Friday, 31 May 2013

Political Activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-58. Part Four: Turkish Cypriot violence in pursuit of partition

In previous posts in this series based on Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus, 1878-1964, we’ve established that Turkey’s Cyprus policy envisaged partition of the island, in pursuit of which it was necessary to demonstrate that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could not live together and had to be separated into two distinct geographical and political units – this despite the fact that Greek Cypriots amounted to 80 percent of the Cypriot population and dominated in all areas of the island. In pursuit of partition, violence was used by Turkish nationalists on the island to crush dissent within the Turkish Cypriot community; to stir up enmity between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; and to create the conditions for the separation of the island’s two communities.


Read parts one, two and three in the series. 

On Rauf Denktash and Turkish political consciousness, go here.


Turkish Cypriot violence in pursuit of partition
[From] 1956 on, the Turkish leadership instituted a vigorous campaign under the slogan ‘from Turk to Turk’, advocating the boycott of Greek goods and services and forbidding cooperation with Greek Cypriots at all levels, including participation in mixed trade unions. Those who deviated were denounced as traitors and punished: two Turkish Cypriot members of a trade union were shot dead by [the terrorist group] TMT in 1958 for collaborating with their Greek Cypriot coworkers…

To bring about the physical separation of the two communities and to impose territorial division, the Turkish Cypriots, at the instigation and with the encouragement of Turkey, embarked, beginning in January 1956, on organized rioting initially aimed at the destruction of Greek Cypriot property. The object was to foster enmity between the two communities, thereby proving [Turkish Cypriot leader Fazil] Kutchuk’s premise that coexistence had become impossible, making partition the only acceptable solution.

As was inevitable in view of the large number of Turks actively participating with the British security forces against EOKA, the day came when, on 11 January 1956, a Turkish Cypriot police sergeant who had given evidence in trials of EOKA members was killed by EOKA. The Turkish Cypriots immediately retaliated by attacks against Greek Cypriot property in Nicosia and Paphos accompanied by threats against Greek lives. These were followed by further attacks on 23 and 24 April, after the killing of a Turkish Cypriot policeman who had chased EOKA fighters. On 25 May, after the death of a Turkish Cypriot policeman who again had chased an EOKA fighter who had turned and shot him, extensive rioting broke out in Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos, with indiscriminate arson of Greek properties. In Nicosia the Turks burst into the Greek quarter of the city and burned down an oxygen factory, battering its old caretaker to death. The Turkish mob, ‘including a score of auxiliary and special constables’, became so menacing that the British authorities set up a barricade across the old city of Nicosia (the ‘Mason-Dixon Line’, a precursor to the ‘Green Line’ drawn in December 1963). By June 1956 Turkish rioting extended to Famagusta and flared up once again in Nicosia, with massive destruction of Greek property, in January and February 1957.

The Turkish leadership had no scruples about creating pretexts for reprisals. Soon after Sir Hugh Foot’s arrival in Cyprus [as the new colonial governor], clashes occurred on 7 and 9 December 1957 between the security forces and Greek secondary schoolchildren demonstrating on the occasion of the UN General Assembly debate on Cyprus, in the course of which a Turkish policeman was wounded accidentally. A fabricated rumor that he had been killed, and killed by Greeks, formed the signal for Turkish  mobs to throw themselves into the Greek quarter of Nicosia with such ferocity that the Mason-Dixon Line had to be reestablished. Nor was calculated misrepresentation of the facts considered improper: at the United Nations on 9 December 1957, Turkey did not hesitate to accuse Greeks of killing three Turks in Paphos a week earlier, whereas they had been killed by fellow Turks who had been arrested.

What is noteworthy is that, despite the repeated, organized and violent rioting and destruction of their property by the Turks, the Greeks, although outnumbering the Turks by four to one, did not counter-attack or retaliate in any way. No Turkish property was threatened or damaged. In fact, on 3 February 1957, the Greek members of the Nicosia Municipal Council appealed to the Greek population to avoid at all costs any friction with the Turkish community.

The most violent riots were yet to come. On 21 January 1958, Turkish Cypriots demonstrated in Nicosia and Famagusta against what they regarded as the pro-Greek policy of the new governor, Sir Hugh Foot. More demonstrations, the most violent ever known in Cyprus, took place in Nicosia on 27 January 1958. These were organized to coincide with the discussion of the Foot Plan in Ankara between British foreign secretary Selwyn Lloyd, accompanied by Sir Hugh Foot, and the Turkish government. During the disturbances, thousands of Turks hurled stones and bottles at British troops, overturned and set fire to military vehicles and police cars, and erected barricades in the Turkish quarter of Nicosia, prominently displaying Turkish flags. After several attempts by British troops to break up the demonstrations, a curfew was imposed in the Turkish quarter, ending nine hours of violent rioting marked by many bitter hand-to-hand struggles between Turkish Cypriots and the security forces. Despite the curfew, further riots broke out the following day with renewed attacks on British forces. Order was finally restored on 29 January 1958. ‘The Turks were, as usual, making their stand clear by actions as well as by words,’ was Sir Hugh’s comment on the riots.

In March 1958, after almost a year of continuous truce, EOKA renewed its offensive by an intensive sabotage campaign against military installations. On 21 April 1958, however, it declared a ceasefire pending the outcome of a policy statement by the British government, whereas the Turkish Cypriots, fearing that the new British plan would exclude partition, stepped up their preparations in close cooperation with the Turkish government. In February 1958 a meeting was held in Greece between British foreign secretary Selwyn Lloyd and Greek foreign minister Evangelos Averoff, attended also by the governor of Cyprus, Sir Hugh Foot, and the head of the Cyprus Desk in the Greek Foreign Ministry, Dimitri S. Bitsios. Foot stated that the Turkish Cypriots were now armed and were receiving instructions ‘from somewhere in Turkey’, in the hope that EOKA’s truce would end, providing them with an excuse to embark on their own armed activity against the Greek Cypriots.

The next, and by far most alarming, bout of Turkish Cypriot violence erupted on 7 June 1958, shortly before what came to be known as the Macmillan Plan was announced in the British parliament. Sir Hugh records:

The Turks didn’t even wait for the Plan to be announced. On the night of the 7th June I was woken in the middle of the night to see the whole of Nicosia aflame.

He [Zorlu, the Turkish foreign minister] had, I have no doubt, known of and perhaps himself given the order for the Turkish riots and the attempt to burn down Nicosia.

During that one night of rioting in Nicosia and Larnaca, four Greek Cypriots were killed by Turkish mobs and scores more were injured. Greek properties in the old city of Nicosia were sacked, while shops, a cigarette factory, a timber yard and a Greek sports club were burnt down. The Mason-Dixon Line had to be erected again. In Larnaca, crowds of Turks invaded the Greek quarter and a number of buildings were wrecked. Further serious riots occurred on 10-12 June in Nicosia, Limassol and Famagusta, in which four more Greek Cypriots were killed and many injured. In Nicosia, where bands of Turkish youths engaged in large-scale arson, several Greek shops were burnt to the ground and the ancient church of Saint Lucas was gutted, while in Limassol and Famagusta many people were injured.

(Part five to follow).

Read the entire series in one post here.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Political Activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-58. Part Three: The consistency of the policy of partition

In this third extract from Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus 1878-1964, the author describes the consistency with which Turkey, having abandoned its policy in 1956-57 of demanding the whole of Cyprus be annexed to it, pursued its new policy of partitioning the island. In line with this, Soulioti suggests, Turkey regarded the 1959 Zurich-London agreements that delineated Cyprus’ independence as containing the seeds of partition, if exploited correctly.

Read parts one and two in the series.
 

On Rauf Denktash and the shaping of Turkish political consciousness, read the post here.

Consistency of Turkish Policy of Partition
The Turkish pursuit of partition remained constant  through all the subsequent phases of the recent history of Cyprus. As Hayrettin Erkmen, a member of the Turkish cabinet at the time of the Zurich Agreements [1959] and foreign minister after the invasion of Cyprus in 1974, has revealed: ‘Turkey’s posture on Cyprus might appear to be variable, but actually it adheres to a specific line.’ And he goes on to explain that when the thesis that Cyprus should be returned to Turkey failed, the idea of taksim [partition] was upheld: ‘and later we came upon the formula of a Cyprus Republic which was a kind of taksim’. This objective was paramount in Turkish minds during the Zurich negotiations.

The consistency of Turkish policy is demonstrated by the fact that, following the intercommunal conflict in December 1963, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots formally proposed to UN mediator Galo Plaza in 1964 the partition of Cyprus along the line indicated in 1957, together with a suggestion for an exchange of populations. That this line is practically identical with that where the Turkish Army finally halted in the second phase of the invasion of Cyprus in August 1974 is eloquent proof of this consistency.

In fact, between the first and second phase of the invasion, on 12 August 1974, during the conference in Geneva between the three guarantor powers, Britain, Greece and Turkey, and representatives of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, the Turkish delegation tabled a proposal demanding as a zone of Turkish control this same line. Moreover, in conformity with its 1964 proposals to the UN mediator, Turkey expelled from their homes and properties in the area occupied by it virtually all Greek Cypriots (about 180,000) and proceeded to compel all Turkish Cypriots to move to the occupied areas, while transporting from Turkey thousands of settlers.

(Part four to follow).

Read the entire series in one post here.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Political Activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-58. Part Two: The policy of partition

Below is the second part of the series of posts I’m publishing from Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus, 1878-1964, demonstrating how Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots developed a policy of partition regarding Cyprus and organised a campaign of violent ethnic conflict in pursuit of this objective. Partition was a revision of Turkey’s previous policy, which was that should Britain relinquish sovereignty over Cyprus, then Turkey should be allowed to annex the entire island.

(Read part one in the series here). 

Turkish Political Objective of Partition Formulated
By 1957 the Turks had formulated their political objective clearly: the partition of Cyprus, which they set out to achieve by:

    •    establishing a separate identity for the Turkish Cypriots;
    •    demonstrating that coexistence between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots was impossible, and that they must therefore be physically separated; and
    •    creating territorial division between the two communities which were interspersed throughout the island.

The above goals have persisted as the cornerstone of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot policy over the years.

The arm used to apply the policy was [the terrorist group] TMT, under the slogan ‘Partition or Death.’ The partition line was set at the 35th Parallel, dividing Cyprus roughly in half. Posters, showing the island partitioned, with the superimposed figure of a Turkish soldier, were displayed everywhere.

A booklet entitled The Cyprus Question – A Permanent Solution, issued in October 1957 by [Fazil] Kutchuk, then chairman of the Cyprus-is-Turkish Party, spells out the Turkish policy in unequivocal terms. The cover of the booklet shows Cyprus partitioned in half. The following excerpts are revealing;

Equal rights is what we want and equal rights mean nothing but partition.

Turkey has, in fairness and magnanimity, consented to Partition for the sake of permanent peace in the area. Thus, the two countries [Greece and Turkey] which are friendly frontier-neighbours will extend their frontiers across Cyprus and the Communist foothold in the island will thus be prevented and the Turkish foothold will safeguard the breathing space for Turkey and her allies in the event of war.


Such partitioning will not involve the compulsory exchange of populations. Each man will be able to live in his own place feeling assured that his country is next door to protect his rights and interests. Two responsible governments will keep the extremists in their group under constant control.

Turkey has, in fairness and in complete recognition of her duty to maintain peace in the area and good relations with her neighbours, decided to abandon her claim to the whole of Cyprus and accepted the solution of partition as a fair basis for settlement.

She [Greece] has got no case on Cyprus and… unless she consents to partition Turkey will have the right to move into the island the moment Britain withdraws.


By the end of December 1956, Turkey, being aware that Britain had begun to consider partition as a possible solution, demanded partition at every opportunity. Kutchuk, who visited Ankara (2 April-10 May 1957) to consult with the Turkish government, said in a press statement on 3 April 1957 that enmity between the two communities in Cyprus had reached such a pitch that they could not possibly coexist under the same regime, and the only acceptable solution, therefore, was partition. On 3 February 1958, on his return to Nicosia from another visit to Ankara, Kutchuk said that taksim [partition] was ‘One thousand percent certain’, and that ‘if our own force in Cyprus proves inadequate, our fatherland is ready to come to our aid’.

On 8 June 1958, the Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement that the Turkish government had come to a ‘full and mature decision to bring about the partition of Cyprus’ as the only means of ensuring Turkey’s own security. On the same day, there was a big demonstration in Istanbul in support of taksim, with speeches against Greece and Britain and the burning of an effigy of Archbishop Makarios. The speakers included Kutchuk, who stressed the impossibility of Greek and Turkish Cypriots living together and claimed the question was no longer one for the Turkish Cypriots but ‘for 26 million Turks’. Kutchuk kept up the pressure for partition, along the 35th parallel.

(Read parts three and four in series).

Read the entire series in one post here.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Political Activities of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, 1945-58: (Part One)

I wrote previously that I was going to produce a series of posts on how in the latter stages of British colonial rule in Cyprus (and the first years of independence), Turkish aims on the island – which came to be characterised by a demand for taksim, or partition of Cyprus, with one part of the island going to Turkey and the other to Greece – were predicated on the stirring up of enmity between Greek and Turkish Cypriots and the violent uprooting of Greek Cypriots from those areas of the island Turkey envisaged annexing. I also said I would draw on Stella Soulioti’s Fettered Independence: Cyprus, 1878-1964 to illustrate the precise nature of Turkish Cypriot political action and thinking during this period. So what I’m going to do is publish, over several posts, the relevant chapter on Turkish Cypriot political activities from Soulioti’s book; a book, by the way, which I strongly recommend to any serious student of the Cyprus Problem, and which I managed to pick up from here for little more than £5. Stella Soulioti (1920-2012), it should be stressed, had a long and distinguished political career in Cyprus from the EOKA period and onwards. She served in several post-independence administrations and was justice minister from 1960-1970. Her knowledge and experience of the events she describes in her book are often first hand.

Turkish Cypriot Organizations and Involvement of Turkey
The first Turkish Cypriot organization was formed in 1943 under the name the Cyprus Turkish Minority Association (KATAK), which was joined by Dr Fazil Kutchuk, the Turkish Cypriot leader who later became vice-president of the Republic of Cyprus. The activities of the association were rather insignificant, and in 1945 Kutchuk withdrew from it and established the Cyprus Turkish National Party. This gradually superseded KATAK, which was finally dissolved in 1949.

Although the general objective of these organizations was to oppose enosis and support the continuation of British colonial rule, it should not be overlooked that in January 1947 KATAK issued a statement advocating that if Britain were to leave Cyprus, the island should go back to Turkey, ‘its previous suzerain and nearest neighbour’. However, when a Committee on Turkish Cypriot Affairs was set up by [colonial governor of Cyprus] Lord Winster to inquire into the grievances of the Turkish Cypriots, the chairman declared at its opening meeting on 24 June 1948 that it was the ardent desire of the Turks on the island to live and prosper under British rule, which they wished to see perpetuated. Significantly, the young generation was represented on the committee by Rauf Denktash, who was later to become the forceful leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

It was in 1948, after the collapse of the Consultative Assembly, that the Turkish Cypriots first appealed to Turkey for support. This approach met with a positive response, particularly among university students and the press. In November 1948, President Inonu assured a Turkish Cypriot delegation that Turkey was not indifferent to the future of Cyprus. Before the end of that year, a large anti-Greek rally staged by the Turkish community took place in Nicosia. This heralded the beginning of Turkish Cypriot orientation toward Turkey.

It is indicative of the trend of events that in 1955 the name of the Cyprus Turkish National Party was changed to the Cyprus-is-Turkish Party. This party was in fact organized with the help of an emissary from Turkey, Hikmet Bil. At the same time, a sister party was formed in Turkey itself, which Kutchuk is quoted as saying ‘would soon have half a million members, all ready to back up their brothers in Cyprus’ – and that all was done with the approval of the Turkish government. Hikmet Bil was president of the Cyprus-is-Turkish Association in Turkey, while Adnan Menderes, the prime minister, was its patron.

In the summer of 1955, the Turks also formed an underground organization, Volkan, which was later reorganized and renamed the TMT (Turk Mukavemet Teshkilati, Turkish Resistance Organization). Many members of Volkan and TMT were Turkish Cypriot auxiliary policemen. It has since become known that the organizer of TMT was Rauf Denktash. In an article in the Turkish newspaper Belge, Denktash later related that in 1958 he visited Ankara with Kutchuk and had a meeting with foreign minister Zorlu to discuss the better organization of TMT on an island-wide basis. On a subsequent visit to Ankara, he met Cevdet Sunay, who was to take a personal interest in TMT in his various capacities, as deputy chief of staff, chief of staff and later president of Turkey. ‘They gave us their most distinguished experts in order to organise the TMT in the best possible manner,’ Denktash said.

It is a fact worth special attention that, unlike EOKA [which was entirely rooted in the Greek Cypriot community], TMT was not a wholly Turkish Cypriot movement but overtly involved Turks from Turkey, and that it operated both in Cyprus and Turkey. This was formally recognized by the decision of the Turkish Cypriot Legislative Assembly, taken on 7 February 1975, to grant ‘Turkish Cypriot citizenship’ to ‘persons who served in the Turkish Resistance Organization, TMT, since 1958, in Cyprus and in Turkey’.

British Attitude towards Turkish Activities
British policy was to encourage the underground activities of the Turks and to rally Turkish Cypriot support in opposition to EOKA. It is eloquent of this policy that, while EOKA was banned a week after the appearance of [its] first leaflet and mere membership of EOKA was decreed a crime, no action was taken against Volkan or TMT, nor did the government voice any objection to the meddling of Hikmet Bil, a foreign national, in the affairs of a British colony. Worse still, Turkish Cypriots were employed extensively in the British security forces against EOKA. These consisted of a Mobile Reserve, composed exclusively of Cypriot Turks, and an Auxiliary Police and Special Constabulary which, in their overwhelming majority, were made up of Turkish Cypriots (1,700 out of 1,770), in addition to the large numbers serving in the regular police force. It has been noted that ‘as guards and escorts they [the Turks] were irreplaceable,’ and that ‘the co-operation of the Turkish community was vital to the struggle against EOKA’. It was only a matter of time before an incident would occur involving a Turkish Cypriot serving with the security forces, thereby activating riots against the Greek Cypriots.

Read Part Two in the series, The Policy of Partition, here.

Read the entire series in one post here.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Israel wary of Turkey gas role, while Russia steps up Eastern Mediterranean involvement

A couple of interesting pieces in the Israeli press that I came across over the weekend, dealing with the pre-eminent issues currently facing the Eastern Mediterranean, namely the exploration for hydrocarbons in the Levantine basin and the war in Syria.

In an editorial for the Jerusalem Post, it was argued that Turkey’s recent willingness to patch things up with Israel are an ill-disguised attempt by the Turks to get their hands on Israeli gas and, through the building of a pipeline from Israel to Turkey, implicate Turkey in Israel’s economic interests.

The editorial strongly argues against allowing Turkish involvement in Israeli hydrocarbon exports, suggesting that Turkey is not a reliable business partner; warning that Turkey may in the future undergo ‘an even more extreme Islamic transformation’ that would inevitably jeopardise Israeli interests; and concluding that any arrangement Israel and Turkey make on hydrocarbons would be entirely dependent on Turkish goodwill, which is not something Israel can rely on.

The editorial also argues that an Israel-Turkey deal would mean Israel discarding its nascent hydrocarbon alliance with Cyprus, which the author suggests would be a poor decision by Israel:

‘A deal with Turkey would undermine cooperation already fostered with the Cypriot Greeks, whose own gas discoveries are anathema to Ankara which occupies the northern parts of the island. Do we really want to ditch Cyprus in favor of an unpredictable and hardly friendly business partner? Pipelines can also be built in the Cypriot direction and another possibility is liquefying the gas and transporting it to Europe by tankers. It may be more expensive but this would be offset by the removal of pipeline security concerns. Also, Cyprus has allocated land for a liquefaction plant, which would relieve Israel of another safety headache.’

(It’s also worth stressing that Israeli wariness of Turkish involvement in the region means that Israel now has an interest in any Cyprus settlement and would oppose a deal to reunite the island that would leave Turkey with a significant say in how Cyprus is run, particularly in relation to foreign relations and hydrocarbon exploration).

The other piece of interest is from Haaretz and looks at how and why Russia is continuing to back the Assad regime in Syria – particularly through the supply of sophisticated missile systems – and the implications of this for Israel and any potential intervention by external actors designed to precipitate Assad’s downfall. Anshel Pfeffer argues that Russia’s support for Assad stems from its determination to maintain a presence and influence in the Eastern Mediterranean:

The reports on possible missile shipments are part of a wider move by Russia to show its support for Assad. This includes a large naval exercise in which 11 Russian warships have converged in recent days in the eastern Mediterranean, not far from Syria's shore. It is the Russian Navy's largest maneuver in the Mediterranean since the fall of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago.

‘The Russians have a clear interest in Assad's survival. He is the last secular head of state in the Arab world who isn't considered an ally of the U.S. administration or a supporter of radical Islamist movements that are also threatening Russia's eastern provinces. Assad is the last recognizable agent of Russian influence in the Middle East, and despite his closeness to the Iranian-Shia axis over the past decade, his current dire situation puts him at Moscow's mercy.


‘The Russian Navy has a long-term lease for use of Syria's Tartus port and is the only Russian military presence currently in the Mediterranean basin. Even if the regime in Damascus falls, an Alawite rump state would probably remain for a while along the coast, with Tartus at its heart. Both Assad and the Russians have a joint strategic interest in defending that bit of coast.’


Indeed, as part of Russia’s recent show of force in the region, we note that over the weekend, three Russian warships docked in the port of Limassol and were visited by the island’s defence minister, Photis Photiou who, coincidentally, will be in Russia this week for meetings with his counterparts. Cypriot press has been reporting that Russia will be requesting that Cyprus allow other ships from Russia’s Mediterranean taskforce to use Cypriot port facilities.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Turkish Cypriot nationalism and its predication on violence

There’s a lengthy interview (here) from 1996 with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash (1924-2012), which is mostly worthless and embarrassingly conducted by some Greek Cypriot who instead of taking the opportunity to expose Denktash for the nationalist fanatic he was chooses to ask him questions such as ‘Who is the real Rauf Denktash?’ ‘How did you meet your wife?’ and ‘What are your hobbies?’ (I kid you not). Like a lot of Greek Cypriots, the interviewer just can’t get his head around the fact that the Turkish minority in Cyprus developed a political consciousness and will independent of Greek Cypriots; and that the Turks on the island were never prepared to passively accept Greek preponderance, or somehow be persuaded to become less Turkish.

Indeed, in the one or two interesting moments in the interview, Denktash paints an entirely different (and largely unknown to Greek Cypriots) picture of Turkish Cypriot political consciousness as it developed during British colonial rule. Denktash laughs at the often-repeated Greek Cypriot claim that in the enosis plebiscite of 1950, a majority of Turkish Cypriots voted for union with Greece and asserts that for Turkish Cypriots accepting Greek rule was tantamount to accepting colonisation.

Denktash states that just as Greek Cypriots ardently believed that Cyprus is Greek and belonged to Greece, the Turkish minority on the island held that Cyprus is Turkish and should be relinquished to Turkey. ‘We [the Turkish Cypriots],’ Denktash says, ‘were brought up to believe that Cyprus is Turkish and Cyprus has gone from Turkey temporarily and Turkey will come back’.

The axiom that Cyprus is Turkish was so deeply held by Turkish Cypriots, Denktash says, that he was disappointed by Turkey’s decision in 1956 to change its policy of demanding Britain cede to it the entire island in favour of a policy of partitioning Cyprus between Greece and Turkey. ‘Partition was chosen by Turkey as a policy’, Denktash says. ‘We [the Turkish Cypriots] were aggrieved here, because we felt Turkey was abandoning half of Cyprus to the Greeks.’

On the depth of militancy within the Turkish Cypriot community, Denktash reveals that seven years before Greeks took up arms in the campaign for enosis, Turkish Cypriots were prepared to use violence to thwart the political will of the Greek Cypriots, who constituted 80 percent of the island’s population. ‘In the event of enosis,’ Denktash recalls telling a Greek journalist in 1948, ‘we will take up guns and go to the mountains.’

I’m mentioning all this now because I’ve been reading Stella Soulioti’s excellent two-volume work – a must for all serious students of the Cyprus Question – Fettered Independence: Cyprus, 1878-1964, in which the author provides a remarkably detailed and coherent account of modern Cypriot political history, with particular emphasis on the various plans concocted by the British colonial authorities in the 1950s in response to Greek demands for enosis and Turkish insistence on partition; the machinations that led to the London-Zurich agreements in 1959; the period from independence in 1960 to the breakdown of the constitution and the insurrection of the Turkish Cypriots in 1963; and the increasing involvement in the island’s politics of the Americans, who wanted to avoid Cyprus sparking a war between Greece and Turkey, which the USA thought could best be done by partitioning Cyprus between the two NATO allies or offering all (or most) of Cyprus to Greece in exchange for Greek concessions in Thrace and/or the Aegean, such as the ceding of Chios or Kastelorizo to Turkey.

In upcoming posts, I will draw on Soulioti’s book to illustrate how the Turkish campaign for the partition of Cyprus was predicated on violence and stirring up enmity between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Unlike enosis – which was not directed at the Turkish minority on the island but at the British colonial authorities – taksim (partition) was specifically aimed at Greek Cypriots and could only be achieved through their violent expulsion from that part of Cyprus that Turkey proposed to annex.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Castoriadis on the objectivity of the Greeks

Just to go back to a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Thermopylae, the Persian invasions and Greek triumphalism, in which I insisted that the pride and sense of superiority characteristic of Greek culture was tempered by self-criticism and objectivity, this idea is found in Cornelius Castoriadis’ essay, The Greek Polis and the Creation of Democracy (in Politics, Philosophy, Autonomy), from which the following is an excerpt:

‘Hannah Arendt has rightly said that impartiality enters this world through the Greeks. This is already fully apparent in Homer. Not only can one not find in the Homeric poems any disparagement of the “the enemy”, the Trojans, for example, but the truly central figure in the Iliad is Hector, not Achilles, and the most moving characters are Hector and Andromach. The same is true for Aeschylus’ Persians – a play performed in 472 BC, seven years after the battle at Plataea, with the war still going on. In this tragedy, there is not a single word of hatred or contempt for the Persians; the Persian queen, Atossa, is a majestic and venerable figure, and the defeat and ruin of the Persians is ascribed exclusively to the hubris of Xerxes. And in his Trojan Women (415 BC), Euripides presents the Greeks as the cruelest and most monstrous beasts – as if he were saying to the Athenians: this is what you are. Indeed, the play was performed a year after the horrible massacre of the Melians by the Athenians (416 BC).’

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Turkey looks to exploit Cyprus’ economic weakness

Cyprus’ foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides was in the USA this week, where he met, among others, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry. Discussed, obviously, were the latest developments in the Cyprus issue. Where we are at the moment regarding the Cyprus issue is that Turkey, having pulled out of the UN talks last June in protest at Cyprus taking over the rotating presidency of the EU, is now pressing for their immediate resumption. 

Obviously, Ankara detects Cypriot weakness as a result of the economic crisis affecting the island and believes Cyprus is amenable to bullying and agreeing a solution compatible with Turkish aims on the island, a solution along the lines of the 2004 Annan plan. 

As I’ve repeatedly stated, Turkey’s aim is to abolish the Republic of Cyprus and strip the Greek Cypriots of the sovereignty they currently exercise, which would deny them the ability to take decisions Turkey disapproves of or regards are against its regional interests; decisions, for example, that might exclude Turkey from the hydrocarbon game unfolding in the Eastern Mediterranean in which Cyprus wants to become a key player, not only for the economic benefits that would accrue but precisely as an assertion of sovereignty and independence.

It’s in this context that the US administration rather unexpectedly invited Kasoulides to Washington and it is the Cypriot perspective on developments in the Eastern Mediterranean that the Cypriot foreign minister confidently outlined in the talk he gave at the Brookings Institution on Thursday, the audio of which you can listen to in full here.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Eastern Question is alive and well

Below is a not entirely convincing analysis of Turkish Russophobia, which the author (Soner Cagaptay) claims is a result of Russia’s historical erosion and humiliation of the Ottoman empire and suggests explains Turkey’s contemporary reticence to over-extend itself in Syria. As I say, it’s not an entirely convincing analysis but one I found interesting inasmuch as it indicates that there is nothing new in today’s Eastern Mediterranean geopolitics – excepting, of course, the emergence of Israel – and that the Eastern Question, which began with Russia’s victory over the Ottoman empire in 1774 and came to convey the struggle for influence as Ottoman power declined, is alive and well.

Turkey Fears Russia Too Much to Intervene in Syria
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visited Ankara on April 17th, but the event went almost unnoticed. Despite deep differences between Ankara and Moscow over Syria, Turkey has refrained from rebuking Moscow. That’s because Turkey fears no country more than it fears Russia.

Ankara has nearly a dozen neighbors if you include its maritime neighbors across the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Emboldened by its phenomenal economic growth in the past decade and rising political power, Turkey appears willing to square-off against any of them; Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has publicly chided the leaders of Syria, Iran, and Iraq. In fact, none of the country’s neighbors can feel safe from Ankara's wrath – with the exception of Russia, that is.

The Turks suffer from a deep-rooted, historic reluctance to confront the Russians. The humming Turkish economy is woefully dependent on Russian energy exports: More than half of Turkey’s natural gas consumption comes from Russia. Consequently, Turkey is unlikely to confront Moscow even when Russia undermines Turkey’s interests, such as in Syria where Russia is supporting the Assad regime, even as Ankara tries to depose it.

Historically, the Turks have always feared the Russians. Between 1568, when the Ottomans and Russians first clashed, to the end of the Russian Empire in 1917, the Turks and Russians fought 17 wars. In each encounter, Russia was the instigator and the victor. In these defeats, the Ottomans lost vast, and often solidly Turkish and Muslim, territories spanning from the Crimea to Circassia to the Russians. The Russians killed many inhabitants of these Ottoman lands and expelled the rest to Turkey. So many Turks descend from refugees from Russia that the adage in Turkey is: ‘If you scratch a Turk, you find a Circassian persecuted by Russians underneath.’

Read the rest of the article here.

Author: Soner Cagaptay, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Cyprus presses Israel on energy collaboration

Cyprus’ president Nikos Anastasiades has been in Israel these last few days heading a delegation discussing closer commercial and political ties between Nicosia and Tel Aviv. Up until a few years ago, relations between Cyprus and Israel were poor, stemming from Israel’s perceived closeness to Turkey, which has been occupying 37 percent of Cypriot territory since it invaded the island in 1974. However, deteriorating relations between Turkey and Israel and massive hydrocarbon finds in the adjoining Israeli and Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zones have boosted ties between Cyprus and Israel, and although we remain cautious because the USA is acting determinedly to repair fences between Israel and Turkey and little of substance (certainly nothing irreversible) has so far materialised as a result of the improved Nicosia-Tel Aviv ties, it is obvious that Nicosia is investing a great deal of effort and hope in trying to win over the Israelis, as the article below from today’s Jerusalem Post makes clear.

Also worth pointing out is that Cyprus now seems to have decided that it will go ahead with an LNG plant to process and export its hydrocarbon resources. This nips in the bud ideas coming from certain quarters that envisage Cyprus (and Israel) building a pipeline to Turkey to traffic its hydrocarbons; a move that would have drawn Turkey into the Eastern Mediterranean gas game and provided an incentive, the thinking went, for Turkey to promote the reunification of Cyprus. However, for Cypriots, becoming Turkey’s economic satellite and trusting their natural resources to Turkey and becoming reliant on Turkish good-will would have been the height of stupidity and, fortunately, the LNG option is now being pursued determinedly.


‘Israel, Cyprus cooperation could impact gas market’
Only by combining their forces will Israel and Cyprus be able to make a significant dent in the global natural gas economy, the Cypriot energy minister stressed on Tuesday.

“We feel that through a close collaboration with Israel we will be able to be a major player in the world energy market, something that for each country individually might be too hard to achieve,” said Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis.

Lakkotrypis was addressing a group of Israeli and Cypriot business leaders and government officials at a seminar entitled “Cyprus: An International and Professional Center,” held in Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon and hosted by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Cyprus Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Ministry, in association with the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce.

While the participants from approximately 100 Israeli companies and 30 Cypriot firms ranged in fields “from milk to gas,” the focus of leaders from both countries remained largely on the Mediterranean natural resource that each of the nations has come to enjoy.

The amounts of gas discovered in each country respectively might be considered small individually, but, by working together, Israel and Cyprus have the capability to “create the third pillar of energy routes” in the world, according to Lakkotrypis.

“What an unbelievable opportunity we have as two countries to play a role in the energy market that is shaping as we speak, worldwide,” he said.

Lakkotrypis and the Cypriot businessmen and women had arrived in Israel as part of a larger delegation that includes Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and officials from the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Echoing Lakkotrypis’s comments, Anastasiades likewise stressed during the seminar that natural gas “can become the driving force” for partnership between Israel and Cyprus.

Natural gas finds from the Tamar reservoir’s 250 billion cubic-meters are already flowing into Israel, to be used for domestic purposes only. The neighboring, more than double-sized Leviathan reservoir should be providing gas within the next few years, and will likely be doing so in both an export and domestic capacity – pending government approval of an export policy.

Cyprus’s first explored basin, the Aphrodite reservoir in Block 12 adjacent to Leviathan, is estimated to contain about 198 billion cu. m. of gas and is being drilled by some of the same partners working on the Israeli reservoirs – Houston-based Noble Energy and Israel-based Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration.

There are two other clumps also slated for exploration in the Cypriot zone, under a combination of Italian, Korean and French firms.

Israel and Cyprus signed a delimitation agreement on their Exclusive Economic Zones in 2010, and a framework agreement is now underway concerning the development of cross-border hydrocarbon management, Lakkotrypis explained.

Anastasiades likewise confirmed that his administration would “remain dedicated to proceeding expeditiously with the conclusion of a framework agreement.”

At Aphrodite, the American and Israeli cohort should conclude drilling an appraisal well by October 2013, after which the team can determine for sure that its contents are proven reserves with commercial capacity, the minister said.

Gas flow from Aphrodite should start between 2020 and 2021, Lakkotrypis added.

Simultaneous to the exploration of Cypriot reservoirs, plans are unfolding to construct an onshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) generation plant, in order to facilitate the export of the country’s gas.

While “the decision to go for an LNG terminal was not taken lightly” and is considered very expensive, the plant will allow for the most flexibility in Cyprus’s export options, Lakkotrypis explained.

Unlike Israel, Cyprus is not facing much resistance among its citizens toward the idea of exporting gas, as the quantities likely found in the reservoirs are “very small compared to the needs of the country,” Lakkotrypis explained.

The Cypriot government is therefore working with Noble Energy on developing its future LNG plant, which will likely be completed by 2019 or 2020. As competition around the world for natural gas surges – particularly due to the United States’ massive shale gas discoveries – moving quickly with the plant’s construction “is super critical,” Lakkotrypis said.

Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, emphasized that cooperation on natural gas and on other business ventures between the two countries would be beneficial “for our region as a whole.”

To further this growing partnership, an Israeli business delegation would be officially visiting Cyprus in June, Lynn said.

Christakis Papavasilious, president of the Israel-Cyprus Business Association, emphasized “the new historic era” that Cyprus and Israel are entering together, and that the two countries should rely on each other in order to push forward.

“The discovery of energy resources in our region has created a very strong impetus in our relations,” Papavasilious said. “There is no turning back.”

Gad Yardeni, president of the Israel- Cyprus Chamber of Commerce, called the gas discoveries a “gift from mother nature” and stressed the need for middlesized energy firms in both countries to pursue connections with one and other.

At a luncheon that the Cypriot president attended earlier that day in Jerusalem with President Shimon Peres, Anastasiades spoke of “inaugurating a new era” for the two countries due to the natural gas discoveries.

“We are both committed to working together and we have a common blessing in our seas,” he said. “God has blessed us with energy and it is our duty to see how we can secure each other.”

Anastasiades expressed his feeling that Cyprus truly “needs” Israel and that he did not expect Israel to need Cyprus to the same extent in return. That being said, he declared his country to be a “reliable and credible friend and brother,” and voiced the hope that both countries should enjoy stability, peace and prosperity.

Describing both countries as islands – Cyprus in the geographic sense and Israel in the political sense – Peres noted that the two nations share many similarities and reciprocal benefits.

“Without Cyprus, we would be far from Europe,” Peres said. “We see in Cyprus a friend – politically and geographically.”

In order to secure that European mainland connection, the two countries will need to work together by combining their resources to achieve a new route of energy, Lakkotrypis stressed back at the business seminar.

“None of our two countries individually can make a big difference,” Lakkotrypis said. “The quantities that we have are negligible compared to the total needs that Europe has and will have.”

“We are living in very important times, very exciting times for both countries,” he continued. “We have our fair share of challenges, but the prospects do remain excellent.”

Monday, 6 May 2013

Thermopylae, the Persian invasions and Greek triumphalism



Above is a lecture from Jeremy McInerney of the University of Pennsylvania on the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) in which, famously, a small group of Greek warriors led by Leonidas’ 300 Spartans, resisted for three days a vastly superior force of invading Persians, dying heroically to the last. It’s a seminal moment in Greek and European history that McInerney provides a good introduction to, placing it within the wider context of the Persian invasions of Greece – the Ionian revolt, Marathon, Salamis, Plataea and so on – the repulsion of which is widely considered to have resulted in an upsurge of Greek self-confidence that paved the way for the flowering of Greek culture that continues to resonate to this day. 

In the last 10 minutes of the lecture, however, McInerney claims that apart from the extraordinary vitalism of Greek culture that flowed in the aftermath of the defeat of the Persians, he also detects the emergence of an overweening and deplorable triumphalism in which Greeks developed a contempt for the East that has never been erased from Western discourse – and McInerney points to the war on Islamic terror and the recent cartoon film, 300, which purports to be about the Spartans at Thermopylae, as examples of this. 

McInerney’s condemnation of the Greeks is nonsense. 

Not only was swaggering pride not something the Greeks lacked before the Persian invasions, but it is also characteristic of Greek culture, beginning with Homer, that this conceit was tempered by self-criticism and objectivity. Aeschylus’ Persians is anything but patriotic tub-thumping and even Herodotus, in whose Histories the Persian invasions are documented, was censured, most notably by Plutarch in his Of Herodotus’ Malice, for favouring the barbarians and maligning the Greeks. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Scorsese on the genesis of Mean Streets



Great interview with Martin Scorsese talking about the making of Mean Streets (1973). Scorsese talks interestingly about many things, including the impact of John Cassavetes’ Shadows on Mean Streets; how Cassavetes gave Scorsese work on Minnie and Moskowitz; and advised the younger man to keep his distance from Roger Corman, for whom Scorsese had made Boxcar Bertha, and who wanted Scorsese to work on exploitation flicks (Corman even suggested that Scorsese make Mean Streets with a black cast to cash in on the blaxploitation fad). Richard Romanus who plays Michael in Mean Streets (and also played  Richard LaPenna in The Sopranos, a series indebted to Scorsese but whose gangsters, Scorsese reveals, he doesn’t understand) now lives on Skiathos and has written about relocating from Hollywood to Greece as well as penning a novel set during the Greek civil war.