Monday, 5 March 2012

Does Turkey really want to annex northern Cyprus?

Turkey’s so-called European affairs minister Egemen Bagis was reported yesterday to have said in an interview with Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris that if the UN-sponsored talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots do not produce a conclusion by this summer, then Turkey could annex northern Cyprus.

It’s a strange statement to make, which shows that Turkey is rather confused regarding its Cyprus policy or is, at least, having problems articulating it.

For a start, Turkey already annexed northern Cyprus in 1974. Everyone knows that Turkey runs the show in the occupied areas, with its 40,000 troops and 200,000 settlers and that the political regime it has established there, the so- called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, is entirely subordinate to it. Indeed, when the Turkish Cypriots took up arms in the 1950s for ‘partition or death’, this partition of Cyprus wasn’t meant to end with an independent Turkish Cypriot state, but with the annexation of the spoils to Turkey. Pan-Turanism is what motivated men like Rauf Denktash, not petty notions of community rights or autonomy for Turkish Cypriots.

So, of course, what Bagis meant when he said Turkey was considering annexing northern Cyprus was that it was considering a formal annexation; of announcing to the international community that which already exists on the ground, that northern Cyprus would be Turkey’s 82nd province.

However, this article (in Greek) in yesterday’s Phileleftheros suggested that annexation won’t be done through a grand declaration of a fait accompli, but would amount to further steps aimed at integrating occupied Cyprus into Turkey. According to Phileleftheros, this would involve promoting Turkish settlers to key political positions in the pseudo-state and encouraging Turkish businessmen to make massive investments in northern Cyprus, particularly in infrastructural projects.

The Phileleftheros scenario makes more sense because it’s difficult to see what Turkey would gain by formally annexing occupied Cyprus. As we’ve already noted, since Turkey’s invasion in 1974, annexation has already taken place, and there is no reason to suppose that formalising this would attract any more legitimacy than the declaration of an independent Turkish Cypriot state did in 1983.

Moreover, for Turkey to announce a formal takeover of northern Cyprus would be to admit that it was limiting its ambitions on the island. This is because Turkey’s aim in Cyprus is not to control half of the island, but to control all of it. And Turkey knows that the only way it can achieve this is by depriving the Greeks on the island of political power – by dismantling the Republic of Cyprus and replacing it with an emasculated United Federal Republic of Cyprus, in which the Turks are independent in the north – independent in this context means entirely dependent on Turkey – and partners in the south.

Thus, if Turkey were to formally annex northern Cyprus, this wouldn’t resolve Turkey’s central problem, which is the existence of the Republic of Cyprus, able, as it is, to block Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, sign hydrocarbon agreements with Israel, project the influence of countries like Greece and Russia, and generally obstruct Turkey’s aim of dominating the Eastern Mediterranean. For Turkey to overcome these obstacles, it needs to suffocate or eliminate any significant Greek state entity on Cyprus, and for this it needs the Turkish minority on the island to be involved in the administration of the entire island, to be given the rights and powers envisaged for it in the Annan Plan.


Anonymous said...

An outstanding analysis. On questions of national security this blog is peerless.Unfortunately on cultural questions and politics in general it is mired in neo orthodox and ultra right wing prejudice.

Hermes said...

John, I bet you'd never thought you'd be accused of "Neo Orthodox" and "Ultra Right Wing" prejudice??? Ha ha.

If Anonymous read this blog more carefully he would realise that Anonymous's comments say more about Anonymous than they do about John's blog.

John Akritas said...

You're right, anon. I've got to stop writing about ultra right-wing neo-orthodox nutters like Varoufakis and Castoriadis, and harping on about reactionary artists like Angelopoulos and Cassavetes. I'll get a bad reputation.

But, more seriously, there is no separation of national security issues, the political and the cultural. If I'm wrong about one, then I'm wrong about them all. I say this after reading something Philip Sherrard wrote about Plethon, about how he realised that the Byzantine world had fallen apart because the political order had become separated from the intellectual order. In other words, it's no good saying the Turks pose a national security threat to Greece and, then, amplifying Che Guevara or Lenin as Greece's political or cultural archetypes. If Turkey is an existential threat to Greece, then Greeks should dwell on the examples of Pericles, Themistocles and Grigoris Afxentiou.

Anonymous said...

excellent analysis, but the question remains what should the Greek Cypriots do...push for a settlement of partition with more land and coastline returned to the Greeks side. And say you wanted taksim okay on a 18% and 82% basis of terriroty and coastline?

all the agreement sCyprus signed since the invasion are based on a Bi zonal Bi communal republic.

If thats not what we want then maybe Taksim is best...

Ideally, one man one vote and removal of all turkish troops etc. but realistically..whats possible.

John Akritas said...

Can you say which agreements Cyprus has signed that agree to bizonality? If I am right – and I am right – that Turkey's aim is control of the whole of Cyprus, then what makes you think they'd settle for 18% of the island and leave the rest in peace? Do you think to appease Turkey, Greece should hand over 18% of Thrace and the Aegean? In the past, when invaders came to Greece and demanded water and earth, Greeks resisted; but nowadays I'm surprised (or maybe I'm not) by how many regard capitulation as some form of victory. Bizarre.