By Tahsin Eroglu
AS THE Switzerland meetings draw closer, it appears that hardliners on both sides of the divide are intensifying their efforts to turn people against a solution, before the leaders even agree on a plan.
What is most astonishing however, is the similarity of the arguments and actions of the so-called rejectionist camps.
The leaders of the hardliners in the north, ‘prime minister’ Hüseyin Özgürgün and his deputy Serdar Denktash, are trying to stir the nationalist sentiment in Turkey against Cyprus, by resurrecting the alliances of the Annan plan period.
Denktash’s father-in-law, Salih Boyacı, a businessman and banker whose lender went bankrupt in 2000, losing around £50m sterling in people’s savings, invited several hardline journalists and politicians from Turkey in a bid to whip up support to put pressure on Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to reject any formula aimed at resolving the Cyprus issue.
They stayed at a hotel in the north owned by well-known businessman Besim Tibuk. Tibuk is also the owner of Diyalog Media Group, the flagship media of the rejectionist camp in the north of the island.
Retired ambassador Onur Öymen, retired rear admiral Soner Polat, and journalists Saygı Öztürk, and Sabahattin Önkibar were among those invited.
Chairman of Vatan Partisi (Homeland Party) Doğu Perinçek, a national socialist who became an admirer of Erdoğan, was not invited but he wrote an article of support in his newspaper Aydınlı, after speaking to those who visited the north.
Perinçek talks about the strategic importance of Cyprus equating the risk posed by the island with the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Syria. Turkey fears that losing Cyprus could create problems for its navy.
Agah Oktay Güner, another columnist who writes for Yeniçağ, an anti-government paper with an ultra-nationalist line, heavily criticises ruling AKP policy in the Aegean and Cyprus and claims that the Greek Cypriots “cannot even cough without the permission of Greece”.
He claims that the Annan Plan had once again been resurrected by giving the Greek Cypriot side “unimaginable concessions”.
Guner says that the population increase in the north had been limited and adds that Greek Cypriots who were 10-years-old in 1974, will be able to cross over to the north at will and take “whatever property they chose”.
He also claims Akıncı’s older daughter is married to an American Greek, his wife Meral Akıncı’s NGO took €309,000 in aid from the EU, and that two members of Akıncı’s negotiating team were on the payroll of a Greek Cypriot institute.
Guner worries that Cyprus could be lost to the Turks just like Crete.
Saygı Öztürk, a columnist for ultra nationalist Sözcü newspaper makes similar claims.
He claimed Akıncı brought the “surrender conditions” of the Turkish Cypriots to the negotiation table and that Turkish Cypriot youth were being brainwashed and lured through “various promises” into giving up their state.
The writer also published a photograph of the list of Turkish Cypriot NGOs receiving EU aid, with Meral Akıncı’s NGO, KAYAD, circled.
He also accused the former ‘minister’ of foreign affairs and former chairperson of the Human Rights Foundation, Emine Çolak, of taking over €90,000 from the EU with the aim of “alienating the Turkish Cypriot youth from their state”.
Last week, former MHP (National Peoples Party, an ultra-nationalist party in Turkey) MPs, including Ümit Özdağ, a serving independent MP, visited the north accompanied by journalists.
The group was invited to Cyprus by the Party of Rebirth (YDP), a recently established party made up mainly of Turkish immigrants.
The group met PM Özgürgün. After the meeting, one of the journalists wrote a comment on his Facebook page calling Özgürgün “brave heart” and Akıncı a “collaborator”.
The group also met with Akıncı. According to reports, during their meeting, Akıncı censured Özdağ because he was expressing ideas about the negotiation process without having proper knowledge.
Once Özdağ returned to Turkey, he accused Akıncı of having no experience and his spokesperson Barış Burcu as a “dönerci”, the chef that cooks gyro.
Labelling Akıncı a traitor and inexperienced, the leader who is prepared to surrender the rights of his people, has always been part of the rejectionists’ rhetoric in the north.
Their negative stance towards the EU is also a well-established fact.
In September this year, Denktash issued a list of the NGOs and questioned where the EU funds were being spent.
Earlier in December, he spoke to Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper and accused the NGOs of spending money without holding any accounts and that some were working to drive a wedge between Turkey and the ‘TRNC’.
Although the NGOs lashed out at the claims, saying they were more disciplined in holding accounts than the Turkish Cypriot leadership, Denktash insisted that none of them could produce any documents to back their claims.
The language used by Denktash, the son of former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, whose vision was a divided Cyprus and a separate state, is no different than the one used by the son of former president Tassos Papadopoulos, who has also been accused of working towards partition, albeit not openly.
In fact, the two families held secret dinners in the south in the run up to the 2004 referenda on the Annan plan.
Some recent comments by Denktash sound eerily similar to those of Nicolas Papadopoulos.
“The process is being executed in the most peculiar way and in secrecy,” Denktash said. He also argued that the economy in the north was not ready for reunification.
“We are not ready financially. We have been sentenced to live under isolation and not leave the (negotiation) table,” he said, adding that they could not carry out the necessary preparation.
“But we will find ourselves within the EU the day after a solution. I voice my concerns on this matter and I’m told not to worry. Of course I’m worried about the future of my people. How can I trust those who didn’t keep their promises during the 2004 Annan plan referendum?”
Denktash suggested there was a risk of conflict that could once again lead the Turkish Cypriot people in enclaves like in the early sixties.
“We don’t want such a future.”
He said the Turkish Cypriots were the owners of the whole island, but had to give up half of it because of the political conjuncture, and will not allow for the half, which they now own, to be taken away from them.
On the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, Denktash said, “The Treaty of Guarantee does not only protect my security but also guarantees Turkey’s rights and security in the Mediterranean. Thus the moment Turkey takes a step back from the island, its say in the Mediterranean is left to God.”