The Cyprus problem: a tragic farce
When Turkey invaded and occupied a third of Cyprus in 1974, the international community condemned Turkey’s actions, but its strong words produced neither action nor results. To this day, Cyprus remains divided.
One of the reasons for the current stalemate is that little Cyprus has lost the information game regarding the occupation. Overtaken by a sharp Turkish foreign policy that puts pressure on everyone at will, we find it difficult to keep up. Our allies speak out, advocating the rule of international law, but the invading army remains. The so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as the occupied area calls it, is under embargo and unrecognized, but for how long? Over time, its presence normalizes. It has around 150,000 Turkish Cypriots and 150,000 settlers from Turkey, which constitutes a considerable market. The international embargo represents a huge opportunity cost for many organizations. They would love to lift it up and start trading.
In fact, the process has started. Tourism and real estate industries prospect the occupied area, creating a number of businesses.
The Republic of Cyprus protests, but its position is neglected, playing like a joke, and here is why.
It started in the 1950s …
Cyprus, a British colony at the time, rose up against the British Empire to seek union with Greece. What it achieves instead is independence, sovereignty and security guaranteed by Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Unsurprisingly, unrest erupted between the 80% Greek Cypriot majority and the 20% Turkish Cypriot minority (see the Indo-Pakistani model), leading to demographic silos and sectarian violence.
In the wake of growing instability, the Greek junta orchestrated a coup d’état in 1974 that gave Turkey the excuse to invade on behalf of a Turkish Cypriot minority. The Greek junta abandons the island to the Turks then collapses (Kissinger laughs with his Mephistophelian laugh) and the Restitution of Greece begins. Democracy returns to Athens while Cyprus is a partially occupied and divided island.
By the way, the UK is ignoring this one.
Over time, the so-called TRNC is formed, which no one recognizes. The UN waves its finger at Turkey and the Security Council condemns the status quo, but nothing changes.
The parody is in progress. Cypriot diplomacy enters the ill-prepared international political arena, bringing knives to the shootout, so to speak. It’s a disaster. Each round of talks leads to a worse situation, a more dangerous position for our little state. Breakthroughs are temporary, followed by even bigger setbacks. Turkey is strengthening its hold over the occupied area, undermining the Cypriot Republic, turning it into a paraplegic entity.
Turkey’s last ruler, the neo-Ottoman – and aspiring sultan – Recep Tayyip Erdogan, goes even further. He promotes partition, threatening war with Greece, with anyone who opposes him. Cyprus feels the heat. The pressure is strong, militarily and asymmetrically. Everyone’s yak-yaks about dealing with Erdogan regarding Syria, Libya, and the European migrant crisis, among other things, but they lack resolve. They talk about solving the Cyprus problem, but they are just marketing lemons – bitter lemons – most of which ends up in the Cypriot mouth.
Turkey consolidates its hold over the eastern Mediterranean. The Cypriot Republic is losing the information battle. With so much wrong with the world – Syria, migrants, Trumpian politics, the rise of far-right nationalism, the Covid-19 pandemic – patience is running out. The international community is becoming unsympathetic. There are much bigger issues to be concerned about.
The fact that the Cypriots cannot form a policy of national unity makes matters worse. He’s sending the wrong signal. If we cannot unite in the wake of a national disaster, who has time for us?
It doesn’t help that in 2010 (before Erdogan tilted the Sultan Switch) Turkey made a brilliant tactical move. He comes to support a pro-Palestine flotilla, then uses the attention of the global media to call himself a champion of human rights, peddling his “TRNC” propaganda. His duty, he says, is to come to the aid of the oppressed ethnic Turks above all.
Talk about maximalist politics.
It’s part of a strategy that goes back generations, and goes something like this: install populous minorities in sovereign nations and then exercise their political power in those minorities. Make sure their overall loyalty rests with their Turkish homeland, not their country of residence, to meddle in the affairs of that state, if necessary, on their behalf.
The strategy has been tried and tested in Bosnia and Kosovo, an area where an Ottoman seed had been planted centuries earlier. Turkey has taken advantage of the region’s Muslim identity, exploiting the Bosnian cause for its own expansionist agenda, using ethnic Albanians in Serbia and Kosovo to further destabilize the region.
It is now targeting eastern Greece while seeking to destabilize northern and northwestern Greece through Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia.
It has also invaded Syria (a humanitarian disaster) and sows turmoil in Germany, where ethnic Turks represent 5% of the population.
In Cyprus, the idea is (was) to create a confederate state for the Turkish ethnic minority.
Imagine dissolving a sovereign state on behalf of an ethnic minority. Talk about maximalism / imperialism.
(Can you imagine Turkey setting up a Turkish confederate state in Germany?)
Caught between the sea and an aggressor, Cyprus seeks help, trying to make the most of a bad situation, but things gradually get worse. Turkey increases the pressure in due course and does not want a confederate state anymore. He threatens to partition / annex the occupied area, blaming Cyprus for the turn of events, and the world nods because he has bigger problems to fear.
Unfortunately, we have to blame ourselves to a large extent. This is what happens when you twist the problem from the start. We call our situation the Cyprus problem, describing it as such to the international community: the Cyprus “problem”, as if it were an exercise in algebra. (Wanted: political prowess!)
Forgive me, but this is the Invasion from Cyprus. the Occupation from Cyprus.
Cypriots, on the whole, do not pay attention to these details. We believe that words don’t matter, that international politics is a game of justice that will serve our interests. We wallow in the warmth of the quagmire of familiarity, sleeping in a blissful slumber, feeding the endemic corruption of the island, living the lie, imagining Cypriot utopias – golden passports, alignment with non-Western powers, plus a number other “ smart ” schemes, depending on who is in charge. Rest assured, all political parties are accomplices and responsible, each on their own. They peddle nonsense, fairy tales in which the goods of the world will someday fall from the sky, provided that we scratch our backs and kick the box again. Utopia is on everyone’s mind, underscored by a leviathan public sector that employs half the workforce, vying to take care of everyone because that’s what we’re doing here: taking care of everyone, or pretend.
And so on. The Cypriots are promised lies from those responsible, that we swallow hook, line and sinker, desperate to be taken care of.
But utopias turn into onion skins and ashes. The grand narrative is a lie, the result of irrational thinking and crass plots mixed with good old magical (in this case, religious) thinking.
It began in the 1960s, after independence, when the head of the Church, Archbishop Makarios, was elected president for three successive terms, a result with lasting implications. A culture of blind faith and dependence was born, based on promises of absolution. The attitude of the Church rubs off on the mechanism of the nascent administration, shaping the functioning of the State (dys) henceforth.
Cyprus has since been ruled in a way that promises salvation in the “hereafter”, that is, later, what its subjects can achieve if they make contributions and have blind faith. and patience in this life.
This is how Cyprus ended up living pretending. Voters vote for those who promise them unicorns and favors, stays and absolution. No matter the efficiency, the responsibility, the raw reality. “Take care of me, pull some strings, I want a piece of pie, a slice of heaven.” Let’s eat while supplies last, and who asks!
To be fair, not everyone is like that. Many of us are, or try to be, standing individuals working on our backs, recognizing the complexity of life while pushing the boundaries, but many others do not. The majority believe in a system of favors and rights, rattling canisters and blind faith, hoping that the Cyprus problem will be resolved in our favor because it is the right thing to do.
And then we wonder why Turkey is wiping the ground with our diplomacy, the occupied zone a little closer to annexation. Why is our state failing, our problems recycled at will.
And here we are, ladies and gentlemen. Cypriot stuffing in all its glory.
Not funny when you think about it.