Cyprus in a Changing Geopolitical Environment – Dimitris Konstantakopoulos, Journalist, Writer and Political Commentator, 7 April, 2017
Cyprus in a Changing Geopolitical Environment
Journalist, Writer and Political Commentator
Although often presented as a conflict propelled by some primordial hatreds based on ethnic and religious differences, the Cyprus conflict is very much rooted in a wider geopolitical landscape of the Eastern Mediterranean. Due to its strategic location at the crossroads between the Middle East and Europe, Cyprus has been greatly impacted by developments in both regions. One of the main pillars of the West’s security architecture in the Eastern Mediterranean has been the reliance on Turkey as the most important regional ally and a guarantor of stability in this part of the world, enabling it to act in a neo-imperialist and neo-Ottoman manner. This paradigm seems to be crumbling, but no new alternative has been presented so far. Both Cyprus and Greece constitute a part of a wider Western institutional structure, therefore it is crucial they stand up for the principles this structure is based upon and expose Turkey’s shortcomings. However, the West, and Europe in particular, also need to pay close attention to its south-eastern flank and support policies which uphold democratic values at the core of the Western civilization.
Christodoulos Pelaghias (C.P.): Dear friends, welcome again. This evening with us we have well-known author and political commentator Dimitris Konstantakopoulos. Mr. Konstantalopoulos, welcome back and thank you for agreeing to continue our discussion on the Cyprus issue.
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos (D.K.): Thank you.
C.P.: Mr. Konstantakopoulos, you’ve been following the Cyprus issue – as we discussed before -for many years. What makes the Cyprus problem so difficult to solve? What is the Cyprus problem all about today?
D.K.: Cyprus is one of the most strategic places on earth. And in the same time it is both a European and a Middle Eastern country. So what is happening to Cyprus is a reflection of both what is happening in the Middle East and in Europe. And we all know very well, the Middle Eastern region is in a situation now of absolute turmoil, but a huge crisis is also affecting the European Union. So we cannot understand the Cyprus issue as a conflict between Greece and Turkey, or between the Greek Cypriot majority and the tiny Turkish Cypriot minority in the island. Those contradictions and conflicts, of course, have existed.
I have to remind at this point that historically Greeks and Turks, Christians and Muslims in Cyprus had not any difficulty to live together. They had even developed, some kind – without resigning from their own national or religious identities – they have even developed a kind of, so to say, a Cyprus identity, as they were both born in this island. What created this conflict is the fact the imperial power, in that case Great Britain, which acquired Cyprus in 1878, from the Ottoman Empire, has used also in that question the method of divide et impera – divide and rule. So, this was the great problem which brought about the antagonism between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority and then brought inside the equation also Turkey itself and Greece.
Now, what we see, the prototype of the British colonial policy, one can trace its origins in the adoption by the British when they acquired Cyprus of some form of the millet way of governing which was used by Ottoman Empire. They were using Cyprus by trying to govern it through each communities. They were trying to persuade Greeks that they are not Greeks, and they have created – three months after acquiring the island in 1878 – they have created a council for self-government. In this council there was one part which was Greek Christian – rather, as they were told that time, Greek Christian Cypriots – one part was Muslim Cypriots, and one part was representatives of the colonial power. But what they did at the same time, they gave more privileges to the minority, so by this cunning operation they have guaranteed that the minority would never ally with the majority to put into doubt the colonial regime. Because the minority had an interest, in that case Turkish Cypriots had an interest to align with colonial power in order to get more privileges. And the Greek majority, the Christian majority, was always against the minority for abusing its position and using these privileges. So this was the prototype.
But then this took more direct forms. London has used Turkey and Greece, because Greece as you know, it was ruled after 1949, after the Greek civil war was ruled by the regime which was completely controlled by the United States and Great Britain. So they got the agreement of the Athens regime and of Ankara, and they introduced Turkey into the Cyprus question. Turkey, by signing the Lausanne Treaty it had already signed off many claims on Cyprus. But the British have reintroduced Ankara into the Cyprus problem. This was the reason that led to the bloody conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, which also is in the origin of the Greek-Turkish competition and antagonism. Greece and Turkey have arrived near war many times because of Cyprus. We had pogroms of Christians in Istanbul because of Cyprus. We had a dictatorship in Greece because also of Cyprus.
Why all this is happening? It is happening because as Harry Hopkins, the colonial secretary of the British Empire, said back in 1949, “Cyprus belongs….” At that time Griffiths who had been the Labor colonial secretary… You know what happens to the socialists. When they are in opposition, they remember they are socialists and they are struggling for the rights. When they go to the government they forget, usually, this. And what happened to Griffiths? He remembered Cyprus and he asked Harry Hopkins, the then Tory colonial secretary during the debate in the House of Commons, “What will happen to Cyprus?” This happened in July 1954 but it is still important for understanding the Cyprus conflict. He told him, “It was always agreed and understood – that is, Mr. Griffiths, don’t forget what you had agreed on already, now you are in opposition – it was always agreed and understood that some territories of the Commonwealth will never become completely, fully independent.” How the British could do that? By using the Turkish factor. And sometimes their imperial policy was so complex that even the ministers of her majesty could not understand what was going on. At one point Harold MacMillan himself was obliged, in order to explain to his colleagues inside the cabinet, he put his strategy like that. “Our strategy,” he said, “in the negotiation, is that we oppose to the Greeks their refusal of Turks to accept the union with Greece in order to condition Greeks to accept our sovereignty over Cyprus.” This is the essence of British policy on Cyprus which was later continued by the USA, and this is the root of the Cyprus problem.
CP.: But in all fairness Mr. Konstantakopoulos, the British colonial government had the interests of Britain at heart. I don’t think that anybody would have expected that they would have behaved in a way as to promote the interests of Greece or the Greek Cypriots, or so on. Each country, its government supports its own national policy and its national interests.
D.K.: First of all, the world would be a jungle if every state does what is in its narrow national interest.
C.P.: But that’s not my point.
D.K.: To tell you the truth, I believe it was against the British national interest, and it was against the United States’ national policy.
C.P.: We are getting sidetracked. That was not my point. That was in passing that I made that comment. The point is, however, that it is now fifty years, sixty years later and certain things, yes, they do have historical basis and historical explanations, but things have moved on. There are different and new elements in the equation, and while it is clearly important to have in mind the basis of the problem, and quite frankly it wasn’t just the colonial issue. Later – and I’m sure you agree – it was transmuted into a cold war issue. The British in order to entice the Americans and to get Americans to help, they re-invaded the Cyprus problem. Or not reinvented it, but shaped it to appeal to Cold War thinking in the United States. But that has changed also. Cyprus today has moved on. Supposedly it’s part of the European Union. So the EU is another player. Turkey has changed. The Eastern Mediterranean has been transformed. The rebirth of Islamism, resurgence of Russia, perhaps, coming back to another Cold War mentality. I think in order to understand the Cyprus problem, it’s important to deconstruct it. And, I agree, we have to start historically. But I think we’ve got to move as today’s scenario and take the elements that are present today, if you would agree.
D.K.: I agree and I will answer to your question by explaining how the modern-day problem is reflecting what I consider always existing colonial question behind the Cyprus conflict. But I want to tell you another two things, if you permit me, about history, to close this chapter.
First thing which I believe is that Great Britain and the United States of America, by what they did in Cyprus and Greece, they did not in fact help their national interest, even during the Cold War. What they had done is to create a serious conflict they, have all but destroyed the south east wing of the NATO, they had imposed the dictatorship, they had decades of fervent anti-Americanism in Greece and in Cyprus. So I think the net result of their policy was detrimental also to their interests. And even an American diplomat Monteagle Stearns who used to be an ambassador in Athens, he said that the only reason Soviets did not get more from Greece and Cyprus and Turkey crisis, it is because they were themselves incompetent, not because we did not give them… You see this kind of policy, which is not belonging unfortunately to the past, it is belonging to the future. This is what I believe.
And I’m afraid that the situation of course has changed since the fifties, but it has changed in a way which makes it much worse. Look what is happening next to your door in the Middle East. We have half of the Arab countries which were not, how to say, invaded, they were demolished, which is a terrible situation. Nobody knows what will happen in the Middle East. In the same time the European Union is transforming it into a very strange structure. As the Financial Times of the 19th of December – they published a prominent article on Greece, and they called Greece a Western protectorate.
So I’m afraid that our world is much less democratic and much more dangerous than it was back in the fifties and the sixties. In that sense you are right. But that makes more dangerous the situation around Cyprus as a reflection of the processes in the Middle East and in Europe.
I have to tell you also one thing that historically speaking – not by using any model, by using just statistics – we know that every serious crisis in Cyprus, and also every supposedly serious effort to sort the Cyprus problem has preceded great wars in the Middle East. I was a little bit surprised when I heard the British defense secretary some days ago visiting Cyprus and saying on the record, “Our bases here are more important than ever in history”. I’m wondering if I understand what he says. Because history is the creation of the state of Israel, history is the Yom Kippur War, history is the 1974 crisis and the Suez Crisis. So I’m wondering what will happen in the Middle East if the British defense secretary believes that the bases are now more important that they were during those times. But, anyway.
Now you want to know how all those things are reflected in the present day situation. I will explain. First of all, unfortunately, because I’m Greek by origin, the Cyprus government, with the contribution of the Greek government, has proceeded to (inaudible) coup d’état. Now, you will tell me, is it possible that the government, or the head of a given state makes a coup d’état? Of course it’s possible. If he decides to make the coup d’état, he is the most capable to doing the coup d’état. Because he has only to abuse the already existing power he commands legally. Why I say so? And the great example was the Vichy regime in France. Marshal Petain had been authorized by the French constitution on the 10th July of 1940, he was invested by the elected national assembly with the crushing majority with constituent powers. The same is what Mr. Anastasiades has done by calling for an international conference in Geneva to solve the Cyprus problem. People who are following this emission will understand immediately why this is an aberration by itself. Imagine, for instance, that tomorrow there is a conference in Bilbao, let’s say, where France, Italy, Portugal will decide the ethnic conflict in Spain, without the Spanish state itself being present, only with representatives of Spanish national communities represented there. If I would propose such an idea everybody would say that I am mad. This is happening for Cyprus now in Geneva. There is a conference in Geneva, where three states are participating, Greece, Britain and Turkey, with representatives of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, and they are deciding the fate of the state of Cyprus.
C.P.: Just a point here with the suggestion that there is a government coup. A lot of people that I have talked to have reminded me when I’ve suggested that the leadership of the Cyprus Republic are more progressive, perhaps, and they’ve left behind the voters, people remind me that these negotiations of today haven’t fallen out of the sky. These are continuation of negotiations that have been carried on for the last twenty years, thirty years. I’m not trying to defend Cyprus’ administration in any way, but it’s fair to say that they’ve continued on a line, perhaps in your view a wrong direction, but this direction has been taken by the Vassiliou government, by the Cleridis government after that, by all of the governments that have followed, including even the Tasos Papadopoulos government, in a lesser degree, but certainly the same line. So, who is at fault here? Is it, again, the outside powers, or is it a flow in democratic deficit in the Cyprus structure, and incidentally in the Greek polity as well. We should perhaps look for the problems at home? Yes, the foreigners have given us problems, but I think we have amplified these problems.
D.K.: I will answer to this Mr. Pelaghias. What these people are saying is a huge lie, huge, very huge lie. Most of what they say are huge lies. Deception is the most usual method of making politics these days. And this is not only in Cyprus, it is everywhere in the world. But anyway, we are not going to open this discussion now. Why it is a lie? Up to now there was a procedure. One can agree with this procedure or can disagree with this procedure. This procedure was negotiations between the representatives of the Greek Cypriot majority – 82% of the population, and the Turkish Cypriot minority – 18% of the population. For me this was not the right method. Anyway, this method was adopted. The program was to arrive to the conclusion and then the conclusion would go to a referendum, like it had in 2004, as you remember. Now, suddenly Mr. Anastasiades, the president of the republic, decided – and the Greek government agreed – to convene international conference on Cyprus conflict. That is three foreign states plus two representatives of the two communities – the majority and the minority of the Cyprus population – will decide what kind of state they want to have in Cyprus, what kind of international status this state will have, what foreign forces are going to station or not station, what other countries will have guarantee rights on this state, and so on and so forth. This way they have taken constituent power from the people of Cyprus – the only one who is entitled to decide about the faith of its country. If it’s not a coup d’état, what is coup d’état?
C.P.: I agree with you there, but I think it’s essential perhaps to look at… Because you’ve mentioned the process. A lot has been made that the Turkish Cypriot leadership of this day is moderate, forward looking, able to differentiate itself from the position of Turkey, and so on. This is the narrative that has been given, both internationally and in Cyprus, and in Greece. There is a lot of people that disagree with that narrative, that point out…
D.K.: If it is like you say, Mr. Pelaghias, why they did not follow the normal, usual, predicted procedure, and they changed the procedure? If it is true that Mr. Akinci, the leader of the Turkish Cypriots is progressive and keen to an agreement, why this agreement was not presented by Mr. Anastasiades and Mr. Akinci to the Cypriot voters?
C.P.: You are making my point exactly. What I wanted to say was that this entire process is a constituent process where you set up a new constitution, has to be transparent, has to be democratic, has to be inclusive.
D.K.: All this critique can be used about the talks that are continuing. The international conference – it’s another thing. Because you take the constituent power from where it belongs, and it belongs to the people of Cyprus, and you get it to an international ad hoc conference. This is combining a coup d’état and foreign intervention in the affairs of one country. It is completely illegal. And I’m very sorry that Mr. Guterres has begun like he has begun his career in the United Nations. If he continues like that, maybe he does not know the Cyprus problem – I hope that he will get acquainted very soon – because if he goes on like that, he will be the worst UN Secretary in the history of this organization.
C.P.: I’m trying to get to the bottom of it, and I think we’re on the same point here. Is that as this process has been constructed, it has certain elements that are clearly missing from it, and one of those important elements…
D.K.: You mean the Geneva conference?
C.P.: No, I mean the entire process, including the Geneva conference.
D.K.: No, no, Mr. Pelaghias I disagree on this point, because we have two different processes, and we should make that clear. The one process is the talks between the two communities – on this we can discuss if it’s the right method. But here there is something else which has happened, which is non-continuity with the process. It is the convening of the international conference which will decide things about Cyprus which only the people of Cyprus has the right to decide, and for which Mr. Anastasiades or the Greek government have no authorization to take any decision and to agree to anything. It is a clear violation of the Articles 183 and 184 of the existing constitution of Cyprus, it is a clear violation of the treaties regulating the functioning of the European union of which Cyprus is a fully sovereign and independent member. They are treating Cyprus like a colony, like a protectorate as it was in the past, and this is unacceptable. This is not simply illegality. This is why I said it is a coup d’état, speaking stricto sensu (sic), not rhetorically, not politically, but legally.
C.P.: I would submit to you that it’s even worse, because it’s not only a coup d’état to dismantle the Republic of Cyprus. It is an acceptance of the dismantlement. Turkey has said that the republic of Cyprus is defunct. Greece has not taken up a position, I remember, when this statement of the Turkish government was issued as part of its response to the EU findings several years ago, the Greek government did not respond in appropriate way. What I’m trying to say to you – and I think you will agree – is that beyond the democratic deficit in the negotiations, there has been a gradual deconstruction of the republic of Cyprus, a dismemberment of its certain elements. That unfortunately it’s not just the Anastasiades administration that has done this. It has been accepted over a period of years. I will bring your attention to the water pipeline that was created and constructed to connect Turkey with the Turkish occupied areas. The Republic of Cyprus had very little response, legally or otherwise, to this issue. This goes very deeply in cancelling the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. Incidentally, neither did Greece raise the word against this issue. A number of other such issues have happened.
D.K.: Mr. Pelaghias, this is not only a problem concerning Cyprus or Greece. This is a problem concerning all European national elites. Very few of the people who are governing nowadays Europe are defending national interests against multinational economic interests, and against the United States of America in cases their national interest…
C.P.: But that is another level. I think what is valid is that, is there not an expectation from both Europe and the United States or anybody else, from the side of the Greek Cypriots and the Greeks to support principles that we do not support strongly enough? Why should the Europeans stand up for freedoms and principles that we keep quiet about?
D.K.: They should stand up because it is in their own interest. They had used in 2010 the Greek leadership, it signed loan agreements which are of neo-colonial nature, and they used its dependence which they have themselves created. For instance in Greece everybody was bribed by Siemens and other firms in order to create the protectorate in Greece. If those things which are happening in Greece and Cyprus advance, there are two possible results. The one result is that it will translate into the abolition of any democratic element still existing in the European Union. It will be used against all European peoples and nations, not only against Greece. The second thing which can happen is that sooner or later the European Union will be destroyed out of those monster creations. And like the Greek situation now, and like Cyprus – if the Cyprus conflict is solved in the way they are planning to solve it. So, all European citizens have a huge interest in helping Greek people stop what our own governments are doing – acting as agents of very, very dangerous extremist forces inside the international system. Because you are right to involve the Cold War. But what has happened after the Cold War is unfortunately that instead of building a better world, better Europe, and better Middle East, instead of affronting the huge challenges we have, like climating (sic) change, like the problem of hunger in Africa or many other problems that planet is facing, we are doing something very different. The most extremist forces inside both the United States, the European and the international establishment have thought that after the demise of the Soviet Union they can apply any crazy projects they have in their minds. And this is why we have wars in the Middle East and Africa, this is why we have an economic crisis which is not finishing in Europe and the United States, and which has been transformed to a crisis between the European nations. It has begun as a banking crisis in 2008. Banks were able not only not to face the consequences of their own policy and behavior, but to transform the crisis into a crisis between European nations. So I think we should stop this. And this is not a thing which is interesting only Greece and Cyprus. This is something which has to interest everybody in the world, and especially Europeans, as those two countries are members of the European Union and even of the eurozone.
C.P.: On a related issue to that, the picture has always been painted of Turkey that it is a contributor to stability, it is a contributor to regional progress, it is a contributor to European economic betterment. How would you comment that? I think there also the people that are mostly supporting this picture is the Cyprus government and the Greek government, who have not in any way tried to change that image of Turkey, despite all that has been happening in Turkey.
D.K.: The train is changing from the first wagon – it’s the action, and it needs sometime for the other wagons to get to the same direction. So usually in our world the initiative comes from the United States. After sometime it moves to Western Europe. And it needs some time to come to Greece and Cyprus, which are maybe on the last places of the train. The leaders are not well adapted, supposedly, to the new tendencies in the international situation. And by the way, they are a little bit confused now, as most international elites. Because what is happening inside the international establishment is a kind of civil war which remembers me the civil wars in ancient Rome. When civil wars erupted in ancient Rome, every village in the Mediterranean would feel this conflict. And now we are in such a situation. What was Mediterranean in ancient times, is all the planet nowadays. But to be more precise, I think we are in a period where there are conflicting views inside the western establishment on the role of turkey. There are those who still believe that Turkey should be included in the European Union, that this kind of empire that the European Union is constituted of is, as Mr. Barroso himself has called it, has to developed and to include also Turkey. There are those who think that no independent Turkey must be accepted, it is in the western interest to be accepted in the Middle East. So I think this difference is reflected also in the Cyprus negotiations.
But I would like to hear, to make a remark on the internal structure – because now we have spoken about the procedure, about the Geneva conference – and if those three states have any right to decide about the fourth state, which they don’t have. But now I would like to speak about the structure of the solution itself. Because according to the very interesting interview the Greek foreign minister gave to the German news agency DPA in January 21, what solution they found for the Cyprus conflict? The first is that they want to create a 50/50 state – 50% rights for the majority and 50% rights for the minority. Here where I stand now in this city, for the first time in human history, Thucydides, rather Pericles, the leader of the Athenians explained to them… it was one year after the Peloponnesian War erupted. He said to Athenians why their sacrifices were justified. Why they had to see their relatives lose their lives. He said in his epitaphios speech, the funeral speech he made for the victims on the first year of the anniversary of the eruption of the Peloponnesian War, “We made this war because our state is called democracy. It’s called the rule of majority. Up to now, until our world becomes totalitarian, for both the legal science and the political science, democracy is defined as the rule of the majority. And dictatorship is defined as the rule of the minority. And it is not maybe by accident that the etymology of the word ‘democracy’ is Greek, the etymology of the word ‘dictatorship’ is Roman. So what I want to say is that this is legally a protectorate they are creating. Because if you make a fifty-fifty percent arrangement, it is impossible to work, you will need a third part, the (inaudible) power which will command the sovereignty over Cyprus to make the decisions. Because otherwise you will not make the decisions.
The second characteristic of this state is that it will not have its own army. They want to create a demilitarized, as they say, island, in Eastern Mediterranean. Next to Israel, Syria, Egypt, somebody has the sudden inspiration to create a state without army. But this somebody does not believe that the world has become (inaudible), so he is providing for remaining of the British bases on the island. He is providing also for installing there an international police force. I’m hearing that this would be from 50% Christian, and 50% Muslim countries. Those things have nothing to do with general principles of constitutions accepted worldwide, of the constitutional law, of the European law, and of the international law. They are against the Charter of the United Nations, they are against the European treaties – the treaties regulating the functioning of the European union. So the whole thing is completely illegal. But this is from the legal point of view. From the practical point of view, this is a blueprint for making war in Cyprus, a bloody conflict in Cyprus. And if you make a war in Cyprus, it is the best way to have quickly the inhabitants leave the island. Or if they don’t leave, to be disciplined, and to (inaudible) forces which will dominate this island will want from them to do. By the way, if they agree on this in Geneva, Turkey will become next month a member of the European Union, interesting, by the window of the Cyprus settlement, because it is getting fifty percent of the Cyprus vote in the European Union. So I think this is the best way to destroy European Union to put in such a way Turkey inside it, but in the same time I’m afraid it is also a trap for Turkey itself. It is not a way for Turkey to become a member. If Turkey wants to become a member of the European Union and stay there as a stable member, it has to pass through the door, not through the window.
C.P.: Turkish accession aside, I want to stay on the point that you made that from a practical point of view what is being created is a protectorate situation, Finlandization, if you will, of Cyprus…
D.K.: No, no, excuse me, I did not say that. Maybe there is a misunderstanding here. From a legal point of view, it is created a protectorate. From a practical point of view, it is created a war.
C.P.: Ok, but in order to get to the war, you have to have a failure of the structure. And I think we are anticipating that a little bit.
D.K.: The plan itself guarantees for each failure, as it happened with previous efforts, like 1960, to solve the Cyprus problem.
C.P.: If you would stay with me for a second. I’m willing though to give credence, at least on the surface, to the efforts that are being made in order to create a security structure in Cyprus, a protectorate, whatever you want to call it, because it must be part of a greater master plan for the security, or the western security of the Eastern Mediterranean. There has to be some logic behind it. I cannot readily accept your position that what they are trying to do is create a conflagration, create a war.
D.K.: I say they are doing it. I’m not judging it, I don’t want to become a psychologist. I’m examining the objective facts.
C.P.: That’s exactly what I want to bring you to do – examine what is the underlying logic, the geopolitical logic of this effort to pacify Cyprus, or to settle the Cyprus problem, in the way that it’s been tried to be settled. There has to be some underlying premise. I would submit to you and comment on it that the underlying premise has always been an attempt to block Russian resurgence, or development of Russian position in the Mediterranean and the Eastern Mediterranean. What would you say to that?
D.K.: First of all, if you are searching for an underlying line and global logic, I think you would search Henry Kissinger. He said once, “Whoever controls Malta, Crete and Cyprus, rules the world”. So he explained by that what he did, I mean a coup d’état like the one he organized in Chile, he organized one more in Nicosia in 1973, and he organized also the Turkish invasion of the island. If you look for an underlying logic in those strange plans to solve the Cyprus conflict, you have to look to the underlying logic of neo-conservatives and what they did in the Middle East since 2001. We don’t need to look for any mysterious plans, we have just to read what they write, and we have just to see in our televisions what they have achieved so far. As far as it concerns Russian presence in Greece and Cyprus, this is an objection of the British policy for centuries now, and it became also an objection of the United States policy. There is once more problem here. Because the basic reason, the fundamental reason that has made Greek politicians, even sometime right-wing, anticommunist, very right wing and conservative politicians look to Moscow, it was only one – the policy of Great Britain and of the United States of America in Greece and Cyprus. And this at least President Clinton has understood. This is why when he visited Greece he has apologized for the dictatorship in Greece. And secretary Holbrooke also apologized for what the United States had done in Cyprus. So if they apologize, they know better than the victims, maybe, the reasons for which they apologize. And I think those reasons, these policies are what has the potential of bringing Russia into Eastern Mediterranean. And I don’t know if it is really a fear of Russia, or it is just a kind of pretext to be found. During the Cold War it was communism, now it is Putin – we have to find pretexts in order to make conquests. But this is not very original. They have to rethink those extremist forces inside the United States and the British establishment their own policy, and review it in their own interest, not in our interest. Because if we want to build a better world…
You know something, there is also another aspect. In the past they were using classic colonialist or imperialistic tactics towards a country which was not belonging in the core of the western world. When you are using that inside the European Union and the eurozone, you don’t make anymore colonialism and imperialism. You make a regime change in the West. You are destroying western democracy – the core principles of western democracy. And I’m afraid there are forces in the western establishment, in both Europe and the US, which are not satisfied by what we have – some kind of democracy, and also social welfare state – and they want to destroy that. This is the link between what is happening in Greece, what is happening in Cyprus and what is happening in the European Union.
C.P.: You’ve just touched on an interesting point, and you say that the major western countries have got to rethink their policy in this part of the world. But I’ll submit to you that, certainly I don’t know what you think of the new American president, but that’s what he has announced. He has announced that he is reviewing the US policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. But there is some point beyond that. The whole structure, not only in the eastern Mediterranean but beyond that, of the Unite States’ policy was the pivotal state theory or paradigm, if you remember, of Paul Kennedy. For one reason or another, Turkey, in the United States for very good reasons, has been chosen as a pivotal state in this part of the world.
D.K.: Many years ago, Mr. Pelaghias.
C.P.: Absolutely. But what I’m saying is that there has not been presented to the United States by the countries that are occupying this geographical space and alternative paradigm. I will suggest that these moves between Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt to create a multilateral structure that will ensure security in the region and perhaps western interests, including those of the countries that are here, has been very late in the coming and with not enough effort put behind. I submit to you that yes, the British and the Americans should look at the alternative paradigm – there is no other paradigm, we have not offered another paradigm.
D.K.: Britain was a world empire, the United States is a superpower, so I will not attribute more responsibilities towards small nation which has fallen ten times in two hundred years to defend themselves like the Greeks, more than the superpowers. But what I want to say is that of course we have a huge problem inside Greece and inside Cyprus, and they are not the only European countries. You know, I believe that in Greece, the anti-Greek propaganda of the last decade is that we are kind of an exception, we are a little bit primitive, lazy, misorganized (sic), things like that. And there is a propaganda which is made from lies and truth in order to justify and to permit the unprecedented economic and political warfare against Greece by international media. What is Greece? It is an extreme case which is very different from being an exception. In Greece, for particular historical and geopolitical reasons, you find the weakest link in the European chain. You find a country where you can, if you take a picture of the fractal in the chaos theory, you take a fractal, and you will see the same tendencies, the same curves, the same themes that you will find in all the picture. So in Greece you find really all the dominating tendencies in the whole European structure.
But it is not only Greece. For instance, the finance (inaudible) to Mr. Holland that he has to apply a policy which was tantamount to the suicide of the historic party like the French Socialist Party. He did not, he did not defend his own political interest, or the interests of his party. This is a common situation in all Europe, and it reminds me of the situation at the end of the Roman imperial expansion. You know what was happening then? The kings of the kingdoms which had remained somehow independent, they were going to Rome and they were given to the emperor the keys of their cities. They asked from them to govern their own countries and they were getting some guarantees back for their fortunes, for their safety, sometimes some rule inside the kingdoms, after they became Roman dominions. I think we are not very far from this state of affairs, also in nowadays Europe. And this is in order to be able to produce any paradigm or any idea for foreigners, we have to take back our own states, which is not the case. In Greece, anyway, it has been nearly formally abolished in many fields, there is no Greek state in economic policy, and indirectly in other policies, by virtue of the texts which were imposed on Greece by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, which they have transformed Greece into a debt colony.
So, as for the paradigm, as I understand the world and its problems, it is in the interests of all great powers of Europe, of United States, of Israel, of Russia, to have a stable, independent, sovereign and democratic Greece and Cyprus. Maybe somebody will think that I tell this because I’m Greek. But they are important for our civilization. They are the birth place of the biggest intellectual evolution that humans have made in the history. It is important to preserve this. And I think it is in the best national interest of the United States of America, of Great Britain, of the countries of the European Union, of the Russian Federation, and also Israel, to have stable, democratic and sovereign and prosperous Greece and Cyprus. If they believe that humanism is over, if they believe that we are living in the world of Hobbes, they make out of this the self-fulfilling prophecy. All the problems westerners have faced in Greece and Cyprus are the result of their own policy. So I hope they will not make the same mistake this time, but I am not sure. Because they have their reflexes. We are living with Neanderthal reflexes in a world with nuclear arms, with the capacity to alter the climate. We still have in our minds a very obsolete mind, which is not adapted to the situation we are facing. We are stupid. If Neanderthal people were much more intelligent, I think they were even more than we are, because they were better adapted to the situation they were facing. We are facing a completely different situation and we cannot think but in terms of domination, in terms of primitive instincts of another era. We have to find a way to change ourselves, otherwise we will be destroyed as biological species.
C.P.: But to be relevant in a timely way to contribute into a proper settlement to the Cyprus issue, I think it is important to realize that both criticisms that you’ve leveled against the Cyprus government and the ones against the government of Greece, they’re just an example of the fact that both Greece and Cyprus, official Greece and Cyprus, have fully subscribed to the paradigm that has Turkey as the key element of stability in this part of the world. We cannot just say that we should be held up as models of principles. We have to stand up for those principles. Among those principles it is important to show the shortcomings of Turkey, the shortcomings of this Turkish-central paradigm that has Turkey allowed to act in a neo-imperialist, neo-Ottoman manner in the Eastern Mediterranean. We are the ones that are accepting this, would you not agree? We have to suggest that there is a better way. What is this better way?
D.K.: Yes, but that depends what the West wants to do in the Middle East. Because if they want to probably bomb Muslims from İncirlik, maybe they have to have İncirlik. I don’t know how they are thinking the whole situation. I believe they should change their policy not only towards Cyprus and Turkey, they should change their whole regional policy, because the policy they are following since 2001 has completely failed, and has provoked havoc. And you see, it’s a very good example. They are saying now that they face huge danger from Putin and Russia. Who brought Putin and Russia in the ME? Mrs. Nuland by her policy in Ukraine. So, you know, sometimes you say you are defending somebody, but if you are offending everybody by defending against this somebody (inaudible). You provoke sometimes the opposite results. You bring chaos everywhere.
Now, we have a refugee problem in Europe and many people are, if you want, protesting against this refugee problem. But they have done everything to provoke these refugee waves. And when bombs were falling in Libya, in Syria, everywhere, and we did not do anything to stop this procedure. The Americans have all but destroyed Iraq. The French have all but destroyed Libya. Now we are facing the consequences and we say, “Oh, terrible thing, let’s make a new war to stop Islamists”. If we go on like that, there will be nobody to make war, finally, both in the Middle East and in the West.
But I want to tell you something else. The basic characteristic of all the projects for Cyprus are not to give Cyprus to Turkey. They never wanted, they will never accept to give Cyprus to Turkey, for the same exactly reasons they are not accepting to give it to its own population to rule it, normally. I’m afraid they have used Turkey, because it was the only way to contain Greeks. Of course it’s a dangerous method. Because when you are doing this, you give a practical possibility to Turkey at some point to occupy all the island, if it thinks fit to its own goals. So they were playing with fire by bringing Turkey inside the Cyprus equation. But I think it is not enough to get Turkey out of Cyprus equation, if it is anymore possible. It is also important to let the Cypriots have their own normal state. And if they help Cypriots acquire a normal state, then Cypriots will be very grateful to the forces that will help them. Sometimes its very indirect what I say and maybe they are not able to think like that. But in the long run, I repeat, it is in the interest of the United States of America, of Great Britain, of the countries of the European Union, of the Russian Federation, and of Israel, to have a stable, prosperous and democratic Cyprus. It’s good for all of them. They should try to change the way they are thinking, and I think this is the problem.
As for the solution, as for what we have to do, listen, we are not going to discover the law of gravity now in Cyprus. There is a corpus, a legal corpus that we have created in three hundred years, since the British, the American and the French revolutions, about what means democracy, about what means the popular sovereignty, what means a state, what are the rights of the state. Before discussing any question of sovereign or not sovereign in the Cyprus conflict, we have to make an a priori, a serious decision. We are not going to touch on the fundaments of those regulations. We cannot make exceptions of the most basic rules of international law, because if we do make such exceptions, war will come out of this, and it will not be in the interest of anybody.
For instance, take the problem of the minority. The minorities have to be protected. Special provisions have to be adopted for the protection of the minorities, special rights and things like that. To all this we agree. But where this has to stop? It has to stop when it reverses the whole democratic regime that is when it denies to the majority the right to the rule. Practically, the proposed project for the solution of the Cyprus conflict is so inherently unjust and unstable that it cannot work as a protectorate. Maybe they don’t understand, I don’t know if it is an intention not to work, or it is not an intention. It is not important after all, the result will matter, and the result will be that this plan, if it is adopted, and if anybody tries to apply this on the concrete situation in Cyprus, he will blow up the country and the state. This will not be in the interest even of international forces, if they exist, which they may now think that this is a scenario which is good to have it as a potential possibility.
C.P.: I think what I hear you saying, and maybe I’m putting words in your mouth, is that principles should be followed, but unfortunately, I would add, they are followed, where they are useful for a particular geopolitical or geostrategic issue. Now, even if we accept that premise, it is important, as you mentioned… you mentioned Israel. I think Israel is a key element regarding western thinking for the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. You would agree to that.
D.K.: Absolutely. It has an enormous influence on United States’ and British diplomacy.
C.P.: And one of the integral parts of the turkey as a pivotal state paradigm was the close cooperation that for many years existed between Israel and Turkey. For a number of reasons that relationship has been damaged…
D.K.: Damaged, but not abolished. Their services are cooperating very closely from what I hear, I’m not a specialist.
C.P.: Right. But again, what I’m saying therefore is that perhaps it is a key for Greek policy and Cypriot policy while it’s still independent to approach Israel in the right way. I think that that window of opportunity – and this is another criticism, unfortunately, on both Cyprus and Greece – that window of opportunity of a better rapprochement with Israel has been lost. It’s been acted upon on the surface, there is good relations, there are visits, there are summit meetings and so on, but as you pointed out, on a deeper level, on the security, intelligence service etc., on a military level it hasn’t gone too far, or far enough to give an alternative to Turkish dominance in the region. I personally think, and I’m sure you agree, that Turkish dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean is not good for Israel. And a lot of Israelis see that. The point is, what do we have to offer other than principle?
D.K.: The main question is what we want to get, not what we want to offer. But I can answer to this. Jews and Greeks are the most historic nations in the Mediterranean. I don’t want to say anything inferior for other nations, but probably one of the nations which played major role, also international world role. Greeks in the ancient history especially, Jews especially in the modern history. I appreciate very much the Jewish thinking. Everything that is of a value in the last two hundred years, or not everything, but many of them, were created by Jewish thinkers. It was not an accident that most of them were in opposition to their own establishment, but this is another question, they weren’t anyway Jewish. So, it will be of enormous importance real dialogue between the Greek nation and the Jewish nation. But you know, this dialogue is extremely difficult. It is extremely difficult on both sides. On the Greek side, because our leaders and representatives are not really representing Greek national consciousness as it is still alive in the depth of the Greek nation, of the Greek people, and this has been proved last time in 2015 referendum, you know. There, because our Greek national project is a project which was created out of the world (inaudible). It was created in the first battle with crusaders for Constantinople one thousand years ago. It is a national project of resistance to conquerors. So this is still alive but it is alive in the depth of the Greek people, it is not alive in its elite. So, who will make this dialogue for the Greek side? As for Israelis themselves, and the Jews in general, out of their own peculiar path in history, their difficulty to metabolize their own past, the fact that they have suffered so much, they have developed somehow… they are very difficult in communicating. So it is quite difficult to organize such a dialogue, which I consider in the long run as I would say even if… I will be at fault for being a little bit arrogant… This meeting between Greek and Jewish spirit should be one foundation for the future world. But we are quite far away from this. And this could give also solutions to those other problems we are facing. But as soon as our politicians behave like they behave, I’m afraid they are not able to make it.
And you know sometimes what is happening with politicians in Greece and Cyprus? They get for granted and in their mind they understand the two countries through what the leaders of the two countries are saying. And this can be a huge mistake if you confuse the Greek and the Cypriot leadership with the Greek and the Cypriot peoples. Here it could be a huge misunderstanding. And I have seen many foreigners making this misunderstanding. Treating Greece as they have to treat with Tsipras, with Papandreou, with Venizelos, with different politicians. They are not Greece. And this is not Cyprus. Papadopoulos – maybe he is more Cyprus than Anastasiades. It is one aspect of Cyprus, without doubt. But it is only one aspect. You have to find the way to treat, otherwise you will have… you know what foreign conquerors in Russia, what has happened to them? They were advancing, advancing, advancing, and finally they found them nowhere. The question in the Greek space is not so much geographic, it is intellectual, it is historical.
C.P.: Mr. Konstantakopoulos, thank you very much.
D.K.: Thank you Mr. Pelaghias, and I hope we will not see this kind of events which we described in the negative scenario. But this is why we say, by the way, to warn that there are serious dangers here and we have enough problems in our region not to multiply them.
C.P.: I would hope that you can come back to us and we can continue and carry on the discussion to reach for more positive results. Thank you very much for your time.