Thursday, May 1, 2008

Response to Embargo, Shmembargo, It's All Greek to Me

This article comparing Cyprus to Cuba belies the author's ignorance of both situations. One government came into being as the result of armed insurrection, the other is the puppet state of an armed invader. There is a difference, in history and in view of international law.
First, my full disclosure: My wife is half-Greek Cypriot. My father-in-law spent a year and a half in a Turkish prison camp upon capture in the 1974 Turkish invasion. So, if you want to discount the following remarks, be my guest. However, I was posted to the US Embassy in Cyprus for two years, I have roamed every area of the island, and have found friends and admirable people on both sides of the divide. Suffice to say I am intimately familiar with the argument on both sides.
Indeed, in the midst of such contentiousness, it is surprising how many folks on both sides have substituted rage for resignation, and even acceptance. Even my father-in-law is surprisingly understanding of the Turkish Cypriot cause. And, ultimately, the realist in me understands that Greek Cypriots begged their fate by dancing with the ENOSIS devil and preparing insufficiently for Turkish military action.
Key lesson: if you are going to oppress an ethnic minority in your country, first make sure they don't have cousins forty miles away with a ferocious military. Or arm yourself appropriately. The Greek Cypriots did neither and suffered the fate of those who ignore the great axioms at their peril.
This does not, however, completely excuse the Turks' actions, during the invasion or, especially, since. Simply put, they deprived tens of thousands of private citizens of their property rights without compensation. They have not even attempted compensation, and they have redistributed the property with abandon while the Greek side has held every last bit of property owned by a Turkish Cypriot in readiness for their return.
The contention that if a "enough people, in a credible area, want independence enough to grab it, I reckon it's reasonable to agree, like the result or not" would condone the ethnic cleansing of the entire northern half of the island and permanently deprive residents on the south of their property and their options to "buy and sell, to borrow or lend, where they choose." If the Greek Cypriot refugees were allowed to return and vote, the TRNC would be dissolved with certainty.
Do you wonder why Greek Cypriots gave the "two-fingered salute" to the Annan Plan? Perhaps you can put yourself in their shoes. My wife's family owned six houses, three businesses, and a few hundred acres of land near Kyrenia. The Turkish government stripped them of this land and property. Everything was gone, including family photos and heirlooms. The Annan plan would have given those from the Kyrenia area no compensation and no right to even purchase their own land back. These facts do not preclude increased economic engagement of the TRNC, to include steps to diplomatic recognition, but they should not be dismissed out of hand as simple obstinance and a "two-fingered" salute. TRNC should be accepted and integrated in a way that will bolster the rule of law, not enrich a corrupt thugocracy.

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