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Cypriot report
by Euro Reporter
2014-08-16 10:27:52
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Cyprus occupation reveals Gaza hypocrisy

Cyprus is a beautiful island. But it has never recovered from the Turkish invasion of 1974. Turkish troops still control nearly 40 percent of the island -- the most fertile and formerly the richest portion. Some 200,000 Greek refugees never returned home after being expelled from their homes and farms in Northern Cyprus. The capital of Nicosia remains divided. A 112-mile demilitarized "green line" runs right through the city across the entire island. Thousands of settlers from Anatolia were shipped in by the Turkish government to occupy former Greek villages and to change Cypriot demography -- in the same manner the occupying Ottoman Empire once did in the 16th century. Not a single nation recognizes the legitimacy of the Turkish Cypriot state. In contrast, Greek Cyprus is a member of the European Union. Why, then, is the world not outraged at an occupied Cyprus the way it is at, say, Israel?

Nicosia is certainly more divided than is Jerusalem. Thousands of Greek refugees lost their homes more recently, in 1974, than did the Palestinians in 1947. Turkey has far more troops in Northern Cyprus than Israel has in the West Bank. Greek Cypriots, unlike Palestinians, vastly outnumbered their adversaries. Indeed, a minority comprising about a quarter of the island's population controls close to 40 percent of the landmass. Whereas Israel is a member of the U.N., Turkish Cyprus is an unrecognized outlaw nation. Any Greek Cypriot attempt to reunify the island would be crushed by the formidable Turkish army, in the brutal manner of the brief war of 1974. Turkish generals would most likely not phone Greek homeowners warning them to evacuate their homes ahead of incoming Turkish artillery shells. The island remains conquered not because the Greeks have given up, but because their resistance is futile against a NATO power of some 70 million people. Greeks know that Turkey worries little about what world thinks of its occupation. Greeks in Cyprus and mainland Greece together number less than 13 million people. That is far less than the roughly 300 million Arabic speakers, many from homelands that export oil, who support the Palestinians.

No European journalist fears that Greek terrorists will track him down should he write something critical of the Greek Cypriot cause. Greek Cypriots would not bully a journalist in their midst for broadcasting a critical report, the way Hamas surely would to any candid reporter in Gaza. In other words, there is not much practical advantage or interest in promoting the Greek Cypriot cause. Unlike Israel, Turkey is in NATO -- and is currently becoming more Islamic and anti-Western under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. If it is easy for the United States to jawbone tiny Israel, it is geostrategically unwise to do so to Turkey over the island of Cyprus. Turkey is also less emblematic of the West than is Israel. In the racist habit of assuming low expectations for non-Westerners, European elites do not hold Turkey to the same standards that they do Israel. We see such hypocrisy when the West stays silent while Muslims butcher each other by the thousands in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Syria. Only when a Westernized country like Israel inflicts far less injury to Muslims does the West become irate. The same paradox seems to hold true for victims. Apparently, Western Christian Greeks are not the romantic victims that Palestinian Muslims are. In the 40 years since they lost their land, Greek Cypriots have turned the once impoverished south into a far more prosperous land than the once-affluent but now stagnant Turkish-occupied north -- unlike the Palestinians, who have not used their know-how to turn Gaza or Ramallah into a city like Limassol.

Resurgent anti-Semitism both in the Middle East and in Europe translates into inordinate criticism of Israel. Few connect Turkey's occupation of Cyprus with some larger racist commentary about the supposed brutal past of the Turks. The next time anti-Israeli demonstrators shout about divided cities, refugees, walls, settlers and occupied land, let us understand that those are not necessarily the issues in the Middle East. If they were, the Cyprus tragedy would also be center-stage. Likewise, crowds would be damning China for occupying Tibet, or still sympathizing with millions of Germans who fled a now-nonexistent Prussia, or deploring religious castes in India, or harboring anger over the tough Russian responses to Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine, or deploring beheadings in northern Iraq. Instead, accept that the Middle East is not just about a dispute over land. Israel is inordinately damned for what it supposedly does because its friends are few, its population is tiny, and its adversaries beyond Gaza numerous, dangerous and often powerful. And, of course, because it is Jewish.


There is a ghost town in Cyprus that's been held hostage for 40 years

If you've heard of a place called Varosha lately, you're unlikely to think of what it once was—a sunny millionaire's playground on the sea—because today it's one of the world's biggest ghost towns. Its crumbling houses and buildings are slowly being reclaimed by nature, a reminder that an unresolved conflict isn't over just because people aren't killing one another there anymore. But it may hold the key to reunifying the divided country of Cyprus. The Turkish army invaded Cyprus during the summer of 1974, and Varosha's population went from 39,000 to zero almost overnight. The two waves of Turkish attacks were a response to a coup by Greek-Cypriot nationalists. The Turkish troops captured Varosha during the second wave, which began 40 years ago this week. Since then, no visitors other than Turkish patrols have been allowed inside.

The grim anniversary of the war that resulted in the capture of Varosha brings new hope that a solution can be found to revive the town. A grassroots effort by people from both communities of this bitterly divided country, along with renewed geopolitical interest in Cyprus, has motivated more efforts to find a solution. Turkey invaded in order to counter Greek-Cypriot nationalism in Cyprus, to suppress citizens who wanted to unite politically with Greece, which at the time was ruled by a far-right military junta. Turkey then claimed to be protecting the Turkish minority on the island by invading. One month later, the second invasion set the stage for what would become of Cyprus ever since then. The invasion and partition of the island resulted in the killing of around 1,500 Turkish-Cypriots and 8,000 Greek-Cypriots due to Turkish bombardment, as well as what has been labeled ethnic cleansing by both sides. Turkey occupied the northern 36.2 percent of Cyprus and continues to do so to this day.

When the fighting stopped soon after the invasion, the result was a partition of the island between the Greek-Cypriot south, an internationally recognized EU country, and the Turkish-Cypriot north, a breakaway state only recognized by Turkey. The two sides are separated by a UN buffer zone, referred to as the “Green Zone.” Varosha lies just north of the Green Zone in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. Unlike other towns, it was not resettled, as many towns on both sides of Cyprus were. The Turkish army has kept a tight lock on Varosha, knowing it is important enough to be used as a bargaining chip against the Greek side. This has resulted in 40 years of sustained decay that has arguably become the most obvious symbol of Cyprus's unresolved conflict.  It was possible to get to Varosha but only on the outer edges, where the fence is located. There I saw life going on as normal in the neighboring town of Famagusta. People swam and sunbathed at the beach, used the functioning hotels, and drank at beach bars. All the while, just behind a fence, buildings were crumbling. The vast majority of the beach is permanently closed, leaving only a small strip. And of course, to jump over the fence into Varosha—or even take a pictures from the outside–is to risk arrest.

The first thing I saw as I approached Varosha was a hotel building that is one of two directly hit by Turkish airstrikes. The damage from the bombing is still visible. The bodies were all removed, but the site of the battle wasn't otherwise cleaned up. Before the division of Cyprus, Greek-Cypriots and the Turkish-Cypriot minority lived in each other's midst throughout the island, albeit not always peacefully. This is no longer the case, but the desire to reopen and restore Varosha has drawn people from both sides. Serdar Atai, a Turkish-Cypriot who lives near Varosha compared living with the abandonment of Varosha to "being forced to sleep with a dead person every day." He and other Turkish-Cypriots have been working together with Greek-Cypriots to lobby for Varosha's reopening through the Bicommunal Famagusta Initiative. George Lordos is one of the Greek-Cypriots involved in the initiative who had to flee Varosha during the invasion, leaving behind a home and family business. The initiative has been advocating for the reopening and restoration of Varosha, and the return of property to its rightful owners. It has conducted studies through Eastern Mediterranean University on the costs and engineering needs involved in the restoration of an entire town that has been closed for 40 years.

Turkish-Cypriots, the Cypriot minority, once worked in Varosha, and proponents of its reopening say it will be a chance for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to live and work together again, paving the way for a wider reunification of the island. The plan has run into opposition from both communities in Cyprus, and from Turkey. Turkish-Cypriot hardliners want Turkey to retain control of Varosha, perhaps because it's a useful bargaining chip against when they need something from Greek-Cypriots. Some Greek-Cypriots reject the plan because they see a deal with an illegal occupier as granting legitimacy to a breakaway state that has no rights to the land in the first place. Mertkan Hamit, a Turkish-Cypriot member of the initiative was part of a team who conducted a public opinion poll that showed that the vast majority of Turkish-Cypriots do support the plan even though most of those who would return to Varosha would be Greek-Cypriots. Mertkan and Serdar were quick to cite the economic benefit of having Varosha back, saying the area around it has been especially hurt by the occupation, and Varosha would help them just as much as it would the Greek-Cypriots. A wider look at Cyprus shows that Varosha may be closer than ever to being freed. The discovery of natural gas in Cypriot waters, and increased desire to be less dependent on Russia has sparked renewed geopolitical interest in resolving the Cyprus question. US Vice President Joe Biden visited Cyprus and met with the leaders of both sides this year, hoping to announce a deal on Varosha. Though the deal fell victim to political deadlock, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he will soon visit Cyprus. Natural gas and the possibility that Varosha could be reopened could create momentum for a solution to Cyprus. But so far, the writing on the crumbling walls of Varosha says that the Cypriot question hasn't been answered. 


Cyprus’ recession loses steam as trade and tourism pick up

Cyprus’ economic slump eased in the second quarter as tourism and trade picked up although the island, which was forced to secure an international bailout last year, remained in recession. Gross domestic product dipped by a seasonally adjusted 0.3 per cent in the second quarter from the previous three months, one of the shallowest declines recorded since the economy began contracting in mid-2011, preliminary data released by the island’s statistics office on Thursday showed.

On an annual basis, the economy shrank 2.5 per cent in April to June, compared to a revised 3.9 percent contraction in the first three months of this year. The island  has not posted economic growth since the second quarter of 2011.

The tourism and trade sectors grew in the second quarter, after declining in the previous quarter, the statistics office said. The manufacturing, construction, banking and transport sectors all contracted. Tourism arrivals rose 6.0 per cent in the first six months of 2014 compared to a year earlier, according to the statistics office.


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Emanuel Paparella2014-08-16 19:19:53
The report above is quite an eye-opener. Here we have two members of NATO, one of them in the EU and the other a candidate for the EU who cannot find a way to tolerance and reconciliation. I suppose things need to get worse before they get better and the Enlightenment has still to enlighten itself...

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