Sunday, 21 October 2012

Greece courts Egypt, aims to pre-empt Turkish machinations

The visit of Greece’s president Karolos Papoulias to Egypt this week went a little under the radar; but it shouldn’t be underestimated. Papoulias doesn’t make that many trips abroad, so this one (which took in commemorations for the 70th anniversary of the Greek and Allied victory at El Alamein) indicates that Greece has targetted Egypt for a charm offensive, concerned that the new Muslim Brotherhood regime will steer the country into an alliance with Turkey, also with a Sunni and Islamist outlook, which would undermine Greece’s and Cyprus’ sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Greece does not have an agreement with Egypt on Exclusive Economic Zones and knows that Turkey is lobbying Egypt to agree to their maritime borders in such a way that would ignore the sovereignty of Cyprus and Greece and turn the Eastern Mediterranean into a Turko-Egyptian sea. Greece can claim a 200 nautical mile EEZ around Kastelorizo, implementation of which would make Greece’s and Cyprus’ EEZs contiguous, while Cyprus has an EEZ agreement with Egypt, but it was signed with the Mubarak regime in 2003 and Lefkosia is now concerned that the new government in Cairo, with new strategic priorities, will abandon it. (Remarkably, Greece and Cyprus do not have an EEZ agreement).

In his public comments to President Mohammed Morsi, Papoulias made prominent reference to the EEZ issue, saying: ‘The discovery of significant gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean is an important geopolitical and geoeconomic development. Greece attaches particular importance to the brokering of an agreement with Egypt for the delineation of an EEZ, which would be of benefit to both countries.’

And just to underline Greece’s anxiety about a Turkey-Egypt alliance, it’s worth reading this article from the New York Times, which begins:

‘With war on Turkey’s borders, and political and economic troubles in Egypt, the two countries have turned to each other for support, looking to build an alliance that could represent a significant geopolitical shift in the Middle East prompted by the Arab Spring, uniting two countries with regional ambitions each headed by parties with roots in political Islam.’


Hermes said...

Interesting doco series on ethnic cleansing in Asia Minor, Cyprus and India/Pakistan etc. I have not watched it but worth spending some time on it:

The EU funding makes me suspicious.

John Akritas said...

I saw the one on Cyprus here:

It's allright. The TCs it puts up are the usual left-wing suspects, who are not representative of that community's views. Only other thing I'd say is that given, in 1963, GCs knew that the TC leadership was encouraging TCs to leave mixed and remote villages and gather in larger enclaves in preparation for a Turkish invasion and partition; then how stupid were we to help this process along by displacing TCs? I guess we couldn't resist, and didn't realise how serious the Turks were about partitioning the island.

John Akritas said...

And I don't like this 'Twice a Stranger' theory that equates the Greeks expelled from Asia Minor and Thrace to the Turks expelled from the Balkans. The expulsion of Greeks – the indigenous population – was an act of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The expulsion of Turks amounted to decolonisation, and can be justified.

Hernes said...

I bought the O Malley/Craig book second hand for basically nothing. What is your opinion of this work?

John Akritas said...

I read it a while ago and my recollection is that it's a good book, in line with the narrative that Cyprus fell victim to an Anglo-American plot conceived in cold war paranoia; but I also recall thinking that all it did was put some flesh on the bones of Christopher Hitchens' version of events in his book, Cyprus: Hostage to History.

Hermes said...

The description of the EOKA insurgency against the British army and British interests was very pleasurable. It is amazing what we can achieve when we have good leadership, organisation and belief in a common cause.

Unfortunately, some physchos and hotheads started to take charge later. However, I thought Makarios was foolish to flirt so much with the Communist Bloc; although, he was sort of forced to do this to neutralise AKEL. Again, the Communists played a negative role in Greek politics.

We have to realise that it does not pay to annoy the hegemon if we want them to help us.

John Akritas said...

Indeed, Makarios was not inclined ideologically towards the communist bloc or the non-aligned movement. Remember, he was educated in the US and was close to the Kennedy clan. In fact, as parochial as this might sound, JFK's assassination was a terrible blow to Cyprus, as it ushered in the much more hostile LBJ regime, which in its hostility prompted Makarios to look towards the other hegemon, the Soviets.

Hermes said...

John, I do not believe Makarios was inclined ideologically towards the Communist Bloc or the non-aligned movement; however, I think being educated somewhere can sometimes have no influence. In fact, it can help to turn against the host country. For example, Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot were educated in Paris but this did not help the French when the two of them turned against them.

My point is that I think Makarios made a mistake in looking towards the other hegemon. It is easy for us to say today, with the knowledge of what ultimately happened in 1974, but what did he really think he was going to achieve in the paranoid world of the 1960/70’s? It sounds like that the British and then later the Americans, were going to protect their interests in Cyprus no matter what, so by appearing to tilt towards the Soviets it was only going to mean that the Americans were going to find another faction in Cyprus who would protect their interests. If Makarios did not tilt towards the Soviets, then the status quo might have remained, which was better than bringing the Turkish army in. Although, Also, let’s say Makarios tilted towards the Soviets in the hope they might assist diplomatically or even militarily, it is not certain the Soviets would have taken on Cyprus anyway given that Turkey abutted its southern borders and Straits. I think the Soviets would have preferred Turkey tilted towards them.

Obviously, my knowledge of these matters is sketchy.

John Akritas said...

I agree that it's not that important where he was educated; except in this case Makarios studied theology in Boston and it was here that he became close to the Kennedys. The EOKA and Enosis movement in Cyprus started off as anti-communist, and there is a theory that the church stepped up the campaign for Enosis in the 1950s as a reaction to the growing influence of AKEL. Certainly, Grivas was a rabid anti-communist, something he picked up as a soldier in Greece, but this did not translate well into Cyprus, where the Greek civil war cleavage was not replicated.

As to whether Makarios was right to court the Soviets and alienate even further the US, etc: my view is that he was forced to make this choice, even though he knew the risks. No doubt in my mind he would have preferred to see Cyprus aligned to the West, but if the West is determined to destroy you, then what can you do? I tend to think of Makarios as a tragic hero and the dilemmas he faced were classically tragic. Whatever he did risked Cyprus' destruction. Incredibly, he seemed to be making it all work – the Turks couldn't invade, the TCs were desperate, GCs had taken over the state and were prospering economically – and then the Greek junta stepped in…

Hermes said...

I forgot to write, that Makarios appeared to have flirted with the Communist Bloc to neutralize AKEL, but rather than do that, why not simply ask for money from the Americans to destroy AKEL at the ballot box during the early 1960’s, and if that did not work, then through the old EOKA infrastructure.

How determined was the West to destroy Cyprus in the early to mid 1960’s before the Junta? It does not seem to me that this was definitely the case. I think that Makarios’s primary motivation were to neutralize AKEL. It is only later that the West was really determined to destroy the Republic or what was left of it and this was partly a result of Makarios’s miscalculations. Of course, the Junta was largely to blame. The parlous state of Greek armed forces by the time of 1972-74, is an unforgiveable crime. You'd think a military dictatorship would have military readiness front of mind.

John Akritas said...

The US fear of AKEL was exaggerated, based on cold war paranoia. Makarios was not obliged to share it. The GC leadership was entirely in the hands of EOKA people. AKEL wasn't about to take over the leadership of the GC community. It would also have been a mistake (and impossible) to ban AKEL and risk civil war among GCs, who, besides, had no stomach for such an internal conflict, which would have benefitted the Turks – as happened in 1974. Makarios' strategy to achieve the broadest possible unity among GCs was correct.

Although the West (particularly the British) had toyed with the idea of partitioning Cyprus in the 1950s, this became its priority in 1963/4, with the Acheson plans, which was before the junta. The Americans wanted to partition Cyprus, between Greece and Turkey, to prevent a war between the two NATO allies, to fully incorporate Cyprus within NATO and to prevent the island from falling into Soviet hands. Greece was, by and large, keen on partition – both pre-junta and junta governments – but couldn't persuade Makarios to go along with it, hence the need to get rid of him.

I don't believe Cyprus fell because of Makarios' miscalculations, and if I had to say what these miscalculations were I wouldn't identify the ones you're suggesting. I'd say his biggest miscalculation was to underestimate the stupidity/madness of Ioannides and to seek confrontation with him rather than just sit it out and wait for the junta to collapse, which is what, after the Polytechnic events, it was in the process of doing.

Hermes said...

John, perhaps US fear of AKEL was exaggerated, but according to this book they were garnering 30% and more of the support in the early 1960’s. That is a large amount of the support. I am not suggesting a civil war but the Makarios government could have asked the US for financial support to reduce the grievances people had that resulted in heightened AKEL support, rather than tilting towards the Communist Bloc when they knew how paranoid the US and the rest of the West was.

I am not suggesting Cyprus fell because of Makarios’s miscalculations. I have always held him in high esteem; however, no matter how clever people are, they are not perfect. And our ideas of them must always be challenged. I am not mentioning the Junta because I think it is self-evident they were a bunch of lunatics.

In regards to Greek support for partition before the Junta, many of the people in those Greek administrations were fairly rational people. Why did they come to this position?

John Akritas said...

It's not clear to me that AKEL's support derived from economic conditions on the island and, indeed, in the 1960s Cyprus experienced an economic boom; so I'm not sure what US money could have done to diminish AKEL.

AKEL was for a long time, under the British, the only legal party on the island and this explains how it is was able to insinuate itself into Cypriot society and obtain, as you say, 30% allegiance. But even at 30%, it was always far from power – its strength lay in the trade union and co-op movement. There was never any chance of it replacing nationalist dominance. In fact, nationalist sentiment on the island was so intense that AKEL had no choice but to go along with it and always supported enosis.

As for the people who ran Greece before the junta; we're talking King Constantine, Constantine Karamanlis and George Papandreou. A rum bunch. Karamanlis had already betrayed Cyprus (and Greece) in the 1950s; while Papandreou wasn't averse to partition, and it was only the influence of Andreas Papandreou on him that ensured he didn't push this enthusiasm too far. The post-1949 Greek governments were dominated by fear of communism and of playing their part as a loyal member of NATO. This trumped any national commitment to Cyprus. Also, the junta leaders didn't come from outside the regime that ran Greece after 1949. They were part of it and inherited a great many things from it, including its Cyprus policy and a belief that Makarios was an impediment to its fulfillment.

Hermes said...

Greece was also experiencing an economic boom in the 1960’s but radical Left sentiment only went underground. I am not quite sure economic boom conditions suppresses sentiment for the radical Left. Often, it increases it, as the boom often exacerbates perceived inequalities.

It begs the question, if AKEL was so under control of the Nationalists as you claim, then why did Makarios tilt to the Communist Bloc?

Although, I am not a great fan of Constantine Karamanlis, and even slightly, liked George Papandreou better, they were not unintelligent men. Also, people like Averoff, Kanellopoulos were respected individuals. It is not good enough to write them off so easily. However, I am not interested in defending them, I am interested in understanding their argument for partition. And as for Andreas Papandreou, I’d like to know what his argument was for independence.

John Akritas said...

But you were suggesting that Makarios should have taken US money to alleviate economic grievances, whereas I'm saying social strife in Cyprus was alleviated by economic boom and the predominance of nationalist discourse. Short of banning AKEL, and risking civil war, I don't know what Makarios could have done to assuage US fears. More generally, after 1963/4, I don't think there's anything Makarios could have done to convince the Americans to abandon their policy of partition.

Karamanlis was not interested in nationalist imbroglios and confrontations with Turkey – which is how he regarded Cyprus. He regarded the kind of irredentist Greek nationalism Cyprus represented as risking Greece's national security, which he perceived to be at greatest risk from the communist Balkan states, and inhibiting Greece's modernisation and Europeanisation. Similarly, George Papandreou flirted with US plans to partition Cyprus because he was reluctant to risk Greece's relationship with America. Greece did not have an independent foreign policy at this time. So, the argument for partition – or rather for settling the Cyprus issue – from Greece's point of view, was that: it would prevent Greece from falling out with the West; prevent conflict with Turkey; allow Greece to concentrate on social and economic reform at home; and, as anti-communist cold warriors, ending Cyprus' independence, carving it up between Greece and Turkey, would have meant securing the island for NATO.

The arguments against partition – remembering that partition was Turkey's preferred solution to the Cyprus problem – were that Greeks would, again, be abandoning Greek territory to the Turks; no Greek Cypriot would accept their country being partitioned so Greece would have had to use force (which is what it did in the end) to get it done; that partition would set a precedent for other territorial disputes between Greece and Turkey; and much else besides.

Makarios' policy was clear: enosis of the whole island with Greece and, if this was not possible, then independence until it was possible, i.e. the Cretan solution.

It's also important to remember that while Greece and Turkey were in agreement that they should partition Cyprus, they could never agree as to how this should be done, who should take what, should Kastelorizo be involved and so on. Thus, the coup against Makarios was an attempt not to annex Cyprus but to partition the island on Greece's terms, while the invasion was Turkey saying no, we will partition the island on our terms.

John Akritas said...

I should add that Perry Anderson's essay, The Divisions of Cyprus, is very good about this period and what was going on in Greece's head; and is much better than O' Malley and Craig.

Hermes said...

Yes, I have read the Perry Anderson article several times. However, he writes some things which are not accurate. For example:

"But in the 19th century, distant four hundred miles from Greece, it remained unaffected by the national awakening that produced, first Greek independence itself, then successive risings against Ottoman rule in Crete and its union with Greece before the First World War."

Also, his strong Leftist sympathies makes him susceptible to bias towards AKEL and against EOKA.

Hermes said...

The attempt to partition Cyprus on Greece's terms by the Junta, when Greece was not even ready to defend Thrace or the outlying islands in the Aegean, was completely insane. So insane that certain conspiracy theories begin to appear plausible.

I have just ordered Mallinson's book.

John Akritas said...

Ioannides' plan only makes sense if he was led to believe (by the US) that the Turks would not intervene, that they understood that the coup was not intended to annex all of Cyprus but was designed to get rid of Makarios as a prelude to partition. Obviously, a number of things went wrong; notably the fact that Makarios survived the coup and the more respectable figures the junta had in mind to replace him should he have been killed were now not going to be involved in the mess, which left them scraping the bottom of the barrel and coming up with the gangster Nikos Sampson.

I don't know Mallinson. Do you think Anderson is fair to conservative Greek politicians of the 1950s and 1960s, describing them basically as American lickspittle?

Hermes said...

In regards to the Greek politicians of the 1950's and 1960's, we must remember that they really were not much different from many other politicians from small states on the edge of the Cold War. Even larger states acted pathetically. Remember, a huge world war has just finished, the global economy was in ruins and many states like Greece were dealing with a low level Communist problem. What would Perry Anderson prefer, that Greek politicians were Stalin or Kruschnev's lickspittle? Probably.

John Akritas said...

What's interesting is that Turkey, which also subordinated to a large extent its interests to Nato expediencies, because it realised that this was frustrating its Cyprus policy began in the mid-1960s to develop an independent foreign policy. There was an equivalent movement in Greece – led by the now much maligned Andreas Papandreou – which explains, to some extent, why Greece ended up with a junta. The 1967 coup was really a coup against Andreas Papandreou.

Hermes said...

That is right. But, Turkey was more valuable to the US than Greece and Cyprus. The Americans are quite clear about this in the 1960's. The Turks probably read the international situation better.

As for Andreas Papandreou, how can we be so sure that most of what he said was not rhetorical? When he actually came to power in the 80s, he did not really pursue an independent foreign policy. He made some rhetorical flourishes, shooks hands with Gadaffi but did whatever any Right wing Greek politician would have done.

Following on from my points above, as the Greek politicans of the 50s and 60s were so supine (but this was no different than most other small countries) the question arises, why did they not just go along with Makarios until at least the early 60s. He had a vision of independence and then enosis. Why not agree with him?

John Akritas said...

Makarios' policy of consolidating independence before enosis wasn't really defined until after the intercommunal violence of 1963/4, when it became clear to the GCs that any attempt to force enosis through would not be supported by Greece, particularly in the event of a certain Turkish military response. Makarios also realised that the international actors involved – notably the US with their Acheson plans – would respond to further GC pressure for enosis by encouraging partition.

So, in the early 1960s, Greece's leadership was opposed to the continuing Cypriot push for enosis and wanted the GCs to make the 1960 constitution work. I've mentioned the reasons above why Greece's leadership did not want to be distracted by Cyprus.

The reasons are the same for why, after 1964, Greece's political elite sympathised with partition – they simply thought this an equitable solution, that it would make the Cyprus problem go away, prevent conflict with Turkey, keep Greece in the Western camp and so on. What we mustn't assume is that Greece's political elite ever supported enosis. At best, it was split or, when it did support Makarios, being led by public opinion. If Cyprus had been handed to Greece on a plate like the Dodecanese, then no doubt the country's political elite would have taken it; but they didn't have the stomach for a protracted fight to secure the island for Greece.

Hermes said...

New book released, Flame of Miletus, published by IB Taurus and written by John Freely. It appears to be a history of science with a focus on the Greeks. Encouragingly, and unusual for a non-Greek, it takes the story into Byzantium with sections on Ioannis Philopponus, Nikiphorus Blemmydes and other Byzantine scientists and mathematicians. It also points out the strong contact between the Byzantines and people like Leonardo of Pisa (also known as Fibbonacci), James of Venice and Henry Aristipus, helping to refute the spurious conclusion (often buttressed by post-modern pseudo-progressive guilt politics) that science was wholly transmitted to Western Europe by the Arabs.