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, 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.