By Dr Dimitri Gonis
I USED to think that the Greeks were drama queens. Always harping on about being stabbed in the back by the rest of the world and how hard they’ve had it: WWI, 1922, WWII, the 1967 junta and Cyprus in 1974.
Now if you are not a mainland or Cypriot Greek, or any sort of Greek for that matter, you might think that Greeks have a victimhood mentality. That they keep on blaming others because of their inability to get their house in order. You might think that they are as Erdogan has more recently put the ‘spoilt brats of the EU’ and that they should be ‘taught a lesson’.
Let’s look at the Cyprus Question for a moment and the ‘whinging’ Greek Cypriots. For 45 years now an army of 35,000 Turkish troops has been stationed on their island. During all that time one meeting after another has produced nothing but more angst for thousands of people who were displaced from their ancestral grounds by Turkey’s 1974 military invasion. Turkey claims that it was the mainland and Cypriot Greeks who brought it all upon themselves and that they are in fact the ones who are blocking any progress because they simply want it all their way. This, they claim, was demonstrated during the last Crans-Montana talks in 2017 and before that with the Annan Plan which was overwhelmingly accepted by the Turkish Cypriot side and overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriot side.
The details are too many to include in a short article. Suffice it to say, that as long as Turkey calls the shots in Cyprus it will be very difficult to reach a viable solution. One of the main stumbling blocks of previous negotiations has been and continues to be Turkey’s insistence that it should remain a guarantor power and keep its 35,000 troops on the island. This is from a state that aspires to become a member of the EU, something that the Republic of Cyprus, in its entirety, already is. This is not about a bizonal , bicommunal solution or the details of its functionality; it is about power and Turkey’s need to be seen as the most significant regional player.
Today, this is more obvious than ever today with Turkey’s invasion Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone and the potentially violent usurpation of gas reserves within the former’s waters. And despite supposed, international condemnation, Turkey has threatened to re-invade Cyprus if mainland and Cypriot Greeks don’t behave by accepting the new reality in the eastern Mediterranean. It has threatened to push the Greeks into the sea and send them back home ‘in coffins like their ancestors’ – alluding to the 1922 Asia Minor Catastrophe.
Despite this posture and bellicose narrative, Turkey is being allowed to get away with it as it did in 1974 when the rest of the world just watched it invade a sovereign territory, bomb its cities, murder its civilian population and displace 200,000 people from their homes in the name of some warped ‘peace mission’ which has only brought misery to both communities.
Turkey clearly remains geopolitically invaluable to both the EU and US – which is the reason no one is prepared to genuinely challenge its actions in the eastern Mediterranean. Recent sanctions by the EU and US are widely viewed by Greek-Cypriots as lip-service; another tokenistic gesture aimed at pulling the wool over their eyes. Turkish leadership has also scoffed at the ‘sanctions’ saying they will not affect, in the least, its actions or presence in region. It seems mainland and Cypriot Greeks might actually have a point this time. Perhaps they are indeed being stabbed in the back by the international community which refuses to take actions against Turkey and its illegal activities on and around the island. How long, and what, is it going to take for the international community to finally call it what it is – an unacceptable crime against humanity? Enough is enough.
Dr Dimitri Gonis is Subject Coordinator, Ethnic and Civil Conflict in Southern Europe and Cyprus
Imagined Communities in a Contemporary World