By Roger L Jennings…….
After the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Constantinople in the year 1453 the Greeks employed the gambits of the Byzantines as their method of foreign policy.
Recently President Anastasiades employed one of those gambits by insisting that Turkey remove its troops from Cyprus before other issues like power sharing can be discussed. The protection provided by Turkey is a non-negotiable requirement of the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots remember the attempt in 1974 to force the Turkish Cypriots to leave the island and all the sporadic violence against Turkish Cypriots.
President Anastasiades knows removing the Turkish Army is non-negotiable. He is manufacturing a crisis. When Presidents Akinci and Anastasiades met with the UN General Secretary in New York City recently the Greek Cypriot knew he would have to yield on the point, and agree to the meeting without precondition in Geneva. Officials at the UN celebrated thinking they had achieved a great diplomatic victory. This was not an achievement of the UN, but rather the plan of President Anastasiades.
The objective of Greeks and Greek Cypriots is to keep the talkers talking. The meeting at the UN accomplished nothing. The conversation and succession of gambits will simply move to Geneva or someplace else. The hope of the Greek Cypriot political leaders is to wear down the Turkish Cypriot people with the embargo so that Turkish Cypriots emigrate.
Greek people are loving, family oriented people of faith. They were good friends of their neighbour Turks in Turkey prior to the Greek Army landing in Turkey in 1919 and committing atrocities against innocent Turks. Those atrocities are described, for example, in the Report of the Inter-Allied Commission of Inquiry that is posted on the internet click here.
The Greeks have been misled since the rise to power by Prime Minister Venizelos. Venizelos was a revolutionary with unbridled ambition for power and grandeur. Many thousands of Greeks, Turks and Armenians died as a result. The Greek United Opposition Party defeated Venizelos in a landslide election and Venizelos left Greece. He was then tried in absentia and given a death sentence by the Greeks. However, subsequent Greek politicians overwhelmed by their own greatness have continued with the Megali Idea foreign policy that has been the greatest cause of grief and hardship for the Greek people. Enosis is the Greek Cypriot expression of the Megali Idea.
President Anastasiades cannot let the talks end abruptly. In fact, he does not want the talks to even end. An abrupt end to the negotiations would put the Greeks at great risk that Turkey would take unilateral action. For example, Turkey could notify the drilling companies that gas will be delivered to the TRNC for partial distribution as the Turks see fit to south Cyprus. The option presented to the drilling companies will be they will be replaced by drilling companies chosen by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots. No country in the world will go to war to defend the Greek Cypriot claim to the Aphrodite gas field.
The negotiations have gone on too long. The Byzantine Textbook gambit is to create the illusion that nirvana is just over that next hill. Go to that one more meeting, or reach consensus on this one issue, and an agreement will be reached. The Turkish Cypriots have traveled over many hills to meetings in Geneva and elsewhere, but the result has been the same.
A major problem is President Akinci is fully invested in the idea there will be an agreement. His voice has been more controlling than those of other government leaders in the TRNC and Turkey and other political parties in the TRNC. Seasoned negotiators know when an agreement will not be reached and they must walk away from the negotiating table.
President Reagan reached that point with Mikhail Gorbachev during the Strategic Defense Initiative negotiations. President Reagan abruptly stood up and walked out without saying goodbye or anything to the shock of Gorbachev. The world thought the negotiations were a failure. However, Reagan was an experienced negotiator after representing the actors’ union for years. The Reagan gambit brought down the Soviet Union and was one of the greatest diplomatic feats of modern times. Mr. Akinci should learn from that example.
President Akinci is a good and honorable person. He is a person everyone should like and respect. President Anastasiades knows President Akinci will not walk away from the negotiating table. President Anastasiades is taking advantage of President Akinci’s good nature. However, President Akinci is under increasing pressure to walk away from the talks. The Turkish Cypriot officials have said the next talks are the last. Are they? Turks are a very resolute people who never back down. Their word should be accepted. The challenge for President Anastasiades is to provide a reason to continue the talks. The Byzantine method is to concede on a major point so the Turks have renewed hope. At some future date, that concession will be taken back by the Greek Cypriots. This will keep the talkers talking.
If President Akinci does not achieve a final agreement that the Greek and Turkish Cypriots can vote on, then President Akinci should resign the Office of the President. He should turn the future of all Turkish Cypriots over to someone with a more realistic understanding of the Cypriot situation like the Prime Minister. Mr. Akinci should return to the occupation of architecture where he was trained to perform. The reality is the Greek Cypriot people will vote against any agreement achieved by President Akinci or anyone. The Annan Plan and public polls in south Cyprus show there is not support among Greeks for equal rights for Turkish Cypriots.
The Turkish Cypriots really do not need an agreement with south Cyprus. The TRNC can break the embargo any day it finds the initiative to act like a sovereign country. The problem the Turkish Cypriots have is lack of initiative. Once the Turkish Cypriot Government musters initiative, it can focus on the “peace and prosperity” that Gazi M. Kemal Ataturk wanted for all Turks.
The TRNC Government can announce numbered investment accounts like Switzerland and other countries to receive the funds necessary to convert gas to fertilizer, synthetics, paint, cosmetics and many other products. The funds can be invested in south Cyprus, Greece and other places in the world that have projects with an acceptable return on investment. When the Greek and Turkish people work on shared objectives, peace and prosperity will reign and the politicians will be swept into the dustbin. The Turkish Cypriots will become the best friends the Greek Cypriots ever had.
Roger Jennings has written many articles for cyprusscene about Turkey and how it developed after WW1 when his grandfather was working in Turkey and became a friend and confidant of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Roger’s article “Silent Diplomacy in Turkey – Looking back at how it happened” gives so much information of this important milestone in Turkey’s modern history.
Roger has also written a number of articles about the ongoing attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem.