The Turkish Sword of Damocles Over Cyprus




Once again Cyprus is fighting for its life. The Greek island-home of Aphrodite is confronting its ancient enemies, Turkey and the United Kingdom. This confrontation is taking place in a secret diplomatic meeting in Geneva on 28 June 2017.

Turkey and the UK are former imperial powers that colonized Cyprus for long stretches of time. In 1878, Turkey passed Cyprus to Britain in exchange for British promises to support the Turks in any Russo-Turkish war. The British were not much better rulers than the Turks in Cyprus. Greek Cypriots fought the British and won their freedom.

However, the liberation of Cyprus from the British and the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 took place at a time of heightened cold war anxieties. The US opposed the former Soviet Union, now Russia, everywhere. The result was a bad international agreement that brought Turkey back into the future of Cyprus. Indeed, American cold war appeasement policies toward Turkey and the lingering hatred of the British for their defeat in Cyprus made Turkey the Sword of Damocles over Cyprus. Not only that, but misplaced American fears of communism translated into cowing Greece and independent Cyprus to legitimizing the illegitimate. Greece and Cyprus had to partner with Turkey over the “protection” of Cyprus.

There was no way out of such existential complexity and fear. The US managed the Mediterranean. It recruited Turkey in the NATO ranks, despite that country’s bleak historical record of occupation and genocide against the Greeks in Greece and Cyprus and against the Armenians. US insisted that Turkey had to be appeased. So in addition to having UK and Greece as guarantors of Cypriot independence, Turkey entered the fray, giving it an opportunity to unsettle Cyprus at will.

This happened in 1974. Greece was then under military rule. Under the pretext of protecting the Turkish minority from Greek Cypriots and a potential union of Cyprus with Greece, Turkey launched an invasion of Cyprus and occupied almost forty percent of the island.

Now in the Geneva secret talks Turkey and the UK want to abolish the Republic of Cyprus and in its place set up a fake and “segregationist bi-communal and bi-zonal federation.”

I am quoting from a letter the International Hellenic Association sent to actors in the Cypriot tragedy: key diplomatic officials of the United Nations, EU, America and China:

“[A]ll post-1974 diplomatic talks [about Cyprus] have tended to focus on appeasing Turkey, legalizing the illegal effects of its invasions and precluding the application of international criminal justice.

“Alas, the post-1974 appeasement of Turkey has backfired. Instead of producing
‘peace’, appeasement has propelled Turkey into a menace, which endangers the EU. Instead of stimulating democracy in Turkey, appeasement has helped to turn Turkey into a tyranny. Instead of fostering inclusive values, appeasement has conveyed semblance 
of credibility to the segregation inherent in ‘bi-communalism’ and ‘bi-zonality’.

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“If ‘bi-communalism’ and ‘bi-zonality’ are entrenched under any ‘settlement’, this will reward aggression and may even create a dangerous precedent within the EU and the wider democratic world of which the US forms part. Such a precedent may then be exploited 
by [Turkish] President Erdogan and by other enemies of democracy; they have already started to interfere or sow the seeds of division in various parts of the EU, such as Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and, ironically, the UK.

“In view of the above:

“We call for new strategy in support of the Republic of Cyprus, in defense of democratic values, in the interests of the democratic world and in line with the post-
1945 international legal order.

“We call for the Republic of Cyprus to be saved from the ordeal of being transformed into a segregated ‘bi-communal, bi-zonal federation’ in line with the post-1964 strategy of Turkey.

“We call for a new democratic constitutional philosophy under which every citizen of the Republic of Cyprus, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, is protected by the rule of law, the principle of equality and the prohibition against direct or indirect discrimination.

“We call for the rescission of the 1960 Treaties of Alliance and Guarantee, coupled with the removal of all Turkish forces and, subject to due process, the humane deportation of all colonists illegally present on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus.

“We call for the 1960 Treaty of Establishment to be modernized in a manner which does not undermine the Republic of Cyprus and its security.

“We call on Turkey, with whose citizens we have no quarrel, to turn its back on tyranny, to transform itself into a genuine democracy and to cease threatening the Republic of Cyprus and other Member States of the EU.

“We call on Turkey to become a State Party to the many legal instruments which it has hitherto shied away from, such as the Crime of Apartheid Convention of 1973, the UN Law of the Sea Convention of 1982 and the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court of 1998.

“We call on the UN to enforce international humanitarian law in the interests of criminal justice.

“We call for the humane founding values of the EU to triumph over the doctrine of division that imbues the proposed ‘bi-communal, bi-zonal federation’.

“We call for a transparent and procedurally fair program of constitutional and legal renewal, which transforms the Republic of Cyprus into a genuinely unitary, united, integrated and free democratic state. Only such a state can be a secure bulwark of the EU and of the democratic world in the Eastern Mediterranean, one of the most conflict-prone parts of the world.”

The quoted text expresses what has to be done to keep the Republic of Cyprus alive. The international community should embrace that Republic. Second, somebody has to teach a lesson to Turkey: mind your own business and leave Cyprus alone. EU should be that somebody.

Finally, the International Hellenic Association includes Greek professors and scholars from all over the world. I am a member of the association. I, too, signed this letter.

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