Monday, 16 March 2009

Dehellenising Cyprus and Clinton on Turk minority’s ‘isolation’

I want to expand a little on a couple of issues raised by Apostolos and Hermes in comments they left in these two Hellenic Antidote posts.

First, Hermes draws attention to this article (in Greek) on encouragement being given by the UK Labour MP Andrew Dismore to the creation of a bogus Cypriot national identity that would deliberately seek to marginalise if not eliminate Cyprus' and Cypriots' Greekness. Dismore is vice-chairman of the so-called Friends of Cyprus group, which consists mostly of UK parliamentarians but also counts journalists and academics as its members, and whose positions on the Turkish occupation are generally regarded as sympathetic to the Greek side.

In relation to Dismore and his support for a Cypriot national identity, it’s worth making the following points:

1. The Friends of Cyprus flatters to deceive, i.e. it pretends it is a caucus representing Greek Cypriot interests to the UK government, but its real role is the opposite: to convince Greek Cypriots of UK positions.

The nature of those involved with the Friends of Cyprus is revealed if we consider the career of Stephen Twigg, formerly Labour MP for Enfield, a marginal constituency in North London with a large Greek Cypriot population. As an MP, Twigg was an outspoken supporter
 of Cyprus; but when he lost his seat in 2005 he became director of the Foreign Policy Centre, a Blairite think tank, whose most high-profile intervention so far has been its ‘Turkey belongs in Europe’ campaign, which strongly advocates Turkey’s membership of the EU. Indeed, when the FPC launched its Turkey in Europe pamphlet last year, Twigg did the rounds of TV news studios and so on strongly promoting Turkey and its EU bid. From supporter of Cyprus to cheerleader for Turkey. So much for the Friends of Cyprus.

2. Since landing on Cyprus in 1878, the British strategy has been to dehellenise the island in order to control it better. The English wanted to create another Malta and a population that looked towards London, not Athens. Britain’s aim during the colonial period was to foster among Cypriots (though not the Muslim minority, who were encouraged to feel Turkish) an exclusively Cypriot identity stripped of its Hellenic essence and to persuade Cypriots ‘of the moral and material benefits of the Commonwealth connection’ and contrast this to the political and economic disadvantages of union with Greece.

To retain its influence and interests in Cyprus, the British continue to support the dehellenisation of the island. 

3. Allies, whether they like it or not, of British dehellenisation of Cyprus are the Cypriot communists, who've always believed that the Cyprus problem is one of alien and externally-imposed nationalisms and that a peaceful Cyprus is one in which Greek and Turkish Cypriots reject the identities and influence from their mother countries in order to construct a common Cypriot identity.

Communists in Cyprus would remove anything symbolising Greece from the island – national flag, anthem, holidays – and construct a history of the island that stresses the common struggles of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots – such as the resistance of peasants to high taxation under the Ottomans. The communists believe the Cypriot dialect is a national language in its own right, separate to Greek; and that even if Cypriots do share certain cultural characteristics with Helladic Greeks, this is no more significant than the shared cultural characteristics between Britons and Australians. 

The Cypriot communists are in government now and there can be no doubt that if Christofias and AKEL (the Cypriot communist party) had their way, they would try to build an artificial Stalinist-Skopjan style 'national' Cypriot identity.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that AKEL's anti-Greek agenda has never been secret and the only reason AKEL has managed to win elections at local and island-wide level is because of alliances it has created with smaller parties, EDEK and DIKO – both of which are nationalistic parties. No one forced EDEK and DIKO into alliance with AKEL and no one is forcing them to keep backing AKEL. (Indeed, the EDEK-DIKO-AKEL alliance has become increasingly strained – over Christofias’ handling of the Cyprus issue and AKEL’s determination to fiddle with the school curriculum, to rid it of ‘nationalist’ overtones and inject into it elements that encourage ‘peaceful coexistence’ with the Turkish Cypriots – and in my opinion it won’t be long before it unravels altogether).

On Apostolos’ points regarding the comments by the occupation regime’s pseudo-foreign minister, Turgay Avci, welcoming the joint statement by Hillary Clinton and Ali Babacan in which the US secretary of state and the Turk foreign minister called for the ‘ending of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots’ – which is a euphemism for recognising Turkey’s puppet state in occupied Cyprus – I have this to say:

1. When Avci berates Greek Cypriots for thinking they ‘could keep Turkish Cypriots in peril forever under cruel oppression and international economic isolation’, this is not him being ignorant or provocative; this is him expressing the deep resentment, bitterness and inferiority complex that characterises the feelings of the Turkish minority towards Greek Cypriots and justifies to the Turks the atrocities committed against Greek Cypriots.

2. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Americans are strengthening their alliance with the Turks. I wrote here, more than a year ago, that Democrat foreign policy gurus, such as Richard Holbrooke, now Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, were ardent proponents of the US-Turkey alliance.

Speaking at a Brookings Institute lecture in 2007, Holbrooke stressed that Turkey and the USA are ‘indispensable allies’ and that Turkey is ‘a frontline state that stands at the crossroads of almost every issue of importance to the United States on the Eurasian Continent’.

3. Specifically on that part of the Clinton-Babacan statement relating to Cyprus, here’s what it says in full:

'Turkey and the US reiterated their determination to continue to support strongly a comprehensive and mutually-acceptable settlement of the Cyprus question under the auspices of the UN and in this context ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.’

While it is contemptible that the statement attempts to reduce the Cyprus issue to ‘the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots’; in fact it only calls for this ‘isolation’ to be lifted in the context of a settlement. The statement, therefore, does not appear to herald a change in America’s position on recognition of the puppet state in occupied Cyprus. This is not to say, however, that American foreign policy in the region does not continue to regard a fully-independent Cyprus as an obstacle to its interests and its ambition to elevate Turkey to the status of regional hegemon, with Cyprus under its sway.