Fyrom is for the Turks a crucial part of its plan to establish a Turkish axis in the Balkans. As part of this strategy, the Muslim minorities in Greece, Bulgaria and Moldavia are also being courted by Turkey.

It should be noted that while Turkey is motivated by this grand vision it has for the Balkans, the Fyromians don't necessarily share this vision since it is mostly interested in EU and NATO accession.

In any case, the burgeoning relationship between Turkey and Fyrom has attracted the attention of Fyrom's neighbours, a development that will surely result in counter-initiatives by Athens, Sofia, Tirana and Belgrade.