Thursday, 30 April 2009

Karamanlis takes a backward step

Further to this post and discussion on the foreign policy and security challenges facing Greece now that the Obama administration has expressed its clear desire to elevate Turkey to the status of regional hegemon, I've translated below an article by Stavros Lygeros, which sums up well the implications of the Greek government succumbing to American pressure and stepping away from enhanced strategic relations with Russia. (Read the article in Greek here).

It's been two years since Greece's prime minister Konstantine Karamanlis and Russia's Vladimir Putin announced in Constantinople the South Stream pipeline project, which will bring Russian gas to Bulgaria, Greece and Italy. Washington is opposed to the Russo-European strategic energy relationship, and by extension to the South Stream project, arguing that it will lead to Europe's energy and political dependence on Russia.

Karamanlis had appeared to take the view that Greco-Russian relations should be seen through the prism of specific Greek interests, without, of course, this damaging Greece's Euro-Atlantic ties. This state of affairs and Karamanlis' very good personal relations with Putin granted the Greek prime minister the status of privileged interlocutor with Moscow. Washington's displeasure was expressed not only officially, but with the dissemination of propaganda that portrayed Greece and Cyprus as Russia's 'Trojan Horse' in the European Union.

In the last few months, however, it's become clear that the prime minister is retreating. Is it fear or the argument that a precondition for close relations with the new Obama administration is that Athens loosens ties with Moscow? What is certain is that the Greek foreign minister [Dora Bakoyiannis] and a section of the Greek political and diplomatic elite were never well disposed to the Greco-Russian flirtation and the establishment of a strategic energy relationship. Rather, they shared the American view that Russia is the West's competitor and rival.

Recent events have shown that Greece can't expect anything worthwhile from Obama. On all the national issues, American positions were and remain neutral to negative for Greek interests. Moscow, on the other hand, as a rule, supports Greek positions or upholds a favourable neutrality. But there's more to it than this.

With the Turkey-Greece-Italy gas pipeline in operation, and if Greece abandons its participation in the South Stream project, Turkey will become a primary energy transit route and Greece will become dependent on Ankara for its energy needs. In a bilateral crisis, the tap could be turned off and our country starved of energy. This is of no interest to the USA, but it should be of great interest to Athens. It's revealing that Greek circles are stressing how bad Europe's dependence on Russian energy might be, but they're not at all bothered by the possibility of Greece's energy dependence on Turkey.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Implications of European court ruling on Cyprus property rights

A few more observations regarding yesterday's European Court of Justice ruling on the status of Greek refugee property in Turkish-occupied Cyprus. Again, I stress I am no legal expert and these are just speculations and that I may well be wrong about attributing certain ramifications to the ruling.

With that caveat in mind, it still seems to me that the ruling is a stunning victory for the Cypriot side with wide-ranging implications, and this is true even if, in the particular instance of Apostolides vs. The Orams, the UK Court of Appeal, where the case now reverts, or the House of Lords, where the Orams' will no doubt go if they lose in the Court of Appeal, try to avoid fully implementing the ECJ verdict.

Firstly, the ECJ ruling confirms that the property regime in Cyprus is effectively that which existed prior to the Turkish invasion in 1974 and that no matter what has happened to the property seized by the Turkish occupation regime in the last 35 years and who is using it now – Turkish Cypriots, Turkish settlers or other foreigners – the legal ownership continues to reside with the Greek Cypriot refugees.

Moreover, since 80 percent of property in the Turkish-occupied areas was – and remains – owned by Greek Cypriots, the Turkish argument that, in a settlement, bizonality means that in the Turkish Cypriot constituent state Turkish Cypriots must own the majority of land and this has to result from the compulsory surrender by Greek Cypriots of property abandoned in 1974, is significantly undermined. Rather, the Greek Cypriot argument that the original owners must have first say in what happens to property lost in 1974 – whether they wish to reclaim their land, sell it, swap it or be compensated for it – now has legal validity; and it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Christofias to ignore this and agree to the Turkish conditions. It should be noted that if, in a settlement, refugees are given the right to decide in the first instance what happens to their property, then this opens up the possibility of mass resettlement of Greeks in northern Cyprus and the nullification of bizonality.

Secondly, the ECJ ruling, by confirming that the laws of the Republic of Cyprus apply to all the island and that Cypriot courts do have jurisdiction even in the Turkish-occupied areas, allows Cypriots to seek legal redress over every illegality committed as a result of the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation.

For example, what is to stop the Church of Cyprus – the largest landowner on the island and with the resources to pursue lengthy and complex legal cases – going to the Nicosia courts seeking restitution and compensation for churches, monasteries, land, etc, it has had confiscated by Turkey – the government of Turkey has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights as being responsible for what happens in occupied Cyprus – and that when the Nicosia court rules in its favour, as it surely would, seeking to have that ruling enforced elsewhere in the EU? Such a scenario could see the assets of the Turkish government seized in European capitals and handed over to the Church of Cyprus.

A few more points.

1. Yesterday's ECJ ruling is precisely the sort of ruling feared by Turkey and its allies when Cyprus joined the EU, and which the Annan plan, which was to take effect before Cyprus became an EU member, was specifically designed to preclude, providing for the settlement of all these issues in Turkey's favour and depriving Cypriots of their right to challenge the new state of affairs in European courts.

Bearing this in mind, the decision by Tassos Papadopoulos to urge rejection of the Annan plan appears even more correct and his assertion that the Republic of Cyprus should continue its struggle for a solution inside the EU utterly vindicated. It is worrying, however, that in Cyprus now there exists no one with Papadopoulos' foresight, courage and belief in the justice of the Cypriot cause.

2. The ECJ judgment is a victory against all those thieves and trespassers – mostly British – who have sought to gain from the ethnic cleansing in 1974. For years, they have mocked the dispossessed and revelled in their crooked behaviour; but now they have been exposed for what they are – common criminals – and justice is catching up with them. This is morally satisfying.

3. It would be delusional to suppose that the Turks will accept the implications of the ECJ ruling and change their negotiating position on property issues accordingly. What we know about the Turks is this: they take defeat badly, feel they are victims of injustice and respond with belligerence and intransigence.

4. Finally, it should be noted that Meletios Apostolides in fighting this case repeatedly stated that he was not interested in taking over the gaudy villa the Orams' built on his land. Rather, Apostolides wanted to knock down the abomination and replant the lemon grove that had existed before the Britons had arrived and in this way achieve some form of natural justice. This striving for natural justice, restoring that which was wrought asunder, defines the Cypriot struggle, at its best, to end the Turkish occupation.

The image above is from an Attic amphora and shows Dike (justice personified) beating Adikia (injustice) with a hammer. Adikia is depicted as a tattooed barbarian woman.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

European court finds in favour of Greek Cypriot refugee

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Meletios Apostolides, a Greek Cypriot refugee from Turkish-occupied Lapithos, near Kyrenia, can reclaim land he was uprooted from by the Turkish invasion in 1974 and which was subsequently 'bought' by an Anglo-Jewish couple, Linda and David Orams.

Apostolides initially took the Orams' to court in Nicosia in 2005, which decided that the Britons should knock down or hand over to him the villa with swimming pool they had built on his land and pay him compensation and rent for the deprivation and use of his property.

When the Orams', with the protection and full backing of the Turkish-occupation regime in northern Cyprus, refused to recognise the Nicosia court's ruling, Apostolides sought to have it enforced in the UK, where the Orams' permanently reside, on the principal that judgments in Cypriot courts have to be recognised in all other courts in the European Union.

The High Court in London in 2006 found that while it accepted that Apostolides owned the land in Lapithos; Cypriot – and by extension EU – courts did not have effective jurisdiction over Turkish-occupied Cyprus and, therefore, the Nicosia court ruling against the Orams' could not be enforced. (The judge also awarded costs of £863,000 against Apostolides, a substantial amount of which was to be paid to 'human rights' lawyer Cherie Blair – former prime minister Tony Blair's wife – who had been hired by the Turk/Orams' side).

Apostolides appealed the High Court decision and the UK Court of Appeal referred the matter to the European Court of Justice – the EU's highest court – which today found the High Court decision erroneous, stating that: 'The fact that the land concerned is situated in an area over which the [Cyprus] government does not exercise effective control... does not preclude the recognition and enforcement of those judgments in another member state [and]… the fact that Mr Apostolides might encounter difficulties in having the judgments enforced cannot deprive them of their enforceability.'

Read ECJ judgment summary here.

Without being a legal expert or understanding just yet what the full implications of this undoubtedly positive ruling are: two points have struck me so far following the initial reaction by Cypriot lawyers to today's verdict:

Firstly, the matter is not finished with the ECJ ruling. The case is now back with the British courts, which have to decide how they are going to enforce the ECJ verdict. Given the High Court experience and the probable reluctance of a British court to find itself executing decisions made by a foreign (Cypriot) court that adversely affect the interests of British citizens, the possibility remains that a British court will seek to water down or side step the Nicosia court and ECJ rulings.

Secondly, while the ECJ ruling has potentially devastating implications for EU citizens who have 'bought' usurped Greek Cypriot land and will surely put off others considering investing in property in occupied Cyprus; it is likely that the Turkish occupation regime will seek to ameliorate the consequences for its 'property development' sector by looking for buyers outside the EU – most probably from Israel and Russia.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Ανισορροπία τρόμου

Here’s a good article by Konstantinos Angelopouos I read today in the Cypriot daily Simerini on the national security and foreign policy issues facing Greece and Cyprus in the aftermath of America’s vigorous promotion of Turkey as a regional superpower.

Εντείνεται σε διπλωματικούς κύκλους της Αθήνας ο προβληματισμός για το τίμημα που ενδεχομένως θα υποχρεωνόταν να καταβάλει προσεχώς σε τρίτους η εξωτερική πολιτική της χώρας, εξαιτίας της αδράνειάς της τα τελευταία χρόνια.

«Σήμερα η Ελλάδα δεν εμφανίζεται καθαρά στην οθόνη του πολιτικού ραντάρ των ΗΠΑ και των ισχυρών Ευρωπαίων εταίρων της», αναφέρει βετεράνος διπλωμάτης, που συμμερίζεται ανησυχίες συναδέλφων του και πολιτικών παραγόντων της συμπολίτευσης και της αντιπολίτευσης. Οι ανησυχίες για το ενδεχόμενο ζημιών στον τομέα της εξωτερικής πολιτικής συνδέονται βεβαίως με την ιδιαίτερη αναβάθμιση της Τουρκίας στους στρατηγικούς σχεδιασμούς των ΗΠΑ, αλλά και γενικότερα στη διεθνή σκηνή.

Όμως, οι προβληματισμοί εντείνονται, επειδή η τουρκική αναβάθμιση σημειώνεται σε μια περίοδο υποβάθμισης της Ελλάδας στα ίδια πεδία. Αντίθετα με ό,τι συμβαίνει στην περίπτωση της Άγκυρας, η Αθήνα δεν είναι σήμερα σε θέση να πείσει εταίρους και συμμάχους ότι μπορεί να έχει στο διεθνές περιβάλλον της έναν ενδιαφέροντα πολιτικό ρόλο, ούτε είναι σε θέση να πείσει ότι διαθέτει ένα δυναμισμό άξιο προσοχής στη διαχείριση των κρίσιμων εξωτερικών υποθέσεών της.


Στο κέντρο των προβληματισμών που αναπτύσσονται στα Υπουργεία Εξωτερικών και Εθνικής Άμυνας και σε πολιτικούς κύκλους βρίσκεται το ζήτημα των ελληνοτουρκικών σχέσεων. «Θα αντισταθεί άραγε, και για πόσο καιρό, η Τουρκία στον πειρασμό της αξιοποίησης των σοβαρών πλεονεκτημάτων που έχει αποκτήσει έναντι της Ελλάδας αυτή την περίοδο;», θέτει σήμερα το ερώτημα πρώην υπουργός με μακρά θητεία στον τομέα των εξωτερικών υποθέσεων.

Το ερώτημα τίθεται σε μια περίοδο κατά την οποία η Άγκυρα δεν χάνει ευκαιρίες για «επιδείξεις δύναμης» απέναντι στην Ελλάδα στο Αιγάιο, σε περιοχές που η τουρκική ηγεσία θεωρεί «γκρίζες», ενώ δεν παραλείπει να θέτει αναιδώς «θέματα» Θράκης σε μια αμήχανη ελληνική ηγεσία και δεν μετακινείται στις θέσεις που κρατάει στην Ε.Ε. σχετικώς με την τήρηση των υποχρεώσεών της έναντι της Κυπριακής Δημοκρατίας. Ειδικότερα στο Αιγαίο, η ένταση διατηρείται σε χαμηλό βαθμό, μόνο και μόνο επειδή η Αθήνα διαχειρίζεται πολιτικά με εξαιρετική «ψυχραιμία» τις προκλητικές πτήσεις της τουρκικής αεροπορίας επάνω από ελληνικά νησιά.

Θα εντείνει προσεχώς την «παρουσία» της στο Αιγαίο η Τουρκία, στη βάση και της πολιτικής που σταθερά αναπτύσσεται από το 1996 («γκρίζες ζώνες»); Στα Υπουργεία Εξωτερικών και Εθνικής Άμυνας το ενδεχόμενο αυτό εκτιμάται από υπηρεσιακούς και στρατιωτικούς παράγοντες ως πολύ πιθανό. Ήδη στις αρχές του 2009, ο Ανδρ. Λοβέρδος, αρμόδιος στο ΠΑΣΟΚ, για θέματα εξωτερικής πολιτικής, ανέφερε σε άρθρο του (26/1/2009): «Θεωρώ ότι δεν είναι πολύ μακρινή η από πλευράς Τουρκίας επιδείνωση της στάσης της σε ό,τι αφορά τη νησιωτική υφαλοκρηπίδα και τον εναέριο χώρο». Αλλά και χρόνια πίσω, το φθινόπωρο του 1999, ο Θ. Πάγκαλος, εκτός κυβερνήσεως τότε, προέβλεπε ραδιοφωνικά (στον Flash) ότι η γραμμή των «ανοιγμάτων» (Σημίτη - Γ. Παπανδρέου) προς την Άγκυρα είναι «λάθος», ότι «δημιουργείται πανευρωπαϊκά η εντύπωση ότι δεν υπάρχει κάτι σοβαρό μεταξύ των δύο χωρών» και ότι «η τουρκική επιθετικότητα θα πάρει διπλωματική μορφή, συνεπικουρούμενη από την Αμερική».

Δύσκολα σενάρια

Όσο για το «Ελσίνκι», από τότε, Δεκέμβριο του 1999, είχε επισημανθεί (Π. Μολυβιάτης) ότι η αναφορά σε «μεθοριακές διαφορές και άλλα συναφή θέματα» που συνυπέγραψε η Ελλάδα, άνοιγε νέους δρόμους στην Άγκυρα για ελευθερία κινήσεων στο Αιγάιο μελλοντικώς. Και σήμερα η εκτίμηση αυτή βρίσκει σύμφωνους κυβερνητικούς παράγοντες και ουκ ολίγους διπλωμάτες.

Στη σημερινή κατάσταση πραγμάτων με τους γνωστούς «γύρους» των ελληνοτουρκικών συνομιλιών για το Αιγαίο («μόνο για υφαλοκρηπίδα» κατά την Αθήνα) να συνεχίζονται σε μια «ρουτίνα» χωρίς αποτελέσματα, με το τουρκικό casus belli ισχυρό και με την Άγκυρα να δίνει διαρκώς έμφαση στην αμφισβήτηση εθνικής κυριαρχίας στην αμφισβήτηση εθνικής κυριαρχίας σε «γκρίζες ζώνες», οι ανησυχίες της Αθήνας για «χειρότερες μέρες» στα ελληνοτουρκικά είναι αυξημένες. Επισημαίνεται από υπηρεσιακούς παράγοντες ότι:

1. Η Άγκυρα δεν πρόκειται σε καμιά περίπτωση να βρει «απέναντί» της την Ουάσινγκτον, αν αυξήσει την πίεσή της προς την Ελλάδα.

2. Στο πεδίο της Ε.Ε. και η σημερινή Προεδρία, αλλά κυρίως η επόμενη (Σουηδία), δεν πρόκειται επίσης να υιοθετήσει θέσεις που θα δυσαρεστούσαν την Τουρκία σε ό,τι αφορά τις κοινοτικές ενταξιακές υποχρεώσεις της.

Η Τουρκία θα «κριθεί» από την Ε.Ε. τον ερχόμενο Δεκέμβριο, αλλά θεωρείται πολύ πιθανό να δοθεί χρονική «παράταση» στην Άγκυρα, αν από την πλευρά της εμφανιστεί στο τέλος του 2009 «ανέτοιμη» να ανταποκριθεί στις υποχρεώσεις της. Όσο για την Ουάσιγκτον, η πίεσή της προς τα κράτη-μέλη της Ε.Ε. για την «καλύτερη δυνατή μεταχείριση» της Τουρκίας θα είναι αυξημένη, αν η τουρκική διπλωματία βρεθεί κάποια στιγμή σε δύσκολη θέση στο ευρωπαϊκό πεδίο. Σημειώνεται επίσης από τους ίδιους κύκλους ότι, λόγω των «εξετάσεων» που θα δώσει η Άγκυρα στην Ε.Ε. το Δεκέμβριο, θα αυξηθεί έως τότε και η διεθνής πίεση προς τη Λευκωσία για την επίδειξη «διαλλακτικότητας» στην υπόθεση της πολιτικής λύσης του Κυπριακού.

Το ερώτημα που τίθεται στα διπλωματικά παρασκήνια στην Αθήνα είναι το αν και κατά πόσον η ελληνική πλευρά είναι προετοιμασμένη για την περίπτωση κατά την οποία η Τουρκία εμφανίσει αιφνιδίως κάποια διπλωματική «πρωτοβουλία» της για μια διεθνή διαιτησία στο Αιγάιο, ακόμη και επικαλούμενη ευθέως το «Ελσίνκι» ή επιχειρήσει να «ανοίξει» δυναμικά την υπόθεση των «γκρίζων ζωνών» με πρόκληση «θερμών επεισοδίων», στα οποία θα δίνει πολιτική αιτιολόγηση (με ερμηνείες συνθηκών και επιλεγμένους κανόνες διεθνούς δικαίου). Επί χάρτου, η Άγκυρα έχει κάθε λόγο να εκτιμά ότι σε κάθε περίπτωση η ελληνική αντίσταση στις επιθετικές κινήσεις της δεν είναι ισχυρή.

Ας σημειωθεί εδώ ότι στην Αθήνα από το 1999 έως σήμερα ποτέ δεν δηλώθηκε από τις κυβερνήσεις του ΠΑΣΟΚ που συνυπέγραψαν το «Ελσίνκι» ούτε και προσδιορίστηκε στη συνέχεια από τις γαλάζιες κυβερνήσεις ποιες είναι οι «μεθοριακές διαφορές» που αναφέρονται σ' εκείνο το κείμενο. Όσο για τα Ίμια, εντυπωσιακό είναι ότι στον σχετικό φάκελο του Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών δεν υπάρχει κανένα απολύτως στοιχείο που να δίνει μια εικόνα του τι συνέβη, αφότου ο Ρίτσαρντ Χόλμπρουκ είπε «no ships, no troops, no flags» στις βραχονησίδες που η Τουρκία θεωρεί ότι της ανήκουν! Έτσι, δεν υπάρχει στο Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών ούτε ένα στοιχείο που να επιβεβαιώνει ότι στα Ίμια έκτοτε επικράτησε status ante, όπως νεφελωδώς χωρίς στοιχεία, υποστήριξε τότε η ελληνική κυβέρνηση! Αλλά αυτά τα σοβαρά «κενά» εμπλουτίζουν φυσικά την τουρκική διπλωματία με αξιόλογα επιχειρήματα και εμφανίζουν αδύναμη τη θέση της Αθήνας.

Ετοιμάζονται να μας «στριμώξουν» με ένα νέο σχέδιο Ανάν

Διπλωματικοί κύκλοι επισημαίνουν τη «νέα κατάσταση» που θα δημιουργούσε υπέρ της τουρκικής πλευράς σε όλες τις πτυχές του Κυπριακού και στο ευρωπαϊκό πεδίο η εμφάνιση από «τρίτους» μιας ολοκληρωμένης πρότασης στη βάση ενός σχεδίου «παραλλαγής» του Σχεδίου Ανάν, μια εξέλιξη που θα «στρίμωχνε» τη Λευκωσία και τη «συναγωνίστριά» της Αθήνα. Στη Λευκωσία, όπου η ηγεσία Δ. Χριστόφια και άλλα κόμματα δεν φαίνεται να έχουν πλέον διάθεση για «σκληρές» θέσεις, εκτιμάται ήδη ότι τα πράγματα οδηγούν πλέον την υπόθεση σε μια τελική ευθεία της. Στην Αθήνα, η κυβέρνηση Κ. Καραμανλή επιδεικνύει μεν τώρα ιδιαίτερο ενδιαφέρον για την εξέλιξη του Κυπριακού (δεν μπορεί και να μην πάρει θέση η Αθήνα στην Ε.Ε., όταν έρθει η ώρα), αλλά αφήνει κρατώντας τις «κατάλληλες» αποστάσεις, την κύρια ευθύνη διαχείρισης του ζητήματος στους Ελληνοκυπρίους.

Είναι σαφές ότι τούτη τη φορά ο Πρωθυπουργός δεν σκοπεύει να γίνει δέκτης «δυσάρεστων» πιέσεων του «διεθνούς παράγοντος», όπως του συνέβη το 2004 εξαιτίας του Κυπριακού. Όμως παραμένει πάντοτε πολύ δύσκολο για την Αθήνα να μένει «ουδέτερη», όποτε σημειώνονται σοβαρές εξελίξεις στο Κυπριακό, έστω κι αν η Λευκωσία έχει την ευθύνη των εξελίξεων.

The Philosophers' Football Match

Above is the Monty Python sketch
The Philosophers' Football Match, featuring teams from Greece and Germany. The sketch was originally part of two shows Monty Python made for German television in 1972 – Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus – and was also included in the film Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

You will notice in the sketch that Socrates scores the winning goal for the Greek philosophers. This is deeply ironic (and prophetic) since 10 years later,
Sócrates – or Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, to give him his full name – was captain and one of the star players of the Brazilian national team in the World Cup finals held in Spain; a team which, as well as Sócrates, included Zico, Falcao, Junior, Eder, Leandro and Cerezzo, and is regarded as the most thrilling and aesthetically satisfying footballing side of all time – even more so than the Brazil team that won the World Cup in Mexico in 1970. The 1982 Brazil side did not win that year's World Cup, getting knocked out by the eventual winners Italy 3-2, in one of the greatest upsets (and disappointments) in football.

As a player, Sócrates was renowned for his grace and guile, while off the field he is regarded as the most intelligent Brazilian ever to put on the famous yellow shirt, with doctorates in medicine and, of course, philosophy. Below is the magnificent goal he scored against the USSR in the group stages of the 1982 World Cup.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Ankara shows its hand

Below is another good piece from Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate Magazine, on Turkey’s attempts to bully NATO over the appointment of Anders Fogh Rasmussen as its new secretary-general and the consequences this may have for Turkey’s EU ambitions and President Obama’s Turkey overtures. See here for Hitchens’ previous article on Turkey and Armenian genocide denial.

Turkey’s scheming in Strasbourg shows it doesn’t belong in the European Union
The most underreported story of the month must surely be the announcement by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that he no longer supports the accession of Turkey as a full member of the European Union. His reasoning was very simple and intelligible, and it has huge implications for the Barack Obama 'make nice' school of diplomacy.

At a NATO summit in Strasbourg in the first week of April, it had been considered a formality that the alliance would vote to confirm Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark, as its new secretary-general. But very suddenly, the Turkish delegation threatened to veto the appointment. The grounds of Turkey's opposition were highly significant. Most important, they had to do with the publication of some cartoons in a Danish newspaper in 2005 lampooning the Prophet Mohammed. In spite of an organized campaign of violence and boycott against his country, and in spite of a demand by a delegation of ambassadors from supposedly 'Islamic' states, Rasmussen consistently maintained that Danish law did not allow him to interfere with the Danish press. Years later, resentment at this position led Turkey — which is under its own constitution not an 'Islamic' country — to use the occasion of a NATO meeting to try again to interfere with the internal affairs of a member state.

The second ground of Turkey's objection is also worth noting. From Danish soil a TV station broadcasts in the Kurdish language to Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere. The government in Ankara, which evidently believes that all European governments are as untrammeled as itself, brusquely insists that Denmark do what it would do and simply shut the transmitter down. Once again unclear on the concepts of the open society and the rule of law — if the station is sympathetic to terrorism, as Ankara alleges, there are procedures to be followed — the Turkish authorities attempt a fiat that simply demands that others do as they say.

The implications of all this, as Kouchner stated in an interview, are extremely serious. 'I was very shocked by the pressure that was brought upon us,' he said. 'Turkey's evolution in, let's say, a more religious direction, towards a less robust secularism, worries me.' This is to put it in the mildest possible way. It's not just a matter of a Turkish political party undermining Turkey's own historic secularism. It is a question of Turkey trying to impose its Islamist and chauvinist policies on another European state — and indeed on the whole NATO alliance. And if this is how it behaves before it has been admitted to the European Union, has it not invited us all to guess how it would behave when it had a veto power in those councils?

For contrast, one might mention the example of reunited federal Germany, easily the strongest economic power in the European Union, which painstakingly adjusted itself to its neighbors — to the extent of giving up even the deutsche mark for the euro — and adopted the slogan 'not a Germanized Europe but a Europeanized Germany'. With Turkey, it seems the reverse is the case. Its troops already occupy one-third of the territory of an EU member (Cyprus), and now it exploits its NATO membership to try to bully one of the smaller nations with which it is supposed to be conjoined in a common defense. For good measure, it continues to be ambiguous about its recognition of the existence of another non-Turkish people — the Kurds — within its frontiers.

President Obama's emollient gifts were on display at the NATO summit, where he eventually persuaded the Turks to withhold their veto on the appointment of Prime Minister Rasmussen. Accounts differ as to the price of this deal, but a number of plum jobs and positions now appear to have been awarded to Turkish nominees. Much more important, however, the foreign minister of France has reversed his previous position and has now said: 'It's not for the Americans to decide who comes into Europe or not. We are in charge in our own house.' Put it like this: Obama's 'quiet diplomacy' has temporarily conciliated the Turks while perhaps permanently alienating the French and has made it more, rather than less, likely that the American goal of Turkish EU membership will now never be reached. And this is the administration that staked so much on the idea of renewing our credit on the other side of the Atlantic. This evidently can't be done by sweetness alone.

On the question of Turkey's accession, I used to be able to make either case. Admitting the Turks could lead to the modernization of the country, whereas exclusion could breed resentment and instability and even a renewal of pseudo-Ataturkist military rule. On the other hand, admission would put the frontiers of Europe up against Iran and Iraq and the volatile Caucasus, so that instead of being a 'bridge' between East and West (to use the unvarying cliché), Turkey would become a tunnel.

The Strasbourg crisis clarifies the entire picture and should make us grateful to have been warned in such a timely fashion. Turkey wants all the privileges of NATO and EU membership but also wishes to continue occupying Cyprus, denying Kurdish rights, and lying about the Armenian genocide. On top of this, it now desires to act as a proxy for Islamization and dares to waste the time of a defensive alliance in trying to censor the press of another member state! Kouchner was quite right to speak out as he did, and the Turkish authorities will now be able to blame the failure of their membership scheme not on the unsleeping plots of their enemies, but on the belated awakening of their former friends.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Turk ultranationalists win in occupied Cyprus

What the Turks have done to the cemetery in the occupied Greek village of Yialousa

So the ultranationalist UBP has won the so-called 'parliamentary elections' in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, winning 44 percent of the vote and 26 of the 50 seats in the occupation 'legislature', exposing as fools and liars those Greek Cypriots – many in Christofias' communist-led government – who believe the Turkish Cypriots are itching for reunification and peaceful co-existence with the island's Greeks.

Of course, the communists will point to the fact that the majority of those who voted in the occupation 'elections' – 62 per cent – were Turks from the mainland and not Turk Cypriots and that the settlers played the decisive role in electing the the UBP, which is the political wing of the Turkish Cypriot terrorist group, TMT, and favours partition of Cyprus. But we simply don't know if the settlers voted differently from Turkish Cypriots. We assume that the Turkish settlers voted for parties opposing reunification of the island and supporting greater integration with Turkey because in any deal with the Greek Cypriots a large number of settlers would have to leave Cyprus or, at least, evacuate the Greek properties they're currently squatting in; but the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and his CTP have previously won 'elections' when the electorate was composed of similar numbers of settlers and Turkish Cypriots. It's always been thought that the settlers' vote is highly susceptible to pressures from the Turkish government – which under Erdogan has opposed the UBP and favoured the CTP – so it's now possible that the settlers are developing an independent political consciousness, which is as virulent and nationalist as that of the Israeli settlers in Palestine.

The second point worth making about the 'elections' in the occupied areas is that the first point regarding shifting psephological patterns in the Turk population in Cyprus is largely irrelevant. This is because it is the Turkish government and the Turkish army that decides what goes on in occupied Cyprus and not their puppet 'president' Talat and certainly not any puppet 'government'.

Turkey will determine Talat's position in talks with Christofias, not the UBP 'government'. It is possible, of course, that Turkey will use the 'election' of the UBP to toughen its already hardline stance in the negotiations and argue that in doing so it's only reflecting the 'democratic' wishes of the Turkish Cypriots. In this way, Turkey would, in the eyes of the international community, hope to absolve itself from the failure of the Christofias-Talat talks and avoid consequences to its EU candidature.

On the other hand, it has been suggested that Turkey and Talat will now want to push ahead and arrive at a settlement before 'presidential' elections in the occupied areas next year, which Talat may well lose; but Turkey doesn't do diplomatic daring or flexibility and it's more likely they'll try and use the return of the UBP to pressure Christofias to come to an Annan-style agreement before Talat is replaced with a Turkish ultranationalist as leader of the Turkish community in Cyprus.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that even if a UBP 'government' doesn't pose an immediate threat to Talat's position as Turkish Cypriot negotiator; the UBP's victory is a victory for the Turkish deep state, which the UBP is an arm of. The Turkish deep state is significantly present in Cyprus, particularly in the form of the Turkish military commanders serving in the occupation army; and this alliance between the UBP and the Turkish occupation army will certainly give the UBP 'government' room to manoeuvre in further attempts to embed the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' and dehellenise/Turkify occupied Cyprus. This could result in, among other things, more destruction of Greek cultural heritage in the occupied areas, more Turkish settlers being brought in and given 'citizenship' of the 'TRNC', the halting of excavations of massacre sites, the increased harassment of the enclaved in Karpasia and of Greeks crossing to visit their villages in the occupied areas and so on.

Friday, 17 April 2009

When Mehmet met Hillary…

Just a note on the meeting that took place Wednesday night between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the Turkish occupation regime in northern Cyprus. The Cypriot government was satisfied with the State Department's reassurances that Talat was being received by the Americans as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and not in any other capacity – such as 'president' of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' – and by the Americans' insistence that they continue to recognise only one government on the island, i.e. the government of the Republic of Cyprus, and that the US supports the reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

In the meeting, it is reported that Talat repeated his usual mantra about lifting the 'isolation' of the Turkish Cypriots and asked the Americans to appoint a special representative to Cyprus to assist with the talks currently taking place between Christofias and Talat. Clinton was said to be lukewarm to the 'special representative' idea, as is the Greek Cypriot side, which would prefer the Americans to keep their distance given the US role in concocting the Annan plan.

While the State Department may have been scrupulous in its nomenclature, other sections of the Washington foreign policy establishment were less so. For example, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington foreign policy think-tank – whose report on Turkey and Cyprus I posted about last week – chose to introduce Talat, who was invited there to address a round-table discussion on Cyprus, as 'president' of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'.

Talat also found time in Washington to meet with Jewish lobby organisations in a bid to encourage continuing Jewish and Israeli investment in occupied Cyprus. (See my post here on Israeli investment in occupied Cyprus).

The feeling is that Clinton was keen to meet Talat at this point in a bid to boost Talat's Republican Turkish Party (CTP), which is fighting 'parliamentary elections' in occupied Cyprus this Sunday. The CTP currently forms the 'government' in the occupied areas and is expected to lose heavily to the ultra-nationalist National Unity Party (UBP), which is against reunifying the island and prefers instead closer integration of occupied Cyprus with Turkey. A victory for the UBP would complicate matters for Talat and the Turkish government, which doesn't want the Turkish side to appear to be torpedoing the Christofias-Talat talks and thus jeopardising Turkey's EU accession process.

Another point of interest is that it has emerged that of the 161,000 people voting in the illegal 'elections' this Sunday, only 61,000 are Turkish Cypriots, while the rest are settlers from Turkey. Since it is a long-standing Cypriot demand that, in any settlement, a large proportion of Turkish settlers would be asked to pack up their yurts and clear off back to Anatolia, it should come as no surprise that the interlopers are much more inclined to support the Turkish nationalist UBP.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Return of the Exile

Below is Giorgios Seferis’ great poem, The Return of the Exile, about the perennial Greek theme of nostalgia and what awaits the nostos – Odysseus, Agamemnon, Orestes, the Greek refugee, immigrant, etc, etc – when he returns to his homeland after years in a foreign country. The poem has been set to music by Yiannis Markopoulos and I’ve made the song available in Radio Akritas. The singers are Ioanna Kiourtsoglou and Lakis Halkias.

The return of the exile

‘My old friend, what are you looking for?
After years abroad you’ve come back
with images you’ve nourished
under foreign skies
far from you own country.’

‘I’m looking for my old garden;
the trees come to my waist
and the hills resemble terraces
yet as a child
I used to play on the grass
under great shadows
and I would run for hours
breathless over the slopes.’

‘My old friend, rest,
you’ll get used to it little by little;
together we will climb
the paths you once knew,
we will sit together
under the plane trees’ dome.
They’ll come back to you little by little,
your garden and your slopes.’

‘I’m looking for my old house,
the tall windows
darkened by ivy;
I’m looking for the ancient column
known to sailors.
How can I get into this coop?
The roof comes to my shoulders
and however far I look
I see men on their knees
as though saying their prayers.’

‘My old friend, don’t you hear me?
You’ll get used to it little by little.
Your house is the one you see
and soon friends and relatives
will come knocking at the door
to welcome you back tenderly.’

‘Why is your voice so distant?
Raise your head a little
so that I understand you.
As you speak you grow
gradually smaller
as though you’re sinking into the ground.’

‘My old friend, stop a moment and think:
you’ll get used to it little by little.
Your nostalgia has created
a non-existent country, with laws
alien to earth and man.’

‘Now I can’t hear a sound.
My last friend has sunk.
Strange how from time to time
they level everything down.
Here a thousand scythe-bearing chariots go past
and mow everything down.’

Ο γυρισμός του ξενιτεμένου
‘Παλιέ μου φίλε τι γυρεύεις;
χρόνια ξενιτεμένος ήρθες 

με εικόνες που έχεις αναθρέψει

κάτω από ξένους ουρανούς 

μακριά απ' τον τόπο το δικό σου’.

‘Γυρεύω τον παλιό μου κήπο 

τα δέντρα μου έρχουνται ως τη μέση 

κι' οι λόφοι μοιάζουν με πεζούλια

κι όμως σαν είμουνα παιδί

έπαιζα πάνω στο χορτάρι 

κάτω από τους μεγάλους ίσκιους 

κι έτρεχα πάνω σε πλαγιές

ώρα πολλή λαχανιασμένος’.

‘Παλιέ μου φίλε ξεκουράσου 

σιγά σιγά θα συνηθίσεις 

θ' ανηφορίσουμε μαζί 

στα γνώριμά σου μονοπάτια 

θα ξαποστάσουμε μαζί

κάτω απ' το θόλο των πλατάνων

σιγά σιγά θα 'ρθούν κοντά σου 

το περιβόλι κι οι πλαγιές σου’.

‘Γυρεύω το παλιό μου σπίτι 

με τ' αψηλά τα παραθύρια

σκοτεινιασμένα απ' τον κισσό 

γυρεύω την αρχαία κολόνα 

που κοίταζε ο θαλασσινός.

Πως θες να μπώ σ' αυτή τη στάνη;

οι στέγες μου έρχουνται ως τους ώμους 

κι όσο μακριά και να κοιτάξω

βλέπω γονατιστούς ανθρώπους 

λες κάνουνε την προσευχή τους’.

‘Παλιέ μου φίλε δε μ' ακούς; 

σιγά σιγά θα συνηθίσεις 

το σπίτι σου είναι αυτό που βλέπεις

κι αυτή την πόρτα θα κτυπήσουν 

σε λίγο οι φίλοι κι οι δικοί σου

γλυκά να σε καλωσορίσουν’. 

‘Γιατί είναι απόμακρη η φωνή σου; 

σήκωσε λίγο το κεφάλι 

να καταλάβω τι μου λες 

όσο μιλάς τ' ανάστημά σου

ολοένα πάει και λιγοστεύει 

λες και βυθίζεσαι στο χώμα’.

‘Παλιέ μου φίλε συλλογίσου 

σιγά σιγά θα συνηθίσεις

η νοσταλγία σου έχει πλάσει

μια χώρα ανύπαρχτη με νόμους

έξω απ' τη γής κι απ' τους ανθρώπους’.

‘Πια δεν ακούω τσιμουδιά

βούλιαξε κι ο στερνός μου φίλος 

παράξενο πως χαμηλώνουν 

όλα τριγύρω κάθε τόσο 

εδώ διαβαίνουν και θερίζουν 

χιλιάδες άρματα δρεπανηφόρα’.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Stratis Thalassinos Among the Agapanthi

Below is Giorgios Seferis' Stratis Thalassinos Among the Agapanthi, a poem on the perennial Greek theme of exile. The poem was set to music by Yiannis Markopoulos and I've made available the song in Radio Akritas. The singer is Nikos Xylouris.

To reach the end of our journey we must seek the advice of the dead – as Odysseas does when he descends into Hades – a more than problematic process for Seferis who since leaving Skala in Asia Minor in 1914 found himself, as a student, refugee and professional diplomat, getting no closer to his homeland, but being driven further and further away from it. The furthest point Seferis ever found himself from home was in 1941, when Greece had fallen to the Germans and he wound up working at the Greek embassy in 'ghastly' Pretoria, South Africa, among the agapanthi – African lilies – where there are no asphodels, the food of the Greek dead.

Stratis Thalassinos Among the Agapanthi
There are no asphodels, violets, or hyacinths;
how then can you talk with the dead?
The dead know the language of flowers only;
so they keep silent
they travel and keep silent, endure and keep silent,
beyond the community of dreams, beyond the community
of dreams.

If I start to sing I'l1 call out
and if I call out –
the agapanthi order silence
raising the tiny hand of a blue Arabian child
or even the footfalls of a goose in the air.

It's painful and difficult, the living are not enough for me
first because they do not speak, and then
because I have to ask the dead in order to go on farther.
There's no other way: the moment I fall asleep
the companions cut the silver strings
and the flask of the winds empties.
I fill it and it empties, I fill it and it empties;
I wake
like a goldfish swimming
in the lightning's crevices
and the wind and the flood and the human bodies
and the agapanthi nailed like the arrows of fate
to the unquenchable earth
shaken by convulsive nodding,
as if loaded on an ancient cart
jolting down gutted roads, over old cobblestones,
the agapanthi, asphodels of the negroes:
How can I grasp this religion?

The first thing God made is love
then comes blood
and the thirst for blood
roused by
the body's sperm as by salt.
The first thing God made is the long journey;
that house there is waiting
with its blue smoke
with its aged dog
waiting for the homecoming so that it can die.
But the dead must guide me;
it is the agapanthi that keep them from speaking,
like the depths of the sea or the water in a glass.
And the companions stay on in the palaces of Circe:
my dear Elpenor! My poor, foolish Elpenor!"
Or don't you see them
– 'Oh help us!' –
on the blackened ridge of Psara?

Ο Στρατής Θαλασσινός ανάμεσα στους αγάπανθους
Δεν έχει ασφοδίλια, μενεξέδες, μήτε υάκινθους·
πως να μιλήσεις με τους πεθαμένους.
Οι πεθαμένοι ξέρουν μονάχα τη γλώσσα των λουλουδιών
γι' αυτό σωπαίνουν
ταξιδεύουν και σωπαίνουν, υπομένουν και σωπαίνουν
παρά δήμον ονείρων, παρά δήμον ονείρων.

Αν αρχίσω να τραγουδώ θα φωνάξω
κι α φωνάξω —
Οι αγάπανθοι προστάζουν σιωπή
σηκώνοντας ένα χεράκι μαβιού μωρού της Αραβίας
ή ακόμη τα πατήματα μιας χήνας στον αέρα.

Είναι βαρύ και δύσκολο, δε μου φτάνουν οι ζωντανοί·
πρώτα γιατί δε μιλούν, κι ύστερα
γιατί πρέπει να ρωτήσω τους νεκρούς
για να μπορέσω να προχωρήσω παρακάτω.
Αλλιώς δε γίνεται, μόλις με πάρει ο ύπνος
οι σύντροφοι κόβουνε τους ασημένιους σπάγκους
και το φλασκί των ανέμων αδειάζει.
Το γεμίζω κι αδειάζει, το γεμίζω κι αδειάζει·
σαν το χρυσόψαρο κολυμπώντας
μέσα στα χάσματα της αστραπής,
κι ο αγέρας κι ο κατακλυσμός και τ' ανθρώπινα σώματα,
κι οι αγάπανθοι καρφωμένοι σαν τις σαΐτες της μοίρας
στην αξεδίψαστη γης
συγκλονισμένοι από σπασμωδικά νοήματα,
θα 'λεγες είναι φορτωμένοι σ' ένα παμπάλαιο κάρο
κατρακυλώντας σε χαλασμένους δρόμους, σε παλιά καλ­ντερίμια,
οι αγάπανθοι τ' ασφοδίλια των νέγρων:
Πώς να τη μάθω ετούτη τη θρησκεία;

Το πρώτο πράγμα που έκανε ο θεός είναι η αγάπη
έπειτα έρχεται το αίμα
κι η δίψα για το αίμα
που την κεντρίζει
το σπέρμα του κορμιού καθώς τ' αλάτι.
Το πρώτο πράγμα που έκανε ο θεός είναι το μακρινό ταξίδι·
εκείνο το σπίτι περιμένει
μ' ένα γαλάζιο καπνό
μ' ένα σκυλί γερασμένο
περιμένοντας για να ξεψυχήσει το γυρισμό.
Μα πρέπει να μ' ορμηνέψουν οι πεθαμένοι·
είναι οι αγάπανθοι που τους κρατούν αμίλητους,
όπως τα βάθη της θάλασσας ή το νερό μες στο ποτήρι.
Κι οι σύντροφοι μένουν στα παλάτια της Κίρκης·
ακριβέ μου Ελπήνωρ! Ηλίθιε, φτωχέ μου Ελπήνωρ!
Ή, δεν τους βλέπεις;
– «Βοηθήστε μας!» –
Στων Ψαρών την ολόμαυρη ράχη.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

American thinking on Cyprus

Thanks to Hermes for pointing out the latest report on Turkey from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington think tank with close ties to US government. The report, Turkey’s Evolving Dynamics, in its entirety can be read here and reflects the current thinking in the US administration regarding the need for America and Turkey to strengthen relations and promote mutual interests in the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Caucuses, Pakistan, Afghanistan and so on. The report recognises that Turkey will be best able to serve American interests if it is anchored to the EU and realises that one of the major stumbling blocks to Turkey’s ambition to join the EU is Cyprus. In the report chapter that deals with Cyprus – Cyprus: Can the Stalemate Be Overcome – which I’ve reprinted below, the author, Ian Lessing, adopts wholesale Turkish positions and attitudes on Cyprus and identifies ‘the Annan plan by another name’ as the most likely outcome of the current Christofias-Talat negotiations. Lessing also argues that to encourage Greek Cypriots to agree to an Annan VI , America should upgrade the status of the Turkish occupation regime in northern Cyprus.

Cyprus: Can the Stalemate Be Overcome, by Ian Lesser
Cyprus is arguably far less central to the strategic environment facing Turkey, Europe, and the United States than it was even a decade ago, but the situation on the island and the uncertain prospects for a settlement may still affect Turkish policy and Turkey’s strategic position, with significant implications for U.S. and European policy. Today, Cyprus is a political rather than a security issue for the key stakeholders, and dynamics on the island are now the leading variable shaping negotiations. The United States is unlikely to be the focal point for future Cyprus diplomacy, but there will still be scope for some useful policy initiatives.

Turkey’s Long-Term Interests
Ankara’s strategic stake in Cyprus has evolved considerably over time. In the decades before the 1974 intervention, and for some time afterward, the protection of the Turkish community on Cyprus was seen as integral to the defense of Turkey’s wider interests and inextricably linked to the conflict-prone relationship with Greece. Cyprus was at the core of Turkey’s own security and sovereignty-conscious outlook – an orientation shared by diverse actors within the Turkish system, from the nationalist Left (Bülent Ecevit, for example), to the Turkish military and security establishment, and, of course, the nationalist Right. Since the 1980s, the centrality of Cyprus in the Turkish strategic calculus has waxed and waned, driven by changing dynamics in relations with Greece, Europe, and even Russia.

Over the longer term, Turkey will have several critical interests in relation to Cyprus and its future status. First, there will be a continued interest in the fate of the Turkish community, many of whom are now settlers from Turkey proper with strong ties to the mainland. As the security situation on the island has become more benign, this aspect of Turkish interest has lost some of its force. In the future, this may be more about affinity and the defense of political rights rather than physical protection. But resurgent nationalism in Turkey and elsewhere is likely to make this a durable concern.

Second, Cyprus will count as part of the equation with Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States. Ankara faces a near-term deadline to implement the agreed protocol governing access of ships and aircraft from the Republic of Cyprus to Turkish ports. In the absence of this, Turkey will almost certainly face new frozen chapters in the accession negotiations, even a suspension of the country’s candidacy to the European Union, all against the backdrop of an already troubled relationship with Europe. Under current political conditions, these obstacles are difficult to overcome. More fundamentally, Turks understand that full recognition of the Republic of Cyprus is a precondition for EU membership, even as a 10- or
15-year project.

Cyprus is no longer central to U.S.-Turkish relations, but the unresolved dispute still holds the potential to complicate relations, especially in Congress. Détente with Athens has taken much of the steam out of congressional and executive attention to Cyprus and the Aegean. Nonetheless, Ankara will have certain expectations regarding U.S. policy toward the island. Policymakers should anticipate growing Turkish pressure on the United States to take steps toward reducing the economic isolation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Turkey will continue to seek similar measures from Europe as there is a widespread perception in Turkey that Europe has not lived up to its commitments in this area.

Third, Turkey will continue to be sensitive to developments on Cyprus as part of the wider strategic scene in the eastern Mediterranean. To be sure, Turks and Cypriots tend to overstate the strategic importance of the island, often using images of sea control and interdiction derived from the Cold War era of naval competition with the Soviet Union. To the extent that oil exports from Iraq to the Mediterranean and the terminus of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline at Ceyhan are important to global supply, Cyprus will have some significance in energy security terms for regional actors, including Turkey. The eastern Mediterranean is indeed set to occupy a more important position as an energy entrepôt, but in the absence of any serious maritime threats to the security of shipment, the role of Cyprus is likely to be limited to surveillance of terrorist and environmental risks – important factors to be sure, but unlikely to make Cyprus a geopolitical focal point.

If Turkey’s prevailing détente with Greece erodes, there is some potential for Cyprus to reemerge as an element in the regional military balance with Athens, as an asset for Turkish power projection in the Aegean, or as a liability in future conflict. Under current conditions, this must be regarded as a declining factor in the Turkish calculus. Turkish planners have also been concerned about the growing Russian presence on Cyprus during the past decade. Tens of thousands of Russians visit or reside on Cyprus for business or tourism. Russian arms sales, especially surface-to-air missiles and related radars, have been a special source of concern since the S-300 dispute of the 1990s. This is likely to remain a concern, particularly as part of a wider Russian return as a security actor in the eastern Mediterranean through new basing and defense industrial ties to Syria and Libya.

To the extent that Turkish policy toward Cyprus has redlines, these are more likely to apply to Turkey’s own politics and civil-military relations. Turkey’s military was not easily persuaded to support the Annan Plan in 2004. If the Turkish government is again asked to back a similar settlement, the Turkish general staff (TGS) and nationalist circles on the Right and the Left could offer strong resistance unless there are clear benefits for Turkey in other spheres. Expulsion of Anatolian settlers from the island or serious threats to the security of the Turkish community would surely bring a strong response from Ankara. In the foreign policy sphere, Turks would oppose any significant enhancement of Cypriot military capabilities and would resist Cypriot moves to join NATO in the absence of a settlement and a resolution of the ongoing NATO–European Security and Defense Policy dispute – all unlikely scenarios.

Relations with the TRNC
Cyprus has moved to the periphery of regional affairs, and the issue is much less central to the worldview of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [AKP]) government than to its predecessors. But for many Turks, Cyprus remains a nationalist issue par excellence, if somewhat recessed in recent years. As Turkish nationalism has become more prominent across the political spectrum, this has reinforced the standing potential for Cyprus to become a test of legitimacy for government and opposition in Ankara. Prominent Turks with cultural and business links to Cyprus form a lobby that any Turkish government will find difficult to ignore. That said, the relationship between Ankara and the TRNC is not necessarily an easy one. Turkish economic subsidies to the TRNC are costly and an ongoing source of resentment. Those who would like to see more rapid movement on Turkey’s EU-inspired reforms tend to see Cyprus as a drag on Turkish interests. In a narrower political sense, the TRNC government of President Mehmet Ali Talat is culturally and ideologically at odds with the AKP movement (and actually closer to the Dimitris Christofias government of the Republic of Cyprus in some respects).

The decoupling of Turkish and TRNC interests and policies has not gone as far as it has on the Greek side, perhaps, but the notion of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot futures as inextricably linked is probably a thing of the past. If the parties on the island arrive at a settlement, any Turkish government will probably feel bound to accept the terms. If the next elections in the TRNC bring a more overtly nationalist leadership to power, this would tend to reinforce the relationship with Ankara.

After decades of presence, the Turkish military has institutionalized its mission on the island and continues to see itself as a major stakeholder in the future of Cyprus. The TGS would likely oppose a precipitous withdrawal, but Turkish planners might also welcome the opportunity to shift some resources and attention to more pressing security challenges elsewhere.

Cyprus and Turkish-Greek Dynamics
The rise of Greek-Turkish détente over the past decade has been a transforming development for the strategic environment in the eastern Mediterranean and for Cyprus. Both Athens and Ankara continue to champion the interests of their respective communities on the island, but Cyprus is no longer a significant flash point in bilateral relations. For Athens, in particular, Cypriot membership in the EU has led to an implicit decoupling in policy terms. Cypriot and Greek interests may overlap, but they are no longer synonymous. The strategic logic behind Aegean détente and Greek support for Turkey’s EU ambitions also argues for stabilization and eventual settlement on Cyprus in order to complete the anchoring of Turkey in Europe and to encourage the resolution of outstanding disputes in the Aegean.

Greek leaders and observers recognize that the prospects for a settlement now depend critically on social and political dynamics on the island rather than the actions of third parties. Cyprus is unlikely to regain its position as a political and security flash point in Greek-Turkish relations unless a progressive resurgence of nationalism in both countries is accompanied by a deterioration of intercommunal relations on the island. Athens supported the Annan Plan and was disappointed when the referendum failed on the Greek side of the island in 2004. Whether under New Democracy or a PASOK government, Athens is likely to accept whatever arrangements Cypriots negotiate for themselves.

Prospects for a Settlement and Regional Concerns
Observers on both sides of the island tend to agree that the advent of the Christofias government, with Talat in power in the TRNC, offers the best prospect for a settlement since the failure of the Annan Plan. Both Christofias and Talat hail from the political Left, and both appear willing to take risks for a negotiated solution.

These positive political dynamics accompany a substantial improvement in mood at the popular level after years of essentially incident-free interaction and cross-border visits. The issue of the Anatolian settlers is less controversial than in the past. Stakes in property and land return may now trump security and demographic anxieties for an increasingly prosperous and confident Greek community.

For Turkish Cypriots, the attraction of a Cypriot solution and membership in the EU is strong, and both sides believe, probably correctly, that the financial costs of an eventual settlement would be borne by Europe.

In essence, the bizonal-bicommunal vision is now shared by both leaderships, which are heavily invested in the negotiating process under way and realize that, this time around, the failure to reach a settlement – probably a version of the Annan Plan by another name – will be blamed on the two Cypriot leaders rather than the postures of third parties. These are some positive indicators for the near term, but after several months of talks since September 2008, significant differences over power sharing and other issues persist. The current favorable climate is unlikely to persist indefinitely. The renationalization of perspectives, changes in political leadership, or the deterioration of the wider security environment in the region (reinforcing anxieties and discouraging risk taking for reunification) could mean a return to stagnation and a slide toward permanent division – with all that this might mean for Turkey’s own EU prospects.

Policy Implications for the United States and International Partners
This analysis underscores the primacy of developments on the island for the future of Cyprus. The relative weight of Athens and Ankara in the Cyprus equation has declined, although the EU factor remains critical, both as an incentive for settlement and as an actor on the island and in the region. The United States and Europe will have a shared stake in achieving a settlement in order to consolidate Greek-Turkish détente, to facilitate Turkey’s EU project, and to remove a longstanding dispute from the international agenda.

Transatlantic interests should also extend to the potential role of Cyprus as a contributor to maritime and environmental security and crisis management in the eastern Mediterranean and the Levant. Europe and the United Nations will have a structural stake and role in Cyprus diplomacy. Outside the UN frame, the United States may well have a less prominent role under current conditions. There are a couple of reasons for this, including continued Turkish suspicion of U.S. policy and the likely low priority of Cyprus in relation to other more serious and immediate foreign policy challenges. Despite these constraints, it is still possible for the United States to enhance prospects for a settlement for Cyprus if the United States:

Takes some steps, even if largely symbolic, to reduce the economic isolation of the TRNC; the United States can do so as a commitment to change, to encourage EU movement on the issue, and as a contribution to improved relations with Turkey;

Supports efforts toward a Cypriot solution before conditions change, and reinforces the very useful intercommunal programs already in place under U.S. and other auspices;

Encourages Cypriot participation in wider transatlantic projects aimed at security and development in the Mediterranean and the Levant, beyond the confines of the Cyprus problem; and

Considers appointing a special U.S. envoy to work with Turkish, Cypriot, UN, and EU diplomats; this could bolster UN efforts and send a clear signal that Washington recognizes the importance of the issue for the future stability of the broader region and expects results.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Telling the truth about the Armenian Genocide

Below is Christopher Hitchens’ article from Slate magazine on Turkish thuggery and American cynicism in the case of Armenian genocide recognition.

We must resist Turkish pressure to distort history
Even before President Barack Obama set off on his visit to Turkey this week, there were the usual voices urging him to dilute the principled position that he has so far taken on the Armenian genocide. April is the month in which the Armenian diaspora commemorates the bloody initiation, in 1915, of the Ottoman Empire's campaign to erase its Armenian population. The marking of the occasion takes two forms: Armenian Remembrance Day, on April 24, and the annual attempt to persuade Congress to name that day as one that abandons weasel wording and officially calls the episode by its right name, which is the word I used above.

Genocide had not been coined in 1915, but the U.S. ambassador in Constantinople, Henry Morgenthau, employed a term that was in some ways more graphic. In his urgent reports to the State Department, conveying on-the-spot dispatches from his consuls, especially in the provinces of Van and Harput, he described the systematic slaughter of the Armenians as ‘race murder’. A vast archive of evidence exists to support this claim. But every year, the deniers and euphemists set to work again, and there are usually enough military-industrial votes to tip the scale in favor of our Turkish client. (Of late, Turkey's opportunist military alliance with Israel has also been good for a few shame-faced Jewish votes as well).

President Obama comes to this issue with an unusually clear and unambivalent record. In 2006, for example, the U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, was recalled for employing the word genocide. Then-Sen. Obama wrote a letter of complaint to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, deploring the State Department's cowardice and roundly stating that the occurrence of the Armenian genocide in 1915 'is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence.' On the campaign trail last year, he amplified this position, saying that 'America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that president.'

For any who might entertain doubt on this score, I would recommend two recent books of exceptional interest and scholarship that both add a good deal of depth and texture to this drama. The first is Armenian Golgotha: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide, by Grigoris Balakian, and the second is Rebel Land: Travels Among Turkey's Forgotten Peoples, a contemporary account by Christopher de Bellaigue. In addition, we have just learned of shattering corroborative evidence from within the archives of the Turkish state. The Ottoman politician who began the campaign of deportation and extermination, Talat Pasha, left enormous documentation behind him. His family has now given the papers to a Turkish author named Murat Bardakci, who has published a book with the somewhat dry title The Remaining Documents of Talat Pasha. One of these 'remaining documents' is a cold estimate that during the years 1915 and 1916 alone, a total of 972,000 Armenians simply vanished from the officially kept records of population. (See Sabrina Tavernise's report in the New York Times of March 8, 2009).

There are those who try to say that the Armenian catastrophe was a regrettable byproduct of the fog of war and of imperial collapse, and this might be partly true of the many more Armenians who were slaughtered at the war's end and after the implosion of Ottomanism. But this is an archive maintained by the government of the day and its chief anti-Armenian politician, and it records in the very early days of World War I a population decline from 1,256,000 to 284,157. It is very seldom that a regime in its private correspondence confirms almost to an exactitude the claims of its victims.

So what will the deniers say now? The usual routine has been to insinuate that if Congress votes to assert the historic truth, then Turkey will inconvenience the NATO alliance by making trouble on the Iraqi border, denying the use of bases to the U.S. Air Force, or in other unspecified ways. This same kind of unchecked arrogance was on view at the NATO summit last weekend, where the Ankara government had the nerve to try to hold up the appointment of a serious Danish politician, Anders Rasmussen, as the next secretary-general of the alliance, on the grounds that as Denmark's prime minister he had refused to censor Danish newspapers to Muslim satisfaction! It is now being hinted that if either President Obama or the Congress goes ahead with the endorsement of the genocide resolution, Turkey will prove uncooperative on a range of issues, including the normalization of the frontier between Turkey and Armenia and the transit of oil and gas pipelines across the Caucasus.

When the question is phrased in this thuggish way, it can be slyly suggested that Armenia's own best interests are served by joining in the agreement to muddy and distort its own history. Yet how could any state, or any people, agree to abolish their pride and dignity in this way? And the question is not only for Armenians, who are economically hard-pressed by the Turkish closure of the common border. It is for the Turks, whose bravest cultural spokesmen and writers take genuine risks to break the taboo on discussion of the Armenian question. And it is also for Americans, who, having elected a supposedly brave new president, are being told that he—and our Congress too—must agree to collude in a gigantic historical lie. A lie, furthermore, that courageous U.S. diplomacy helped to expose in the first place. This falsification has already gone on long enough and has been justified for reasons of state. It is, among other things, precisely 'for reasons of state,' in other words for the clear and vital announcement that we can't be bought or intimidated, that April 24, 2009, should become remembered as the date when we affirmed the truth and accepted, as truth-telling does, all the consequences.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Seferis on Hellenism’s unfinished task; and more from The Free Besieged

'Greece lives, to the extent that she is able to give birth to great poets… I believe that if she has not managed to provide suitable soil for the tree that [once] burgeoned upon her land… in years to come she will be able not only to give birth, but also to suckle and to nurture the Poet, the Messiah, who will seize [back] from the hands of the barbarians the beauty, the gold-flaming torch, they have stolen from us.' (Giorgios Seferis)

Giorgios Seferis, along with Ion Dragoumis, is the greatest theorist of Hellenism in the 20th century and above is the conclusion of a lecture Seferis gave in Paris in March 1921, when he was just 21, on the Franco-Greek poet Jean Moreas (Ioannis Papadiamantopoulos). There's a lot to consider here; but just a couple of points: Seferis' optimism is surely based on the new Greek civilisation he hoped would emerge following the liberation of Asia Minor, an enterprise that failed and left Greece at the mercy of all sorts of barbarians, where, nearly 100 years later, it still remains. ‘Seizing back from the hands of the barbarians the beauty, the gold-flaming torch, they have stolen from us’ is Hellenism’s unfinished task.

■ Also, in my post for 25 March on Yiannis Markopoulos' musical interpretation of Dionysios Solomos' The Free Besieged; I omitted to make available the most beautiful and moving song on the album: Στα μάτια και στο πρόσωπο/In their eyes and on their face, sung by Nikos Xylouris. I've now put the song in Radio Akritas, and below are the lyrics.

Στα μάτια και στο πρόσωπο
Στα μάτια και στο πρόσωπο φαίνοντ' οι στοχασμοί τους.
Τους λέει μεγάλα και πολλά η τρίσβαθη ψυχή τους,
Αγάπη κι έρωτας καλού τα σπλάχνα τους τινάζουν.
Τα σπλάχνα τους κι η θάλασσα ποτέ δεν ησυχάζουν.
Γλυκιά κι ελεύθερ' η ψυχή σα να 'τανε βγαλμένη
κι υψώναν με χαμόγελο την όψη τη φθαρμένη.

In their eyes and on their face
In their eyes and on their face their thoughts are showing;
A host of major things they learn from the depths of their souls.
Their guts are violently stirred by love and desire for good;
Their guts and the sea alone are never still;
Sweet and free the soul as if it had broken loose,
And they raised with a smile their exhausted visage.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Another instalment of Castoriadis and the Greek riots

In commenting on the post David Ames Curtis tells me off over Castoriadis and the Greek riots, Troy asks:

Why is 'cops, pigs, murderers' not a proper rallying slogan? By what measure can this argument be made? Because it does not conform to some ready-made notion of what proper 'activism' consists?


Also, on what grounds can the comparison be made between a) physical battles with the cops and property destruction and b) bloodshed and gunplay? The authority of the police is one of the most restricting heteronomies currently plaguing the economic North. Although you personally disapprove of the actions taken by the Greek anarchists in challenging this heteronomy, I think you would find an unwilling ally in Castoriadis if he were alive to offer his own opinion. If he were opposed to street battles, why did he support the actions of May '68?

My brief response:

‘Cops, pigs, murderers' is not a proper rallying slogan because the Greek police are not pigs or murderers; they are human beings and creations, as individuals and as an institution, of society. If your aim is an autonomous society, then your slogan should be freedom, truth, justice, community – which is what Castoriadis says defined the '68 movements and why he supported them.

And I continue to refute the idea that Greek 'anarchists' by throwing petrol bombs at the police, ransacking Athens university and so on, were challenging heteronomy. Radical social change does not mean 'street battles'; it means changing institutions and the collective rewriting of the social imaginary significations behind institutions. If anything, the pointless, self-indulgent, anti-social actions of the Greek 'anarchists' did the oligarchy ruling Greece a big favour.

Consider this:

In the immediate aftermath of the killing of Alexis Grigoropoulos, Greeks were asking themselves what kind of society is it we live in, what kind of state do we have, in which a 15-year-old schoolboy out with his friends can end up shot dead by a policeman who revels in the nickname 'Rambo'?

With the riots, Greeks started asking themselves a different question. What kind of society do we live in, what kind of state do we have, that allows the trashing of private and public property, that cannot defend itself or us, its citizens?

The first question contains the possibility of democratic interrogation and the creation of new forms; the second question, shaped by fear and cynicism, leads to a retreat from society, into private spheres and solutions, the every-man-for-himself mentality that Thucydides describes as existing during the Plague of Athens.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Angels of Cyprus, by Nikos Kazantzakis

'Remember that the British fought in Cyprus, and seemingly had everything in their favor. It is an island half the size of New Jersey. The Royal Navy, which can be trusted to do its job, sealed off the island from the outside. There were 40,000 British troops on Cyprus under Field Marshal Sir John Harding, and his opponent, Colonel George Grivas, had 300 Greeks in the EOKA. The ratio between regular troops and guerrillas was 110-to-1 in favor of the British! After five years the British preferred to come to terms with the rebels.' (Bernard B. Fall)

EOKA (Εθνική Οργάνωσις Κυπρίων Αγωνιστών, National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters), under the leadership of Giorgos Grivas-Digenis, began its struggle to liberate Cyprus from British colonial rule and unite the island with Greece with a series of bomb attacks targeting government installations on 1 April 1955. Cypriots had been agitating for liberation and union with Greece since the Greek Enlightenment and the campaign came to a head after the Second World War, with anachronistic colonial empires collapsing and subject peoples winning their right to self-determination. The British responded to Cypriots' peaceful agitation for enosis with repression and in July 1954, the British government declared that Cyprus was too important to Britain's strategic interests and would 'never' be allowed self-determination. It is in this context of British cynicism and duplicity that EOKA was formed and in which Nikos Kazantzakis wrote in Nea Estia on 25 September, 1955, the following attack on Britain's Cyprus policy.

The Angels of Cyprus (The fate and honour of an empire)
These very days, a great people are crossing the Bridge of Trika. [The site of a heroic battle in the Greek War of Independence]. It is not only Cyprus' fate that is being judged. It is not the fate of Cyprus alone that is at stake. For the just rock is sure to devour the unjust mountain. What is at stake, what is being judged at the present moment is the fate and honour of a whole empire! The nation that had risen with such national pride and moral exaltation, as one man, to save the honour of the world in those critical hours of the war, is now undergoing one of the fatal apocalyptic trials that will reveal whether its value is genuine or counterfeit.

And at a still deeper, broader level, the fate and honour of the entire Western world is being judged. Always until now, it has boasted that it was fighting for the justice and freedom of other nations. But now we will see whether that world is worthy of using these sacred words, whether the soul of any honourable man at the present time can have confidence in world leaders such as these…

In a major island, 400,000 spirits are raising a hue and cry, demanding their liberty. And the thrice-noble nation where liberty and light were born is raising a hue and cry along with them. From the four corners of the earth (and even from English throats) voices of anger and protest are exploding. By now it is no longer possible for violence and injustice to stifle a whole people in secret, without protest. Apparently, this world we thought had gone rotten, still has spirits that dare to rear their head against hypocrisy, injustice, arrogance.

It is a critical moment. The moral salvation of the whole world depends on the answer given to the Cyprus question. And on this moral salvation, the political, social, cultural salvation of the world has always depended. Cyprus is no longer a detail now, a mere island at the extreme tip of the Mediterranean. It is becoming the fate-marked centre, where the moral value of contemporary man is at stake.

How is the British Empire facing this tragic moment where its own value is on trial? Alas! With means unworthy of a great nation; with unmanly silence at first; and then with deceit, sycophantism, violence. Shame has hidden its face, far off from the disgraced quarters of the Foreign Office.

The genuine people, though, are not despairing. They know that in this dishonourable, inconsistent world, certain fundamental principles still live and reign, daughters of man, whom he has created with his own sweat, blood, tears. And these are the immortal ones. Most of them were born in Greece: freedom, human dignity, the thirst for justice.

Great mysterious forces are multiplying and bearing fruit even while they are being pursued. Hear the words of an age-old myth: An angel came down to earth, and the ruler of the world was enraged on seeing it. And he lunged at it with his sword and split it in two. And at once the angel became two. And again, the ruler of the world lunged at them and split these two angels in two. And the two angels became four, and the four eight, and the eight sixteen, and soon the earth was filled with angels.

Who was this angel? The angel of freedom? Cyprus will soon be full of angels. And the ruler of the world will be crushed, disgraced in Tartarus, his sword shattered.

There is some mystic law in this world (for if there were not, this world would have been destroyed thousands of years ago), a harsh, inviolable law: in the beginning, evil always triumphs, and in the end it is always vanquished. Apparently, for man to buy this privilege, much effort, much sweat, many tears are imperative. And freedom is the most expensive good that can be bought. It is never given for nothing, either by human beings or by the gods. It goes from land to land, where it is summoned, from heart to heart, unsleeping, unsubduable, uncompromising. At the moment we can watch it traversing the soil of Cyprus with steady momentum. And soon its limbs will be spattered with blood. For this is the way freedom always forges its path.

For us this is a good moment to forget our passions and petty cares; for each man of us with his own God-given gifts to follow the path of freedom throughout the land of Cyprus. And we must share her grief, her upsurge, her danger, insofar as we are capable, and surely later on (for this is the law, we said) her great joy as well.

I myself represent nothing. I am not anything. Only a clear conscience. But a clear conscience weighs more in the scale of God and time than an empire. And now that Cyprus has been saved from the waves and is crying out, all clear consciences – from all the quarters of the world; wherever they may be – can hear this cry and see the injustice and cast the stone (the curse) against the ruler of the world, the wrongdoer. The ruler laughs and acts in a cynical manner. He has the power on his side, soldiers, fleets, lethal birds of the air, vast wealth and traitors – and great hubris. He laughs and acts in a cynical manner, but one day (such has always been the omnipotence of man when wronged) – one day, Clear Conscience will hurl this stone at it and it will hang around the neck of the empire and sink it. The great empires have always sunk.

Several years I went back to Cyprus, enchanted by her Greek light and pleasant air. An old man emerged from a peasant home near Famagusta. We picked up a conversation. He was discussing (what else?) the union, and his eyes flashed. And suddenly a broad smile flooded his sunburned face. He put his hand over his heart, and he said, slowly as though confiding some great secret to me:

'The foundation stones of England are shaking! They are shaking, because the human heart has stirred.'

Yes, the human heart has stirred, O great Empire!