Tuesday, 8 March 2011
What’s happening in our neighbourhood
First, there was this article on the Greek minority in Lebanon – which according to the author amounts to some seven percent of the Lebanese population. The author claims that of all the ethnic groups in Lebanon, the Greeks are the worst organised and the most prone to Arabisation, to Arab propaganda that they are not Greeks but Syrians, proto-Arabs or pre-Islamic Arabs. The author makes a plea for Greeks in Lebanon to establish their own political party and protect their ethnicity and identity, which goes back to Hellenistic and Byzantine times.
The story is further proof of Hellenism’s retreat and Greece’s indifference to those Greeks beyond the borders of the Greek state. It’s also worth pointing out that Greeks from Cyprus should feel a special affinity for the Lebanese Greeks because many Cypriots are descended from the Greek communities of the Levant, which fled the Arab invasions and found refuge in Cyprus.
Secondly, I read Kathimerini editor Alexis Papachelas’ interview with Ahmet Davoutoglu, on the eve of the Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Greece. The interview covers the Aegean – including Davoutoglu’s assertion that Kastellorizo is not an Aegean but a Mediterranean issue – Turkey’s vision for itself and energy and economic co-operation between Greece and Turkey.
You’ll have to wait until the last paragraph to find Papachelas asking Davoutoglu something about Greece’s so-called number one foreign policy issue, i.e. Cyprus, and then Cyprus is only mentioned in relation to the Turkish Cypriot protests against Ankara, giving Davoutoglu the opportunity to reassure Papachelas that there is no rift between Turkey and the TRNC – the ‘TRNC’ is referred to in the piece without caveats, as if it were a de jure entity.
I note that Kathimerini, Papachelas and Skai TV are from the same stable and the underlying servility of the interview provides us with clear proof as to what Skai’s infamous series on the 1821 revolution is driving at: Greece sacrificing its national interests and watering down its national identity in order to achieve ‘reconciliation’ with Turkey.
And, finally, I read this piece in the Cyprus edition of Kathimerini. It refers to contacts and briefings Cypriot journalists have been given by senior Israeli officials in light of President Christofias’ upcoming official visit to the Jewish state. (The fact that the communist Christofias is even making such a visit is extraordinary and tells us the extent of the changes in strategic relations taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean).
The article reveals Israeli fears that the neighbourhood is becoming more threatening and their hopes for stronger relations with Greece and Cyprus, especially in the energy field given the significant hydrocarbon finds in the Israeli and Cypriot EEZs. The article also says that not all Israeli officials have given up hopes for rapprochement with Turkey, but there are others not so optimistic, believing that Turkey, under Erdogan, has set itself firmly on an Islamic course:
‘Regarding Turkey’s European accession process, it is believed in Israel that Turkey is not serious about entering the EU. Instead, Erdogan and his party are using the European card to weaken the military and the Kemalist elite…
‘After the [June] elections in Turkey, and if Erdogan emerges completely victorious, then Turkey will make a significant turn towards a clear Islamic outlook, which will take Turkey further away from Europe. Such a turn might also lead to Turkey adopting a stance on Cyprus outside of the parameters the UN has set for a Cyprus solution.’