Turkey, The EU and – Oh, Yes – Cyprus

“This half-a-country, this incomplete country will take over the EU Presidency. There will be a half-presidency leading a miserable union.”

The partial country?  Cyprus.  The speaker?  Turkish President Abdullah Gul in remarks to Turkish journalists during his recent official visit to Great Britain, as quoted by Reuters and published in the newspaper Cyprus Mail of November 23.  The Head of State of Turkey, an applicant for EU membership while for thirty-seven years the occupier and colonizer of much of EU member state Cyprus, in the absence of any official correction or contradiction would seem to have dropped the bid and set back hopes for Cypriot reunification.  But, let’s hope not: in politics, as elsewhere, action often speaks louder than words.

European purists, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, will welcome Gul’s pronouncement, taking them off the hook for killing Turkish accession to the EU while at the same time justifying their conviction that Turks and their like simply do not belong in the club.  Merkel, Sarkozy and their like, but the two of them in particular, had surely been outraged by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s (undated) response to the final question posed by an interviewer from Time magazine (see the October 10 issue) as to whether Turkey no longer planned to join Europe: “We’re still determined, because no leader in the EU will be there forever.  But Turkey is getting stronger as time goes by, and the situation of many European states is quite obvious.”

It is also quite obvious that the principal actors in the multi-faceted drama on stage today are going for sound bites over policy, as often as not for reasons of domestic politics and survival.  Sarkozy was widely quoted as saying the following on October 7, during a visit to Armenia:  “France doesn’t see Turkey in the EU…. Turkey is a kind of bridge between the East and the West.  Being a part of Asia Minor, it has an important role in the world, but that role is not for the EU.”  The intended nail in the coffin, if one were needed, was his public call for Turkish recognition of and apology for the Armenian Genocide of 1915, but he failed to mention the importance of the votes of the Armenian diaspora in France, said to number more than 300,000, when presidential elections are held next Spring.

Sarkozy is not alone, for Merkel and Erdogan/Gul (along with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu) are playing in large part to home audiences as they seek to prolong their presence on the scene.  What they shout now from center stage may be trumped in the end by those diplomats working hard in the wings (and with no worries about upcoming elections) for peaceful resolutions of potentially dangerous disputes.  As recently as October 12, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, introducing the publication of the latest annual progress report on Turkey’s accession process, spoke calmly but firmly about measures remaining to be addressed by that country in advance of EU membership, and he did not hesitate to speak of Cyprus in several respects.  Likewise, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Special Advisor on Cyprus Alexander Downer continue to promote talks under UN auspices between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities aimed at a federal solution agreeable to all parties concerned.  In short, while we must be wary of the big words shouted by the leaders, we ought not let their big mouths convince us that progress on several fronts is impossible.  Nevertheless, it was discouraging and scarcely comprehensible to read the eight-page cover story on Erdogan and Turkey in the November 28 edition of Time without finding a single reference to Cyprus – not even when the EU accession topic comes up.

The American role in the 1974 events that led to the long-standing military occupation by Turkish troops of some 40% of EU and UN member Cyprus, discussed here under the heading “Cyprus and National Security” on October 25, has been treated in two articles appearing in the July-August 2011 issue of the Foreign Service Journal (FSJ).  In an excerpt from her forthcoming book, The Dissent Papers: The Voice of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond, Hannah Gurman writes that, before the coup launched by the Greek military junta that overthrew the Cypriot Government, State Department Cyprus Desk Officer Thomas Boyatt had warned in official channels of the consequences of US inaction, to wit, that continued passive support of Cypriot rebels would result in an overthrow of the government and give Turkey an excuse to invade the island on behalf of the Turkish-Cypriot minority.  While Gurman does not say so explicitly, it is extremely difficult to imagine that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was unaware of Boyatt’s views, which cannot have failed to work their way up through the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, Gurman is careless enough to write that Cyprus experts agree that “Kissinger was willfully ignorant of the area’s complex political dynamic” (emphasis added).  In supposed support of this judgment, she quotes former Under Secretary of State George Ball as having written that Kissinger “knew nothing about Cyprus and did not bother to inform himself”, but she does not explain how Ball’s apparent attempt to excuse Kissinger meets the definition of “willfully”, which means nothing other than “deliberately” or “intentionally”.

The second FSJ article is by Boyatt himself, and he leaves no doubt concerning the warnings he had given, with support of fellow officers working on Greek and Turkish affairs:  “The Greek junta was planning to overthrow (Cypriot) President Makarios, notwithstanding their denials of such intent; if the Greek colonels established a puppet regime in Cyprus, the Turkish Army would invade and partition the island; and such an outcome would be disastrous for the United States, for it would destabilize NATO’s eastern flank, giving the Soviets a chance to intervene, and turn the Cyprus problem into a permanent irritant.”  Boyatt goes on to say that he had argued further for confronting the junta and telling them to stay out of Cyprus, but that his recommendations had been ignored.  Kissinger’s public admission thirty years later that Boyatt’s views had not received the attention they deserved, cited by Boyatt in his article, did nothing to relieve his guilt, tarnish his reputation or help the small country he had sold down the river to keep the Turkish generals happy.  Instead, it served only to confirm the sad truism that holds that “old new is no news” and carries no threat for the exposed party no matter how guilty.

Once again, the criminal goes free and the interests of the United States suffer.

Footnote:  A greatly expanded, well-researched and totally convincing account of Kissinger’s absolute responsibility for both the Cyprus events of 1974 and the situation in which that country finds itself in 2011 can be found at the following site: http://hellenicantidote.blogspot.com/2011/04/exposing-kissingers-cyprus-lies.html

By Alan Berlind.