Showing posts with label Kastellorizo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kastellorizo. Show all posts

Monday, 4 March 2013

Turkey: an unreliable partner and regional bully

There’s an excellent account (in English) of what Turkey’s ‘zero-problems with neighbours’ foreign policy has meant in practice by International Relations professor, Ilias Kouskouvelis, and which I came across here, where the article can be read in full.

In the piece, Professor Kouskouvelis analyses how Turkey’s new foreign policy has played out in its relations with Greece and Cyprus; the former Soviet republics in the Caucasus; Iraq and Syria; Iran; and Israel, and concludes that the ‘zero-problems’ policy was insincere from the start, had nothing to do with the creation of an era of peaceful co-operation and co-existence and was more a thinly-disguised assertion of Turkey’s imperial, neo-Ottoman ambitions. As such, the professor argues, Turkey’s new foreign policy is creating more problems than it is solving and Turkey is coming to be regarded as an ‘unreliable partner by its allies’ and a ‘regional bully by its neighbors’.

Below is the part of the article that deals with Turkey’s relations with Greece and Cyprus.

The Eastern Mediterranean
Achieving a zero problems status with Greece and Cyprus would seem to be the most difficult goal for Ankara to attain, given both countries’ painful history with Turkey.

Even if one could put aside the long and tortuous past – from the Greek war of independence of the 1820s, to the 1923 uprooting of Greeks from Asia Minor, to sporadic crises over Aegean islands (1976, 1987, 1996), to the continuing standoff over air space and territorial waters – the AKP’s rise to power has exacerbated, not allayed, tensions.

Far from following a zero problems policy with Greece, Turkey maintains existing problems and adds new ones: It has made alleged violations of the Muslim minority’s rights in Western Thrace an item on the Islamic Conference’s agenda and has muddied the waters over what constitutes Greece’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by questioning the role of the Greek island of Kastelorizo (one mile off Turkey's coast) in determining that EEZ. And Davutoğlu’s ambitions did not stop here:

‘The security of the Balkans is increasingly identified with the security considerations of Turkey’s western border. The security zone that has been established in eastern Thrace during the Cold War should be extended to the west with multilateral and bilateral agreements which should be made on a Balkan level.’

These are not mere words. Ankara has recently signed a military cooperation agreement with Albania, allowing docking privileges for Turkish warships at Durës, thereby marking the return of the Turkish navy to the Adriatic Sea after centuries. The press has reported that Turkey is responsible for the cancellation of an agreement between Athens and Tirana over the delimitation of maritime zones, and Turkey has also initiated major programs of military assistance to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a state with which Greece is in dispute over the use of the name ‘Macedonia’. Finally, Turkey continues to flood Greece and the European Union with tens of thousands of mostly Muslim illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, the already fraught relations with Cyprus have worsened. Turkey not only works against ending the continued and illegal occupation of the northern half of the island but seems bent on increasing problems. Such behavior is not all that surprising considering Davutoğlu’s belief:

‘It is not possible for a country that neglects Cyprus to have a decisive say in the global and regional politics… Even if there was not one Muslim Turk there, Turkey had to maintain a Cyprus issue. No country can stay indifferent toward such an island, located in the heart of its very own vital space… Turkey needs to see the strategic advantage which it obtained… in the 1970s, not as the component of a Cyprus defense policy, directed toward maintaining the status quo, but as one of the diplomatic main supports of an aggressive maritime strategy.’

Small wonder, therefore, that Ankara reacted to the discovery of new energy resources in the Cypriot EEZ in a heavy-handed manner, stating that it too had rights and interests in the region and warning that support for the Republic of Cyprus on this issue would have consequences in future negotiations with Nicosia. It attempted to stop Cyprus and Noble Energy, which planned to drill for natural gas off [the] southern Cyprus coast, from proceeding, then signed an agreement delimiting the continental shelf between itself and the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (recognized by no one except Ankara), so as to carry out its own energy exploration in the area. This culminated in Ankara dispatching a research vessel into the Cypriot EEZ to protect its ‘national interests’, simultaneously ignoring US and EU entreaties and alarming Israel.

Notwithstanding claims about zero problems then, Turkish behavior in the eastern Mediterranean remains impenitent, bordering on the aggressive, and seemingly indifferent to the consequences it may have for any possible future with the rest of Europe.

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.’

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Greeks of Egypt: the other homeland

Impressive documentary above from Al Jazeera on the long history of the Greek community in Egypt, from the Minoans to Nasser; but concentrating on the modern community, which began to form in the late 1700s and at its height amounted to 200,000 people. Lots of fascinating characters and detail, including the fact that Greek Egyptians felt so committed to Egypt that they joined up to fight against the Anglo-French invasion of the country in 1956. 

One can only hope that Greece can take advantage of these ties to countries like Egypt to promote its geostrategic interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey aspires to yoke Egypt to its neo-Ottoman project and, in this way, achieve its aim of driving out Hellenism – particularly in the form of the Republic of Cyprus – from the Eastern Mediterranean. What Turkey is conniving at is an agreement with Egypt that links their Exclusive Economic Zones, as if Cyprus (and Kastellorizo) simply did not exist. Greece’s goal, of course, should be to cultivate Egypt and thwart Turkish expansionism. This shouldn’t be beyond Greece, especially since there is no evidence to suggest that Egypt – which has aspirations of its own to be a leading power in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean – wants to be part of Turkey’s grandiose plans or shares Turkish nostalgia for the Ottoman empire. Turkey might believe its own propaganda about how tolerant and enlightened the Ottoman empire was – and they may have found enough apologists and stooges from Western Europe and the USA to encourage them in their delusions – but so far Turkey has made little real headway in its efforts to establish regional hegemony.

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.