Elephants and the grass
“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,” an ancient proverb of the Kikuyu people, a tribal group in Kenya, says in underscoring the bitter part of life. What is the fight in Cyprus? Are Cypriots the fighting elephants of the grass that has been so badly suffering from the consequences of the plans, designs and wild dreams of others for ages?
When the talk is about “some others,” is there a need to look beyond the region? Who are those “others?”
Are they just Turkey and Greece, and to some degree former colonial ruler Britain? Or are they the Americans and Russia, China and others waging a war of domination in the eastern Mediterranean theater?
Is it not a fact verified in many opinion polls as well as in the Annan Plan referendum results that a federation has never been the first choice of either people? If the Greeks wanted the continuation of “their” unitary state and the status of a privileged partnership for the Turks of the island and the Turks aspire to have their own independent state, why are they wasting time with endless rounds of federation talks?
Is it not a fact that there is an internal and an external balance on Cyprus? The internal balance is between the two people of the island while the external balance relates to the interests, perceptions and plans of Greece and Turkey on and around Cyprus. This description of balances, unfortunately, is a deficient one. There is also a de facto balance produced by the post-colonial political posture of the island. As a member of the non-aligned movement and thanks to a large extent to the stipulation in its founding conditions that it would not be a member of any economic, military or political pact, a de facto balance of influence was established between the global big players, on Cyprus. An examination of U.N. Security Council resolutions vividly demonstrates the affectionate relationship between Greek Cypriots and Russia, sometimes China as well, mostly aimed at avoiding a compromise resolution. Why would they approve of developments that might turn the island – which whom the Greek Cypriots’ unilateral move to join the European Union long put paid to the non-alignment principle – into a NATO base?
Were Turkish Cypriots the grass in that analogy? Were they getting trampled under the big feet, pardon, interests of the clashing global elephants? Or, were the Turks and Greeks of the island just different shades of grass suffering without any discrimination amid such a grandiose fight?
Turkey and Greece are equally big giants for Cypriots as well. Athens might be sending very humble messages nowadays. It might be just stressing that the relationship between it and Greek Cypriots is one between two equals or, at worst, that it is the first among equals. Yet, no one can forgive and forget how badly the island was trampled by Greek expansionist hallucinations in recent history. Has Greece changed? Has it again adopted expansionist designs? Will Greeks accept that Smyrna has become İzmir, that Constantinople has long since become Istanbul? At least those Greeks writing this writer clearly demonstrate that they still daydream of compelling the Turks to pack up and return to their “homeland,” Central Asia… The Turks of Anatolia were tourists that came more than 1,000 years ago but forgot to return; The Turkish Cypriots were tourists that came to the island 500 years ago but forgot to return… What ill mentality is this?
The Turkish obsession, on the other hand, has been a reactionary one. If Greeks did not accept Anatolia and Cyprus as Turkish lands, resistance and defense can only be legitimate. But can it be possible to convince a Turk with a clear mind that pre-1974 in Cyprus is old history, cannot be repeated and that there is now an EU hat on a common head, meaning there is no need for Turkey’s guarantee for the Turkish Cypriot well-being and security?
With stories of rape, wrongdoing, expulsion from their homes and decades of refugee status, Greek Cypriots might refuse to acknowledge their share in how the Cyprus problem was nourished. However, it is a fact that there are legitimate concerns on both sides and for an end to this apparently endless “Greek tragedy” besides the internal balance, the external balance must be taken into consideration as well.
With a Turkey parting fast from Europe and European values, the train for a Cyprus settlement might have long departed. Can we make to it at an intermediate “End of year 2016” station? Will Russia allow that?
Would it not use AKEL, as it did in 2004, once again to block the prospect of settlement? Will the U.S., during a time of presidential transition, manage to exert enough influence on Turkey and Greece and the two sides on the island to make them realize that, rather than getting bogged down in tiny details – and perhaps in full awareness of the consequences of a continued conflict – agreeing to a painful compromise deal might be more advisable? In all likelihood, the sides must put aside federation and start talking about a two-state option, which might appease the Russians as well.
Otherwise, there could be yet another elephant confrontation leaving the Cypriots trampled once again…