‘Give up’ on megalo idea

‘Give up’ on megalo idea

‘Give up’ on megalo idea

Turkish Cypriot leader Eroğlu (R) and PM Erdoğan review a military guard before their meeting in Ankara in this 2009 photo. AP photo

Turkey should abide by the rules of the European Union and give up its expansionist designs, a conservative Greek Cypriot presidential candidate has said.

Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News at his newly-decorated presidential election office in Nicosia, George Lilikas said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was guilty of having a “megalo idea” of expanding Turkey into a new empire with a neo-Ottomanist mentality.

It was not the first time “megalo idea,” (meaning “grand idea” in Greek), has been used in relation to a Turkish minister. The term was long associated with the obsession of Greeks to create a Greater Greece through “liberating” and annexing to Greece all the Mediterranean islands, Aegean Turkey, and Istanbul.

George Lilikas, though a defector to conservative politics from the socialist AKEL party, was talking very much like the late former President Tasos Papadopoulos, who often suggested a Cyprus settlement through assimilation of the Turkish Cypriot minority into the Greek Cypriot majority. Lilikas was the foreign minister of the Papadopulos government that came to power immediately before the April 24, 2004 simultaneous referenda on a U.N. peace plan and campaigned vigorously against it.

Stressing that there were neither two peoples nor two states on Cyprus, Lilikas said Turkish Cypriots should join in a Cyprus Republic that consisted of one nation and, like all other citizens, enjoy full individual rights and liberties.

Turkey must give up aspirations

“Turkey must give up aspirations of dominating the entire region. Turkey should not try to achieve its ‘megalo idea’ of becoming sovereign in the whole region,” he said.

Lilikas added that if Turkey wanted to become a member of the European Union it must accept that the EU had rules, which were not laid down by Greek Cypriots but which ought to be respected in full by those wishing to join. Resolving its problems with Cyprus and all other neighbors is one of the requirements of EU membership and such an attitude would be in Turkey’s best interest, he said.

Describing mainland settlers as “episkos” or colonialists, Lilikas said that if Turkey wanted to contribute to a settlement on the island it must withdraw both its troops and the “episkos” from the island.

Fresh start for talks

Lilikas said that if he was elected president he would not continue from where the current peace talks were left, but would instead pursue a two-track approach. On one track he said he would talk with Turkey about the withdrawal of Turkish troops and “episkos,” while on the second track he would talk with Turkish Cypriots about their rights and freedoms in the Cypriot Republic.

The conservative presidential candidate was also adamant with regard to the possible natural gas revenues of Cyprus. He said Turkish Cypriots should either join in the Cypriot Republic and get their share from gas revenues or stay out in their own enclave and not receive any gas benefits.