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6 Mayıs 2013 Pazartesi

The ‘problem of Turkey’ in Cyprus by LEVENT KÖKER*

15 March 2011 /
Cyprus saw another rally last week after the first one, held on Jan. 28, that created much heated public debate. 

Although some differences can be identified between the first and second rallies, particularly with respect to an anti-Turkey stance, which was clearly salient in the first one, this “problem” persists.
Here, the “problem” is perceived as the discontent of the Cypriot people about an “economic package” that originates from Turkey -- which we may call the “immediate cause” of both rallies. 

Even some Cypriot columnists tend to argue that the primary purpose of the rallies is to demand that the level of welfare -- which they have been maintaining thanks to the resources sent from Turkey -- should be sustained. However, this is not the real “problem.”

The problem has something to do with the Turkish Cypriots’ demand for self-government and is basically related to the fact that Turkey’s presence in Cyprus has been built so as to prevent such demands from being fulfilled. 

In other words, it is the “problem of Turkey in Cyprus” and this problem can be discerned only by understanding the historical errors made in Turkey’s Cyprus policies. 

Before going any further, I must note that after the first rally held on Jan. 28, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters he had started to reflect on “what went wrong” in Cyprus. 

There are lots of mistakes and not all of them have been made today, and it can even be argued that the current situation is the result of these past errors.

One grave mistake was the division of Cyprus along the yet-to-be-agreed-upon borders contrary to the provisions of the Treaty of Guarantee after the military operation of July 20, 1974. 

As you may recall, the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 used its supporters in Cyprus to overthrow the constitutional order on the island and, in response, Turkey launched a military operation on the island invoking its rights under the treaties of 1959-1960.

Turkey’s intervention was justified by Article IV of the Treaty of Guarantee, which reads: “In the event of a breach of the provisions of the present treaty, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom undertake to consult together with respect to the representations or measures necessary to ensure observance of those provisions. 

In so far as common or concerted action may not prove possible, each the three guaranteeing powers reserves the right to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs created by the present treaty.” 

The main interest to us here is the last sentence. Turkey took action alone, but the end result of this intervention was to create a new and “independent” state -- the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) -- recognized only by Turkey and established contrary to the provisions of the Treaty of Guarantee. 

Thus, although we were perfectly justified in taking action, we ended up in an unjust situation before international law.

The second error is connected to the first. The KKTC’s declaration of independence came on Nov. 15, 1983, nine days after Turkey’s general elections of Nov. 6, 1983, won by late Prime Minister Turgut Özal. 

People who tended to make assertive statements, such as “The homeland and the little land cherish an indivisible unity,” opted to declare an independent state on the island even before seeing the Cyprus policy of the first civilian government to be established after military rule in the “homeland,” and this point is worth questioning.

It is hard to imagine that the military rule in Turkey at the time had not approved of the establishment of the KKTC. But would the democratically elected ruling Motherland Party (ANAP) and its leader Özal approve of it as well? 

In the end, the establishment of an independent KKTC has clearly urged Turkey to move away from the target of establishing a federation -- which would call for acting together with the international community, and particularly the United Nation -- and approach the idea of establishing a loose “confederation” between two independent “nation-states.”

The third mistake was Turkey’s transfer of population from Turkey to the island just before the declaration of the KKTC’s independence. 

International law in general and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 clearly prohibit any country that conveyed its military troops to any land from transferring its population to the said land. 

That the international community did not opt for imposing effective sanctions on Turkey in this context does not invalidate the fact that Turkey’s systematic population transfer in the post-1974 period violated international law.

At the time, Turkey concluded that the republic established in 1960 could no longer be maintained and wanted to reinforce the way leading to the establishment, first of the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus, and then of the KKTC, by changing the population balance on the island. 

This “population transfer” not only led to some unwanted socio-cultural consequences but also enabled some people and groups who had problems with the legal system in Turkey to migrate to the island, particularly after 1980. 

This was facilitated by the practice of allowing ordinary Turkish citizens to freely travel to the island using only their ID cards despite the fact that passports would be needed to do so just after the military intervention of 1974.

We cannot change the past, of course. As an active power in the north of the island since 1974, Turkey might choose to build its population policy on luring more Turkish Cypriots, the majority of whom opted to become Turkish citizens in 1923 and were, for this reason, pushed into leaving their homeland, back to the island, and, in this way, Turkey may save itself from pursing policies that are ironically similar to the violent methods of the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) and more “peaceful” methods of Makarios III seeking to ensure that Turkish Cypriots leave the island.

The fourth error was to change the procedure used in the exporting of the goods produced in northern Cyprus and to try to put the KKTC into line. 

This change, which came in the 1990s, evolved to be an obstacle in front of the exports of goods produced in northern Cyprus, causing the Turkish Cypriots to become more and more isolated and produce less and less, thereby becoming more dependent on Turkey. 

The role of embargoes in increasing the Turkish Cypriots’ dependence on Turkey cannot be denied, but the abovementioned change had a much more direct impact on it. 

The KKTC is currently connected to the external world almost exclusively through Turkey, and this creates a huge imbalance to the disadvantage of the KKTC. Just look at the figures -- from either Turkey’s or the KKTC’s public institutions -- and you will see that Turkey’s exports to the KKTC are 10 times higher than its imports from the KKTC. 

Thus, one of the placards the protesters carried during the recent anti-Turkey rallies suggested that Turkey was giving one, but taking back five.

The fifth, and probably the gravest, error was to prevent the comprehensive settlement project known as the Annan plan from being voted on in a referendum before the EU accession of the Republic of Cyprus.

While the brainchild of this obstacle in the 2003-2004 period was Rauf Denktaş, the high military bureaucracy’s approach, apart from the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) mentality that rejects the motto “Deadlock is the best solution,” also played a decisive role in this. 

In the end, very little change has come about in favor of Turkish Cypriots who said “yes” to the plan, and Turkey’s presence on the island continues with no change.

It is possible to list other or more recent errors and argue that the AK Party has increased the “alienation” between Cyprus and Turkey by recently shifting toward a more nationalist stance and interfering in the domestic political processes in Cyprus. 

Thus, it is clear that there is now a visible “Turkey problem” in Cyprus, effected by a number of factors during the historical process. 

This problem is confirmed by the presence of a group of people who tend to perceive Turkey’s presence in Cyprus as a form of domination that can no longer be justified.

Whether this group is big or marginal is not important. 

The important thing is that a vital component of the Cyprus issue has emerged as the “problem of Turkey in Cyprus” and, this time, in the KKTC. 

The flags of the “Republic of Cyprus” -- designed by a Turkish Cypriot -- waved during the first rally were seized by the police during the second rally, and those who called on the EU about this incident complain about the “KKTC’s police” that seized the flags of the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the EU. 

You may or may not be aware that the police officers in the KKTC are subordinated to a military commander who is assigned by Turkey. Isn’t this another error?

*Professor Levent Köker is a lecturer at Gazi University.

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