Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary Memorandum from the Lobby for Cyprus


  1.  We are concerned here with Turkey's domestic and foreign affairs, its peripheral influence as a regional power stretching from the Balkans to the Middle East, and its bid to join the EU in the not-too-distant future. The Turkish Question is viewed here within the modern tradition of the famous "Eastern Question" that has marred European politics over the last 200 years, and given the ethnic crises in the Balkans, the Middle East and Turkey itself, continues to do so. The suggestions integrated into the text point out, inter alia, the need for a thorough democratisation of the Turkish foreign and domestic policies, which is seen as a solid precondition guaranteeing lasting peace and co-operation in the Balkans and the Near East.

  2.  Turkey and, for that matter, modern Turkish nationalism, is virtually a 20th-century phenomenon. Modern Turkey has inherited much of the Ottoman Empire's habitat in terms of corrupt administrative practices and authoritarianism, state dominance of the economy, an Islamic society and the centrality of the army in the political skeleton of the country. The essence of the Kemalist habitus, however, rests on the perpetuation of the Ottoman experience of external conspiracy and internal betrayal. This was presumably culminated with the conspiracy schemes of 1915-16 for the territorial partition of Anatolia, schemes that found their expression in the clauses of the Treaty of Sevres (1920). The Sevres syndrome developed into the backbone of the Kemalist Weltanschauung and virtually all perceptions of Turkish security issues today inherently emanate from this syndrome: that of the partition of Anatolia. In this context, what follows can also be seen as an exemplification of this Kemalist perception of security and threat. The central thesis employed is that Turkey's foreign and domestic policies today perpetuate this syndrome of "security-insecurity" and that, in the long run, they are in effect detrimental to the very security of the country. Thus, this paper should be seen as a functional and positive contribution to the development of Turkey's own European and democratic perspective.

  3.  Turkey is an amalgamation of ethnicities (eg, nearly 21- out of 66-million of its population are Kurds), Islamic religious minorities (eg, Suni and Alevis) and secular, pro-Western military and political elites. It has an unstable political system overseen—to use a light wording—by the military. Currently it is administered by a coalition of parties. The second most important party in this coalition is the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), which is profoundly nationalistic and racist by Western standards. Not every secular elite, either politico-military or economic, is pro-European. Well-defined class interests that want to preserve their privileges drawn from the state apparatus (eg, administrative elites, state bourgeoisie) are dead against the country's entry into the European Union. Similarly, some powerful factions within the secular military oppose Turkey's European perspective on the grounds that any future democratisation/federalisation of Turkey alongside the principle of acquis communautaire would lead to the fragmentation, even partition, of the country (a similar view is also adopted by MHP). Islam dominates social attitudes, customs and mres, and has a very strong political influence. But political Islam is hardly tolerated by the secular elite. When, in May 1999, Merve Kavakci, a newly elected female member of the Islamic Virtue Party, walked into the Parliament wearing a headscarf, the secular establishment reacted ferociously against Kavacki and President Suleyman Demirel himself called her an agent provocateur working for foreign powers. Vural Savas, Turkey's chief prosecutor, called Kavacki an "Islamic vampire that fed only on blood."

  4.  Modern Turkey prosecutes Islamists within the country but happens, albeit selectively, to champion their rights outside it. A firm ingredient of the Turkish foreign-policy projection particularly in the Balkans after the end of the Cold War has been that of promoting the rights of Muslim minorities (eg, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Western Thrace, Albania). At times Turkey has threatened to intervene militarily if it was perceived that the host country was misbehaving. As far as its Middle Eastern policy is concerned, Turkey is rather anti-Muslim. This, inter alia, can be seen from its alliance with Israel and from its stance, although qualified, after 11 September. Turkey is very sceptical about accepting an American-led bombing of Iraq and also has objections to lead the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, in case the force is established there permanently. In this respect, and given the implications of 11 September on world politics, Turkey's foreign policy pattern is arguably confusing and causes embarrassment to the West.

  5.  Turkey has a wrecked economy, an endemic inflation, a huge public debt and deficit, a weak banking sector and a constant current-account deficit. Nearly 45 per cent of its population is employed in agriculture and the economy is still predominately run by the state, although efforts towards privatisation and liberalisation of the markets are seemingly proceeding apace. Turkey is in constant need of IMF injections in order to stave off economic and monetary crises. The IMF imposes further conditions on Turkey to carry out the reforms required and this widens the gap between the bulk of the poor masses of Anatolia and the middle- to-upper-middle classes. Yet, it is not quite right to talk of Turkey as being an homogeneous socio-economic region: Western Turkey and Eastern Turkey are two different worlds, much more so than it is for example, mutatis mutandis, the split between Italy's developed North and underdeveloped South. In particular, Turkey's South-east is a region neglected by Turkey's economic and social policies. This is because of the predominately Kurdish character of the region. It is not true that Turkish Kurdistan is underdeveloped because of the Turco-Kurdish war in the 1980s and 1990s. Turkish Kurdistan is underdeveloped and backward because of the lack of economic (eg, fixed capital investment) and social (eg, development of welfare programmes) backing by the Turkish governments since 1923. Needless to say, the Kurdish problem has not gone away with the capture of Abdulah Ocalan in February 1999. PKK and Ocalan have simply widened existing European concerns regarding the Turco-Kurdish conflict, which is taking place in the very sensitive security perimeter of Europe.

  6.  The Greek-Turkish dispute over the issues of Cyprus and the Aegean are part and parcel of Turkey's persistent policy to revise the 1923 settlements of Lausanne, and the Venizelos-Attaturk Ankara Convention of friendship and reconciliation of 1930. This is exemplified by the destruction of the Greek minority in Istanbul in the 1950s and 1960s, and by Turkey's territorial claims over Cyprus and the Aegean. Since the 1950s, Turkey has not been a high-profile status-quo power but a low-profile revisionist power. It seems that Turkey's "security-insecurity" complex in Anatolia is projected westwards and at the expense of Greece, in order to compensate any possible loss of territory, control or influence in the South-East. In this context, Turkish micro-imperialism is essentially territorial and old-fashioned.

  7.  In the light of this analysis, the assumption that "Turkey is strategically important for the West and that therefore needs special treatment since, after all, it has the second-largest army in NATO," is inaccurate and rather misleading. Thus, quite rightly, NATO's strategic analysts during the Cold War had thought of the possibility not to protect Turkey's Eastern borders in case of a Turco-Soviet war, as they were considered to be "out-of-area." It should also be noted that both Britain's and Turkey's contribution to the Western cause during the Cold War remain ambiguous. Britain had unsuccessfully and unnecessarily tried to challenge the USA's supremacy during the Suez crisis, and Turkey had also unsuccessfully and unnecessarily tried to challenge Cyprus's sovereignty in 1963, 1964 and 1974, causing a major crisis in NATO's Southern flank. Given Britain's role in fostering the division of the Greek and the Turkish communities on the island, as well as Turkey's flirtation with the USSR between 1964 and 1974, Britain's and Turkey's actions could and should not have been considered as positive for the West in its struggle against Soviet expansion.

  8.  Unfortunately, the aforementioned assumption of "Turkey's geo-strategic importance" cultivates illusions for the Turkish secular elites themselves. They indeed fail to see that if the USA were to make a decision on a strategic priority issue choosing between Turkey and the European Union or, for that matter, Germany, then there is no doubt that the superpower would have opted in favour of Europe. The best thing that Turkey can get out of this unbalanced equation is either strategic neutrality on behalf of the USA or politico-intelligent support for Turkey on issues in which Turkey is by far the strongest part (eg, the support of the USA in the capture of Ocalan). This can be seen by the way in which the USA positioned herself in the negotiations with Britain and Turkey over Europe's ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy). For reasons that will be explained below, the fact of the matter is that Europe, Greece and Cyprus are valued a lot in the USA's security and foreign-policy considerations.

  9.  Turkey reads therefore as a "mini-Ottoman Empire." with real and virtual periods of expansion and contraction, a corrupt system of power at the centre of which is located the military, and a society rife with a number of religious, ethnic and class tensions unparalleled in the Western world. The European Union is well placed to project stability and democracy in Turkey. But before any contemplation about giving Turkey the green light to enter the European Union, a thorough democratisation process must begin in Turkey in a manner perhaps not very dissimilar to the way in which Greece, Portugal and Spain achieved their own transition to democracy in the1970s. It is Turkey itself that should begin its transition to full democracy, whereas the EU factor should be seen as a catalyst "stepping in" to consolidate the newly born democracy. For this to happen, a number of radical reforms are necessary, and a number of practical gestures of good will have to take place.

  In the same way that the Turkish invasions of Cyprus in Summer 1974 facilitated the collapse of the disintegrating Greek junta and the transition to democracy in Greece under the leadership of Constantine Karamanlis, so the first step towards Turkey's democratisation must be the withdrawal of its illegally placed troops in Cyprus. As long as the Turkish troops remain in Cyprus in defiance of international law and the UN resolutions, lasting peace in South-eastern Europe cannot be guaranteed. Any form of hostilities in Cyprus or over the Aegean would have catastrophic consequences for the coherence of NATO in Southern Europe and the Balkans, so much so today because of its eastward expansion, which is also aiming to include Bulgaria and Romania. Both Greece and Turkey support Bulgaria's and Romania's inclusion in the alliance and a Greek-Turkish war is likely to destabilise the Aegean, the Black Sea and the Danube regions. Given the existence of Turkish minorities in Bulgaria and Greek Thrace, the Hungarian minorities in Romania and Serbia, as well as the unstable situation in Macedonia, Albania (where a large Greek minority exists in the South) and the former Yugoslavia, Greek-Turkish hostilities are likely to engage the whole region. In addition, Turkey's proximity to the Middle East and her bad relations with Armenia, Syria and Iran make an exportation of the conflict there a comprehensive possibility. Neither the European Union nor NATO wants this to happen unless a wider strategic plan for redrawing the map of the region as a whole is envisaged. In this context, Turkey is foolish in playing the tension card with Greece over Cyprus and the Aegean and contributes very little to her own security, as well as that of NATO and the European Union. But both Greece and the West want to protect Turkey's territorial integrity and enhance her sense of security, not least because tensions and conflicts within Turkey can easily be exported to Greece, Europe and the Middle East.

  10.  Aegean Greece and Eastern Mediterranean Cyprus are therefore very important for the West as factors of regional stability. Any closure of the Aegean by the integrated Greek forces would disrupt sea trade and Flight Information Regions (FIRs) causing havoc in Europe, the Balkans and the Near East. In point of fact, Greece can lay a firm grip on the Aegean and is in a position to block the Black Sea navigation route through the Turkish Straits, making it strategically useless as merchant and war ships will be deprived of access to the high seas and the Suez. In this context, the USA and the European Union, today as well as in the past, should want peace and not war between Greece and Turkey. But Turkey continues to play the tension card and, faithful to her low- profile revisionist strategy, continues to open bilateral issues disregarding international law, established treaties and conventions since the 1950s. Understandably enough, the American and the European responses to Turkey's attitude have been to encourage rapprochement between the two countries. This serves Turkey's modernising elite to the extent they see Greece as a stepping stone towards Europe. This Turkish strategy is not new. It was first employed by Atatrk himself in the late 1920s when, by promoting co-operation with Greece, he was aiming at getting the European powers to sign the revision of the settlements regulating the Straits, something which Turkey achieved in 1936 with the Convention of Montreux, allowing her to re-militarise the Dardanelles. But rapprochement serves Greece and Europe, too, in that it enables them to advance economic and cultural co-operation with Turkey in general, and with Western Turkey in particular, the most secular and developed part of Turkey, whose modern economy was predominately established and run by Greek, Jewish and Armenian communities before 1923. But this, in turn, may well increase the regional and class cleavages of the country leading to further peripheralisation of Eastern Anatolia from an Europeanised Balkan core.

  11.  In light of this, the second crucial and simultaneous action to take place for the democratisation of Turkey is the launching of a Social Democratic type of reform, aiming at bridging the gap between regions and classes. The Turkish modernising elite sees IMF and European handouts as a panacea. That illusion is further fed by the ill-perceived Greek membership of the European Economic Community which, it is believed, has alone stabilised the Greek economy. This is fundamentally wrong. The consolidation of democracy in Greece and the economic prosperity of the Greek people in the 1980s and 1990s were the result of political management of the country by Social Democratic governments, and not the European aid as such. Turkey is in need of a political class that understands realities and is committed to undertaking a thorough process of modernisation and democratisation, also by way of isolating reactionary anti-European elites. European structural funds and IMF money alone are not enough, not least because a neo-liberal management of them along Reaganite/Thatcherite lines would increase the gap between East-West regions and between classes, producing further social and political tensions. What is indeed needed is rational management of resources in view of diminishing the hiatus between regions and between classes. This can be achieved only with the emergence and establishment of a Western European type of Social Democratic party or political class. And that party or class still does not exist in Turkey. Yet this is the only game in town if Turkey really wants to solve her security complex, isolate reactionary military elites and anti-European economic factions and provide high living standards for her peoples within Europe.

  12.  That is why the courageous—in the Turkish context—reforms undertaken in 2001 are just a drop of hope in the ocean of pessimism. Broadcasting in Kurdish is still forbidden by the existing Broadcasting Law. Permission for education in Kurdish language is virtually forbidden by a cluster of a Byzantine-type of legislation. Impartial Amnesty International documents point out that torture is systematic and widespread and that, in general, no concrete steps have been taken to improve the human-rights situation of the various minorities. In particular, MHP resists any concession to Turkey's populous Kurdish minority. Amnesty International confirms that Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law, which criminalises peaceful "separatist propaganda," was used to sentence Dr Fikret Baskaya to 16-months imprisonment in June 2000, because he wrote an article in a pro-Kurdish newspaper. Despite the reform of Article 118 of the Constitution, the army maintains a key position in the National Security Council. Economic reforms are clumsy and badly planned, whereas corruption scandals are the order of the day each time auditors and accountants open privatisation procedures. Turkey, in its bid to win a $16 billion IMF loan, adopted a law reducing scope for corruption in public procurement. This is definitely a good sign but it contrasts sharply with the unsoundness of the banking system, which triggered two financial crises in just over a year. The list of bad news is endless. The Report of the European Commission has made clear that Turkey, as every other country wanting to join the club, has to conform fully to the economic and political criteria.

  13.  But the best defence is to attack! Turkey objects to Cyprus's application to join the European Union on the grounds that the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, namely Articles I(2) and II(2), forbids Cyprus from joining any international organisation from which either Greece or Turkey is excluded. This is a very shallow argument. These articles are not concerned with membership in regional economic associations. These articles are nevertheless concerned with union with another state. The purpose of these articles was to prevent union of Cyprus, or of any part of it, with Greece or Turkey, as well as to forbid the partition of the island. Cyprus has therefore the legal right to participate in any international organisation regardless of whether Turkey, Greece or Britain is a member. At any rate, Turkey cannot call on the 1960 settlements when it is convenient, as on other occasions she has declared these very settlements as wholly invalid. The crux of the matter is that Cyprus's application to join the European Union has put Turkey with her back against the wall, because the European bid conforms with that of the UN resolutions which, in the main, since 1963 have been disapproving of Turkey's foreign policy in the island. The choir is joined by the Council of Europe—in which Turkey is a member—by way of accusing Turkey's procrastination in dealing with the case of Titina Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot refugee who won her case against Turkey over her property rights before the European Court of Human Rights. This case exemplifies the issue of Cyprus when the island joins the European Union. Given that more than 85 per cent of the land and properties in northern Cyprus have Greek-Cypriots as legal owners, the European Union would be in a predicament if it was to apply quasi- strategic derogations, unless a settlement is agreed between the two communities before Cyprus's accession. In any case, any form of settlement has to include the right of 200,000 refugees to return to their properties, as they are the sole legal possessors of the title deeds. It is absurd to argue today that the Turkish-Cypriots feel insecure, as if the reborn ghosts of Greek nationalists of the 1960s have new plans in store for the extermination of Turks after the re-unification of the island. Whoever says this is simply out of touch with the social and economic realities of today's free Cyprus, a society and an economy that is ahead, together with Slovenia, of all the other applicant countries queuing to join the European Union in 2003-04.

  14.  We do not have access to the minutes of the trilateral negotiations between the UK, the USA and Turkey over Europe's use of NATO's assets. We have only clues based on journalistic reports. There is no official position of Europe's ESDP on the matter as yet. All we know is that the USA was pretty-much neutral in the negotiations, playing on the unstable equilibrium of antagonism between Turkey and the UK over which of the two will be more influential in Middle Eastern matters. The USA is in no need to peg Turkey, but the UK is. Similarly, the UK cannot afford to be neutral in a protracted Greek-Turkish conflict over the Aegean and/or Cyprus, simply because of the status of its sovereign bases in Cyprus. The UK would almost certainly, overtly or not, side with Turkey unless the USA puts pressure on her to do otherwise. The principle is that no power ever takes part in any action if previously it has not established an interest in it. The UK competes now with Turkey for influence in the Near and Middle East and this is the result of her unwise policies in the 1950s. Namely, by engaging Turkey in Cyprus, which till then was a purely Anglo-Hellenic dispute, Britain undermined her own interests in the region offering strategic advantages to Turkey, which today she is exploiting in earnest.

  15.  Conflict in or over Cyprus, Thrace and the Aegean may not necessarily be triggered off by the Greek-Turkish antagonism as such. It may well be the result of the evacuation of one of the British sovereign bases in Cyprus, namely that of Dekhelia. The right angle from which one should approach the recent move of Turkey in the small Greek-Cypriot village of Strovilia (summer 2000) is the context of UK-Turkey relations. The Turkish forces, by moving the cease-fire line some 300 metres into the UN-patrolled buffer zone, created a "border" with the British sovereign base of Dekhelia. The reason laying behind Turkey"s provocative action is that she wants to enhance her bargaining power on security and policy matters regarding the island, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Israel-Syria-Lebanon-Palestine zone will be enhanced. In this context, the Strovilia action paves the way for a Turkish occupation of the British base, when Britain decides to evacuate the territory in the future, thus giving Turkey strategic control of the entire Cyprus. But if this unlawful event ever happens, which would almost mean Turkey's fulfilment of her national strategy regarding Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, then the balance of power between Greece and Turkey will be further destabilised and a war of incalculable consequences may well break out. But whatever the result of this war, one thing is certain: most of the ingredients will be there so as to make Britain's influence in the Middle East further downgraded.

  16.  We are thus back to "square one." Turkey today remains rife with enormous social, ethnic, religious and political contradictions, but not all of them appear in the surface because of the repressive character of the Turkish polity, which operates on the basis of the Ottoman experience of external conspiracy and internal betrayal. In order to boost the coherence of her fragmented social and political tissues, Turkey employs an aggressive foreign policy and often resorts to a display of power and determination towards Greece and Cyprus (eg, the Imia/Kardak crisis or the killings of Greek Cypriots in Cyprus in 1996). But these tactics, if at all, only temporarily defuse Turkey's domestic economic and social problems. In the long run, these tactics work at the expense of the prosperity of the Turkish people and of Turkey's own security. We therefore recommend here, first and foremost, that the Turkish elites and the Western media should cease to entertain themselves with the misleading notion of "Turkey's geo-strategic importance," because this assumption undermines Turkey's security per se and, together, the security of Europe and the Middle East. In this respect, the paramount stability factor of political stability is the democratisation of the Turkish polity, which should begin with radical political and economic reforms led by a new Social Democratic political class in order to bridge the geo-economic and class cleavages of the country. This process of democratisation goes hand in glove with the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Cyprus and the drafting of a new Cypriot Constitution guaranteeing the unfettered independence of the Republic of Cyprus (NATO membership for Cyprus is also highly recommended). This should be followed by Turkey's full membership of the European Union, a membership that would consolidate Turkey's democracy, along with providing stability, substantial co-operation and friendship between Greece and Turkey, and thus lasting peace in the Balkans and the Near East.

Lobby for Cyprus

February 2002

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