Friday, 27 September 2013

On cultural restoration, UN settlement negotiations and Golden Dawn in Cyprus

Some comments on events from this week.

First, following on from this post on Turkey’s assault on the cultural heritage of Cyprus, the short video above is well worth watching. It describes the latest efforts of Tasoula Hadjitofi to counter the systematic looting and trafficking of Cypriot cultural artifacts that followed Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Hadjitofi’s campaigning has resulted in many notable victories against the looters and traffickers and led to the restoration to Cypriot authorities of some of the island’s most important cultural works. Thus, this week, 18 years after she first discovered (in the possession of an elderly couple from Rotterdam) the looted icons from the iconostasis of Antifonitis Church near Turkish-occupied Kalogrea village, Hadjitofi had the satisfaction of seeing Dutch authorities return the works to Cyprus and to their rightful owners, the Church of Cyprus. (Of course, Hadjitofi’s efforts only scratch at the surface – 25,000 icons have been looted from churches and monasteries in occupied Cyprus – but the principle of restoration she is upholding is worthy).

Second, regarding developments in negotiations for a Cyprus settlement, it was announced this week that the Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis would be meeting next month with officials from Turkey. A reciprocal meeting will be held between Turkish Cypriot negotiator Osman Ertug and officials from Greece. For some reason, this development was described as a breakthrough. This is because, apparently, it will enable the Greek Cypriot side to directly talk with the only power capable of expediting a settlement, i.e. Turkey. However, I fail to see what it is that Mavroyiannis will be able to tell the Turks that will convince them to modulate their Cyprus policy, which as I keep repeating is based on a desire to bring the whole of the island within Turkey’s sphere of influence. Does anyone seriously believe that Turkey is in a mood to put another nail in the coffin of its dying neo-Ottoman foreign policy by retreating from Cyprus and abandoning its perceived interests in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Third, following on from events in Greece regarding Golden Dawn, which I posted on here; it might be of interest to some to watch the video below from Cyprus TV station Sigma. It involves an interview with Christos Christou, leader of ELAM (the National Popular Front), the sister party of Golden Dawn in Cyprus. The party doesn’t seem to have much traction on the island, with its candidate in last February’s presidential elections picking up 3,899 votes, or 0.88 percent of the total vote. In the interview, Christou denied ELAM was a fascist party and said its nationalism was inspired by figures like Ion Dragoumis and Pericles Yiannopoulos – this is a likely story. He also said that ELAM was particularly concerned by the amount of Muslim immigrants to Cyprus who, he feared, if granted citizenship at some stage, would collaborate with the Turkish Cypriot community on the island. And, finally, and following on from the point I made in my previous post on the likely endurance of Golden Dawn in Greek politics, the anecdote told by the interviewer, Panayiotis Dimopoulos, who is from Greece, regarding the Agios Panteleimonas district of Athens, is revealing. Dimopoulos says he is from Agios Panteleimonas and one of the reasons he left the area to come to Cyprus was because it had become a no-go area for Greeks, subject as they were to crime and harassment from desperate illegal immigrants, trying to survive in any way possible. However, he says, on visiting Agios Panteleimonas this summer, he noticed a dramatic improvement in the situation with locals once again feeling safe in their neighbourhood. When he asked locals to explain how this progress had come about, they told him it was down to the patrols and (sometimes violent) activities of Golden Dawn.

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