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Tales from the Coffeeshop: Turks add flesh to slow month for news

Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides it appears will stop at nothing in his dogged quest for popularity

IT MUST HAVE come as a mega-relief to the news media that in the August week that traditionally produces very little news, President Erdogan decided to dispatch the Oruc Reis in disputed waters and sparked another standoff in the seas with Greece.

The seismic vessel, escorted by frigates of the Turkish navy, headed into the easternmost part of Greece’s continental shelf while the Greek navy moved towards that sea area and the Greek armed forces were placed on high alert. Was it theatre like the one we witnessed a month ago or will there be war this time? Will the Germans mediate and bring the two countries back from the brink once again?

This is looking more likely (even though I could be proved wrong by the time you are reading this) but the media were playing up the dangers of a conflagration and some were even demanding the bullying Erdogan was put in his place. Fortunately, this was not the view of those calling the shots.

I particularly enjoyed the Phil website’s ‘Live’ coverage of events in the seas. On Thursday, the live coverage informed us that “the Oruc Reis is in the Greek continental shelf since a little before 13.00 hours, continuing for a fourth day its touring of the eastern Mediterranean, within the framework of Ankara’s dangerous games.”

On no occasion had the Oruc Reis proceeded with seismic surveys, the report added, leading us to conclude the Turks have replaced bullying tactics with irritating tactics, which is still big news, requiring live coverage.

FOREIGN minister Nicos Christodoulides, it appears, will stop at nothing in his dogged quest for popularity. He will do anything that he believes will add numbers to his support base, even if it undermines his parallel effort to present himself as a politician of substance and high intellect.

During the lockdown, when he was stuck in Kyproulla taking backstage to the ministers of health and finance, he decided to help our students abroad that the government would not allow to return home. He arranged food deliveries and organised an internet pop concert for their entertainment.

This was nothing compared to the ridiculous essay-writing competition he arranged in secondary schools on the subject: “If I were foreign minister for a day, what would I change?” As if it were not absurd enough to ask 17-year-olds to write about something they know nothing about, the minister then had to choose a winner and pretend to take her views seriously.

According to a full-page report in Politis about the competition, the winner wrote she would “make the impossible possible for the future of the new generations … My primary aim would be the return of equality in society… I would impose strict measures, including imprisonment, for matters relating to the destruction of the environment…”

These are not among the responsibilities of a foreign minister, even though Christodoulides, who strives to be all things to all people, has even been posing as a warrior for gender equality. So much so, his ludicrous competition was open only to girls.

EVEN MORE ludicrous was that Christodoulides actually spoke about the kids’ essays as if they had something important to say. “Through the competition, the distance and differentiation between the subjects that concern youth and those that are included on the daily agenda is evident,” he told Politis, adding: “And this is something that is of concern.”

It gets worse. Asked how the essays would be utilised, he said they would be taken into account in matters relating to foreign policy. Our foreign minister, who always aims to please his audience, said he would be including in his foreign policy views expressed by 17-year-old girls and gave an example of how this would be done.

“For example, the issues of climate change that surfaced in all the essays is the number one issue of debate at international level. As the foreign ministry we have a say, because there is debate on the level of green diplomacy and we are trying to bring this expertise to Cyprus.”

After gender equality diplomacy, economic diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and green diplomacy, our visionary foreign minister will now become the pioneer of teenage girl diplomacy. Idea for next year’s essay: ‘How do we stop the provocations by sexist Islamist leaders?’

TEENAGE boys will not be so fond of Christodoulides as his gender equality diplomacy failed to arrange for them to pay 2020 tuition fees at UK universities after they complete their military service in 2021, as he had undertaken to do.

Their female classmates entering UK universities in September, because the foreign minister gender equality initiatives do not apply to military service, will pay EU student fees, whereas the boys who cannot go until next year will have to pay international student fees that will be at least twice as high.

The big Nikos stepped in last week to sort things out, meeting with a delegation of parents at his summer residence on Troodos and promised them he would solve the problem. He did not tell them how, but discussing the matter with his associates, he thought of giving Boris Johnson a call, an idea he was advised was a non-starter.

He then suggested our high commissioner in the UK should visit all the UK universities to plead for an exemption for the students. This idea was also dropped because there are 130 universities in the UK and visiting all of them might take a year, unless the Republic leased a helicopter for the ambassador. Funnily enough, of the 550 boys, whose parents insist must go to a UK university, only a third have actually been accepted.

SPEAKING of boys, if he was a bit less unlikeable, you may even have felt a hint of sympathy for Ethnarch Junior, who faced another wave of defections from his party a few days ago. This time, some 30 cadres announced their departure from Diko which by the time of next year’s parliamentary elections might not muster enough votes to get into parliament.

“The proud people of Diko,” as Junior likes to refer to party supporters, might have had enough of his entitled, rich boy behaviour and his inability to arrange any rusfetological favours for them. A man that cannot arrange any rusfeti for his supporters is unfit to be the leader of Diko, a party that was built on unfailingly delivering rusfeti to anyone who asked for it.

He has betrayed the legacy of the party’s founder and historic leader, the late great Spy Kyp, and is paying for it. To be fair he has upheld another part of the Kyp legacy – that the leader is never to blame for anything but is always the victim of plots by his enemies.

THE FAMILY Planning Association came up with a video to promote consensual sex, entitled ‘Sex is like souvlakia,’ using souvlakia as code name for penetrative sex. “It is good to share souvlakia, but first you must ask, and if the person tells you ‘yes’ then the person wants souvlakia.”

I used ‘person’ because in the Greek commentary the pronoun is gender neutral, presumably to cover the gay community as well. Then again in the line drawings of the partners in the video one looks male and one female

It adds: “If the person tells you come round to make some souvlakia, it does not mean the person wants souvlakia. The person might want some halloumoui.” There was no clue what sexual act ‘halloumoui’ referred to, but it could provide another advertising slogan for our nation cheese. ‘Halloumoui ensures against unwanted pregnancies.’

HERE is the fourth part of the account of the experiences of the 19-year-old National Guardsman, serving as a sergeant at an artillery unit in Athalassa, in 1974. Today’s instalment is based on his recollection of events before the second Turkish offensive, of August 14.

“AFTER the Turkish air force went away for a brief respite and I guess for refuelling and rearming, a jeep, flying UN flags, sped across the runway towards us. I was the chief English speaker of the four men in our unit and the sergeant so the UN officer, who was a major or something, was obliged to speak to me. He said the UN would take over the area and we had to leave.

In my mind, I could have exploded with glee, but my response was the same as Metaxas’ to the Italian ultimatum back in 1940. ‘Ochi’. My orders were to stay, but I politely offered to take him to the big chief, Major Gotsis. He agreed and Gotsis initially also did his Metaxas line of ‘Ochi’ for a few minutes before then agreeing to evacuate.

My contribution to defending the airport: zero. My contribution to assisting in the translation of the conversation between Gotsis and the UN major: invaluable in saving my skin and that of every other member of the battalion. We all left the area alive. Medals awarded then or since? None. How I love the UN.

I remember few things about what happened until the start of the second invasion on August 14 which gave me another opportunity to show my courage and love for my country.

ON AUGUST 9th or maybe 11th, with negotiations between Greece and Turkey set to start (I was praying they would be successful) my unit was deployed just past the Mia Milia industrial zone, on the road to Famagusta and not far from the airstrip at Tymbou. Whether it was to protect the airstrip from Turkish aircraft bombing or to shoot down Turkish planes I do not know, but I was rather miffed that I was yet again close to an airstrip.

My unit was the furthest away from the base (a typical Cypriot house of the sixties big enough for Captain Roussos and his sidekicks) while the other anti-aircraft unit was on the side closer to Nicosia. I rang my parents and told them where we were stationed and, sure enough, they paid me a visit.

I had heard rumours that my very good friend since childhood in Famagusta had been blown to smithereens during an air attack on his camp in July. I dismissed it as a rumour but mentioned it to my mother. She did not reply, but she looked at me and her eyes watered and I knew. Cried and cried but got myself together soon enough. Had no choice.”

More next week.

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