Turkey’s Economic Crisis: Limited Options

Image result for erdogan economic trajectory

August 15, 2018

by Gary Littlejohn for The Saker BlogTurkey’s Economic Crisis: Limited Options

It is said that when Groucho Marx was asked how he went bankrupt, he replied “Slowly at first, and then much more quickly”. The Turkish Lira had started to slide slowly and then last week it went down much more quickly. The context for this was made clear by the Moon of Alabama on 10th August, on the very same day that the decline of the Lira reached the tipping point into an urgent crisis level.


The fact that he could analyse it so quickly indicates that the crisis had been developing for quite a while, and so he had already digested the implications of Turkey’s political and economic trajectory. Given that Greece has recently received what is claimed to be the last tranche of its bailout funding from the European Central Bank [ECB] one has to wonder why Turkey apparently learned no lessons from Greece’s long-run debt crisis, or even from the much smaller and shorter financial crisis in Cyprus. Both showed that when the financial crunch arrives, events move very quickly. Even though in Greece the Syriza government had a plan to exit from the Euro and return to the Drachma, when it was ready to do that, it found that the funds had already disappeared from Greek banks. A rapid bank run had meant that funds had disappeared abroad. In the case of Cyprus, only quick-witted wealthy Russians managed to get their funds out quickly enough, by using a bank that also had a branch in London, which was a loophole that the authorities had not thought to close when capital controls were imposed and banks were closed temporarily.

There is no sign that Erdogan or his advisers fully understand the speed with which a financial crisis can develop, despite all the evidence of the last 10 years, or the Asian financial crisis of 1997-8, a crisis from which Russia evidently learned to avoid being so vulnerable again. So what can the Erdogan government do in such difficult circumstances? Until today (15 August 2018) all that had been seen was rhetoric and blaming others, but as the Moon of Alabama pointed out, the economic leverage now available to those hostile to Turkey was provided by Turkey’s own economic policies.

Now that debt in US dollars and Euros probably exceeds 50 per cent of the total debt owed by Turkish financial institutions, and the Lira had accelerated its fall over the 5 days to the 14th August, repaying such debts quickly is impossible. Nor would trade retaliations have a sufficiently large effect to hurt the USA. [The Turkish economy is only about 8 per cent of the size of the EU economy.]


While Erdogan’s supporters helped him to withstand the recent coup attempt, they are not wealthy enough to finance such debts by selling their gold or other assets. It has already been calculated that Turkish commercial bank reserves have effectively been liquidated by the decline in the exchange value of the Lira. Total Turkish government reserves are about $131 billion.


Turkish institutions have borrowed about $150 billion, and it would now take about double the pre-crisis amount of Lira to repay this. This far too big for, say, Russia to support and Erdogan has stated that he did not seek Russian financial aid in his recent phone call with Putin.


Russia has simply declared that bilateral projects such as the Turk Stream gas pipeline and the atomic power plant are not in jeopardy, but then Russia is financing most of these costs and the clear implication is that no further financial aid will be forthcoming. This is hardly surprising when Russia’s reserves amount to $458 billion, only about 3.5 times more than Turkey’s reserves, and Russia too faces sanctions. So it is likely that Erdogan’s denial that he asked for aid is a face saver.

Nor is it likely that China would feel able to come to Turkey’s aid, for two main reasons. Firstly, it has just taken an 80 per cent stake in Iran’s natural gas project, based on the largest single reservoir of natural gas in the world, and it has longer-term plans to build a rail link from Central Asia to Iran. Secondly, with today’s announcement by Turkey of what is called a ‘soft capital control’, the Lira has bounced back today and the financial pressure from investors has suddenly switched to China.


According to the link above, the phrase ‘soft capital control’ refers to a newly announced requirement by the local banking regulator “that the total amount of foreign currency and Lira swap and swap-like transactions can’t exceed 25% of banks’ legal shareholder equity (which followed a similar determination at 50% just two days earlier). The logic behind the move, taken straight out of the PBOC’s [People’s Bank of China] playbook: to ‘kill offshore Lira liquidity to stop foreigners shorting the Lira’….” So foreign speculators are not going to find it easy to buy Lira in order to bet against the Turkish currency.

This is the first sign that Turkey is using what international investors would recognise as credible financial measures to deal with the crisis. Meanwhile, the Lira crisis has made global financial markets more nervous and carries the danger of a global crisis. This now-panicky mood partly explains why China has suddenly attracted negative attention.


Yet the danger of ‘contagion’ within the EU is not over, even though the weak French, Italian and Spanish banks most exposed to Turkish debts are considered to have sufficient reserves to withstand bad Turkish debts. While Turkish debts are not considered to be an existential threat to such banks, the fact is that any additional destabilisation of EU banks, such as a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ by the UK, could destabilise the EU banking system. The ECB is already finding it difficult to buy EU government bonds as a way of pursuing its policy of ‘Quantitative Easing’ (QE, effectively printing money electronically) without causing high levels of inflation, and so QE may be coming to an end as a policy fairly soon. Since this is happening at a time when the US Federal Reserve has made it clear that it wishes to raise interest rates, and the Bank of England has just done so, the nervousness on global markets that the last 10 years of cheap credit might be coming to an end is understandable. So the Turkish Lira crisis may be seen as a possible precursor of a much wider financial crisis, whose likelihood is increased by Trump’s trade war measures.


The actual point of origin of any such global crisis can only be guessed at, and while many might expect it to start in the USA as it did in 2007-8, it could well happen within the EU, where many banks are comparatively over-stretched dealing with what are politely called ‘non-performing loans’. These problems are exacerbated within the EU by the large flows of funds from southern EU countries to northern ones.

Geopolitical Implications

The Moon of Alabama pointed to the sort of political price that various countries might extract from Turkey now that it is suddenly in a much weaker position. Readers of the South Front website could readily outline the probable implications for the Syrian conflict. Neo-Ottoman dreams of a buffer zone between Turkey and any Kurdish groups seem far from being viable.

With regard to the recent BRICS conference in South Africa, where Turkey suggested that it might join BRICS, that will inevitably be shelved at best. I am not aware of Turkey having engaged in any of the currency swap arrangements signed in recent years by Russia and China with various partners, and so Turkey’s references to reorienting by turning to new allies and markets carries little credibility in the short run. Yet I expect Erdogan to resist calling in the IMF since that will be seen in many quarters as a public surrender to the USA. That may scare off Western tourists (and the share price of the large German travel firm Tui has declined in recent days) but Russian tourists might still take their holidays in Turkey. The alternative to the IMF is probably stronger capital controls, rising goods shortages as international trading becomes more difficult, and fairly high inflation. In the longer term of such a scenario, food rationing cannot be ruled out.

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Stop the Wars to End the Refugee Crisis

Written by Ramzy Baroud

European politicians should confront the question honestly: what are the reasons for millions of people leaving their homes?


“The disturbing truth is this: Europe is accountable for much of the mayhem under way in the Middle East. Right-wing pundits may wish to omit that part of the debate altogether, but facts will not simply disappear when ignored.”

Europe is facing its most significant refugee crisis since World War Two. All attempts at resolving the issue have failed, mostly because those charged with doing so have ignored the root causes of the problem.

Furthermore, on 11 June, Italy’s new Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, blocked the Aquarius rescue ship from docking in Italian ports. It was carrying 629 refugees and economic migrants. A statement by Doctors without Borders (MSF) stated that the passengers included 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.

“From now on,” said Salvini, who also heads the far-right League Party, “Italy begins to say NO to the traffic of human beings, NO to the business of illegal immigration.”

The number of refugees was repeated in news broadcasts time and again, as a mere statistic. In reality, there were 629 precious lives at stake, each human being with a compelling reason why s/he has undertaken the potentially deadly journey to Europe.

While the cruelty of refusing entry to a boat laden with desperate refugees is obvious, it has to be viewed within a larger narrative pertaining to the rapidly changing political landscape in Europe and the crises under way in the Middle East and North Africa. Italy’s new government, a coalition of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement and the right-wing League Party, seems intent on stopping the flow of refugees into the country, as promised on the campaign trail. However, if politicians continue to ignore the root causes of the problem, the refugee crisis will not go away on its own.

The disturbing truth is this: Europe is accountable for much of the mayhem under way in the Middle East. Right-wing pundits may wish to omit that part of the debate altogether, but facts will not simply disappear when ignored.

European politicians should confront the question honestly: what are the reasons for millions of people leaving their homes? They must then fashion equally honest and humane solutions. Put simply, they need to stop the wars to end the refugee crisis. Look at the facts.

In 2017, an uprising-turned-civil-war in Syria led to the exodus of millions of refugees. Ahmed is a 55-year old Syrian refugee, who fled the country with his wife and two children. His reason for leaving was nothing less than the grinding, deadly war.

“I was born in Homs,” he told the UN refugee agency, “and I wanted to live there until the end, but this vicious war left us no other choice but to leave all behind. For the sake of my children’s future we had to take the risk.”

Ahmed explained that he had to pay the smuggler $8,000 for each member of his family. “I’ve never done anything illegal in my whole life, but there was no other solution.”

Saving his family meant breaking the rules; I have no doubt that millions of people the world over would do the same thing if confronted with the same grim dilemma. In fact, millions have.

African immigrants are often blamed for “taking advantage” of the porous Libyan coastline to “sneak” into Europe. The reality, though, is that many of those refugees lived peacefully in Libya and were only forced to flee following the NATO-led war on Libya in March 2011.

“I’m originally from Nigeria and I had been living in Libya for five years when the war broke out,” wrote Hakim Bello in the Guardian. “I had a good life: I was working as a tailor and I earned enough to send money home to loved ones. But after the fighting started, people like us – black people – became very vulnerable. If you went out for something to eat, a gang would stop you and ask if you supported them. They might be rebels, they might be government, you didn’t know.”

The security mayhem in Libya led not only to the persecution of many Libyans, but also millions of African workers like Bello. Many of those workers could neither go home nor stay in Libya. They, too, joined the dangerous mass exodus to Europe.

War-ravaged Afghanistan has served as a tragic model of the same story. Ajmal Sadiqi escaped from the country, which has been in a constant state of war for many years. The situation there has taken a much deadlier turn since the US invasion in 2001.

Sadiqi told CNN that the vast majority of those who joined him on his journey from Afghanistan to Turkey, Greece and other EU countries died along the way. However, like many in the same situation, he had few alternatives.

“Afghanistan has been at war for 50 years and things are never going to change,” he said. “Here, I have nothing, but I feel safe. I can walk on the street without being afraid.”

Alas, that sense of safety is, perhaps, temporary. Many in Europe are refusing to examine their own responsibility for creating or feeding conflicts around the world; they only perceive the refugees as a threat.

Despite the obvious correlation between western-sustained wars and the EU’s refugee crisis, no moral awakening has yet been realised. Worse still, France and Italy are now involved in exploiting the current warring factions in Libya for their own interests.

Even in Syria, the EU is hardly innocent. The war there has resulted in a massive surge in refugees, most of whom are hosted by neighbouring Middle Eastern countries, although many have set sail in leaky vessels to seek safety in Europe.

“All of Europe has a responsibility to stop people from drowning,” insisted Bello. “It’s partly due to their actions in Africa that people have had to leave their homes.” Countries such as Britain, France, Belgium and Germany, he added, think that they are far away and not responsible. “But they all took part in colonising Africa. NATO took part in the war in Libya. They’re all part of the problem.”

As you would expect, Italy’s Salvini and other politicians like him refuse to frame the crisis in such a way. They use whichever discourse is necessary to guarantee votes, while ignoring the obvious fact that, without Europe’s military interventions, economic exploitation and political meddling, a refugee crisis — at least one of this magnitude – would probably not exist in the first place.

Until this fact is recognised by EU governments, the flow of refugees will continue, raising political tension and contributing to the tragic loss of lives of innocent people, whose only desire is simple survival. Is that too much to ask?

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a PhD in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Centre for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is http://www.ramzybaroud.net.

Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer, contributed to this article.

Source: Middle East Monitor

Jerusalem, Nicosia and WW3

June 19, 2017  /  Gilad Atzmon

By Gilad Atzmon

Cypriot press reported last week on a large joint Israeli-Cypriot military drill.

The following Israeli video  publicises an elite Israeli commando brigade engaged in aggressive military routines around Cyprus’ Troodos Mountain range.


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How did this came about? How did the Cypriots, who are known to support the Palestinian cause, become a province of the Israeli empire?

An Israel-Europe gas pipeline deal is the answer.


In the beginning of April we learned about a proposed 2,000 kilometer subsea pipeline connecting gas fields located offshore in Gaza and Cyprus with Greece and possibly Italy.

The pipeline agreement among Israel, Italy, Cyprus and Greece leaves both the Turks and the Palestinians out. While Gaza faces a critical energy crisis with electricity reduced to less than three hours a day; Israel aims to collect billions of dollars from a significant natural gas reserve located off the Gaza shore and well within Palestinian territorial water (assuming such a term exist).

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s energy minister,  hailed the pipeline project expected to be in operation in 2025 as the “beginning of a wonderful friendship between four Mediterranean countries.” Of course, not all related Mediterranean nations are included in the deal. We can foresee that this is a recipe for disaster: the pipeline and the gas installation are soft targets. The region is volatile. Cyprus is putting its sovereignty at risk. It may, within a short time, God forbid, become a battle ground for some merciless global operators.

Cyprus leadership realises that it has to become an Israeli province if it wants an oil pipeline that dispatches plundered Palestinian natural gas. And as the video reveals, Cyprus is now protected by its Israelite big brother. The Israeli-Cypriot joint military drill was performed to deliver a message to Turkey and other regional players: any attempt to interfere with their gas theft project will be met by Israeli military brutality.

Gilad’s Being in Time can be ordered on Amazon.co.uk  & Amazon.com  and on Gilad’s site  here.

Israeli Air Force Trains to Take on Russian-Made Missile Systems

Posted on April 2, 2017

[ Ed. note – Looks like the neocons are making steady progress toward sparking that “splendid little war” they’ve been trying to get started for a while now. The following is a collection of news stories that have appeared over the past few days. ]

Russia Insider

The Israeli Air Force is participating in an extensive international exercise in Greece alongside pilots from America, Greece, Italy and the UAE, according to reports.

The drills are designed to help pilots “deal” with Russian-made defense systems, including the S-300, which is currently operational in Syria and Iran.

The exercises will run from March 27 to April 6, and are taking place in Greece. According to Sputnik, Greece acquired a S-300 system from Russia in the late 1990s and is the only member of NATO which has the system in service.

Although similar drills have been held before, they take on special significance considering the heightened tensions between Israel and Syria:

Israel has acquired technical data about the S-300 system, which is capable of hitting aerial targets at a distance of 150 kilometers, and an altitude of up to 27,000 meters.

The maneuvers were aimed at testing out different tactics against the S-300, in simulated attacks against ground targets protected by S-300 batteries.

Russia Develops Hypersonic 4,600 mph Zircon Missile

Fox News Tech

The race to develop an unstoppable and unbeatable weapon capable of defeating all the military defense systems in the world is getting much too close for comfort.

According to multiple reports, Russia is expected to begin production soon of its 3M22 Zircon, a hypersonic missile that will travel 4,600 miles per hour — five times the speed of sound — and will have a range of 250 miles. That’s just three minutes and 15 seconds from launch to impact.

Guided hypersonic missiles will be more accurate than traditional ballistic missiles and could conceivably be armed with nuclear warheads, according to the geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor.

And they’re coming, whether we like it or not. And they’ll be on our doorstep sooner, not later.

“State tests of Zircon are scheduled for completion in 2017 … and the missile’s serial production is planned to be launched next year,” the Russian news agency TASS reported last year, quoting sources. And last month, Russia’s Interfax news agency cited a source familiar with the Zircon project who said the 5-ton missile is likely to be tested for the first time this spring — earlier than the projected date of 2018 — “from a sea-based platform.”

The International Business Times (IBT) reported that the U.S. Navy is concerned the missile could be fitted to a Russian warship.

Hypersonic speed is the stuff of science fiction. As explained in IBT:

“The missile employs revolutionary scramjet technology to reach its hypersonic speeds whereby propulsion is created by forcing air from the atmosphere into its combustor where it mixes with on-board fuel – rather than carry both fuel and oxidizer like traditional rockets. This makes it lighter, and therefore much faster.

“It uses no fans, rotating turbines or moving parts – just an inlet where air is compressed and a combustor where the air is mixed with fuel. Fewer moving parts also means less chance of mechanical failure.

“The Zircon … would be capable of destroying the world’s most advanced warships and aircraft carriers in one strike and could be put into action by 2020.”

The Zircon will have a radar target seeker and an optical-electronic complex that can trace and detect targets, also at hypersonic speed, according to the Strategic Culture Foundation.

“It will greatly reduce the reaction time that [Western military units] have to deploy their own defenses and counter-measures,” Tim Ripley, who covers defense issues for Jane’s Defence Weekly, told the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

He said the Zircon could render Western anti-aircraft defenses “obsolete,” and he warned that Russia appears far ahead of the U.S. in development.

“In the public domain, the West seems to be quite a long way behind,” Ripley said. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some black, super-secret project run by the U.S.’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.”

In fact, the U.S. may not be behind at all. According to Stratfor, U.S. Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello announced in late February that the Air Force plans to have operational prototypes of its own hypersonic missile ready for testing by 2020.

And Stratfor forecasts that the U.S. and China will likely have the first operational long-range hypersonic missiles in their arsenals by 2025, years ahead of Russia.

Germany Recruits Russian-Speaking Actors to Take Part in US Army Training


Germany is looking for performers that will take part in US military exercises as atmosphere players. The candidates must have a “good knowledge of Russian” and be able to portray farmers or store owners.

The description of the vacancy “Russian-speaking role players for NATO exercises” was published on the official portal of Germany’s capital, berlin.de.

“We are looking for performers to take part in role games during US military exercises,” the website said.

The starting date is April 26. All participants must have good knowledge of Russian, English and German. It would be “A great advantage” if they also know Polish or Czech, the advertisement said.

“Candidates will play the role of civilians in conflict zones. This will help to create a real training scenario for servicemen and their optimal preparation for foreign missions,” the description said.

The exercises will be held continuously, including on weekends, in the Hohenfels training grounds between Nuremberg and Regensburg. There about ten villages will be built with 30 houses each.

“Performers will play small roles such as livestock keepers, shopkeepers or the head of the village in Afghanistan, who is constantly negotiating with the US military and takes part in the mediation.”

The job is pays 88.4 to 120 euros per day of work.

In an interview with Sputnik Germany, Tobias Pflüger, deputy chairman of the Left Party and peace activist, said that this announcement is connected with the intensification of the Western military activities along the Russian border.

“This means no good,” the politician said in an interview with Sputnik. “If the military exercises of the US Army contain scenarios involving war with Russia, from the point of view of world politics this is a disaster,” he stated.

Canadian Troops to ‘Fine Tune’ Military Skills for Missions in Ukraine, Latvia


The Canadian Army starts war games on Monday to “fine-tune their soldiering skills” of its troops for foreign missions in such countries as Iraq, Ukraine and Latvia.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Canadian Armed Forces will launch military exercises dubbed Rugged Bear on Monday as part of their training for missions in Latvia, Iraq and Ukraine, country’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

“Starting tomorrow, 3 000 Canadian Army soldiers from 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group from Petawawa, Ontario will fine-tune their soldiering skills during Exercise RUGGED BEAR at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre in Wainwright, Alberta,” the statement read.

The soldiers are set to be trained to a combat team standard, consisting of “a company of mechanized infantry soldiers in light armoured vehicles accompanied by a squadron of tanks and other enablers such as engineers or artillery.”

“The purpose of Exercise RUGGED BEAR is for the Canadian Army to certify that these soldiers, under the banner of Task Force Tomahawk, have achieved the necessary Battle Task Standard (BTS). Achieving this BTS is a critical prerequisite for Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE 17: an intensive training opportunity which will be conducted in May, also in Wainwright, as part of the unit’s Road to High Readiness,” the statement said.

The drills are expected to run till May 4.

Peshkov: Russia-US Relations ‘Maybe Even Worse’ Than Cold War


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s right-hand man said in an interview today on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that current relations between Russia and the United States are “maybe even worse” than the Cold War.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos that the allegations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election are “fake news” and “slander.”

“It has no evidence at all,” he said of the claims.

Peskov pointed to then-President Barack Obama’s sanctions against Russia in late December in response to the alleged election interference as one reason for relations between the two countries being “maybe even worse” than during the Cold War.

On Dec. 29, Obama announced in a statement “a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyberoperations aimed at the U.S. election.”

The actions included the expulsion of 35 Russians identified by the U.S. as Moscow intelligence operatives and sanctions against five Russian entities and four individuals for alleged cyberassaults on Democratic party operatives and political organizations during the presidential campaign.

Obama also announced the shutdown of two massive Russian recreational compounds in Maryland and New York, which U.S. officials said were used for intelligence purposes.

“Is it friendly? I’m afraid no,” Peskov said of the actions. “It’s not friendly. It’s not legal in terms of international law. So, of course, it was a very significant damage for our bilateral relations organized as a farewell parting by the then-administration in Washington.”

Although Peskov flatly denied any Russian interference in the election, he acknowledged that Russians generally saw Trump’s candidacy for president more favorably than that of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, because of the real estate mogul’s remarks during the campaign about the possibility of improving relations with Moscow.

“The reason is very simple,” Peskov said on “GMA.” “It’s not about preferring someone. It’s about whose ideas are more close to you and whose ideas are more welcome in Russian public opinion.”

The Kremlin spokesman said that however bad relations are now between Russia and the U.S., they could improve.

“I think if two presidents meet each other, if they exchange views and if they decide that they want to reestablish a dialogue, then there will be a chance for our bilateral relations to get better,” he said.

U.S. intelligence agencies released a declassified report in January concluding that Putin ordered a campaign to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency,” the report reads, referring to the Russian government’s “longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.”

“We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report continued, saying Putin nursed a “grudge” against Clinton “for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging.”

Turkey, NATO: Getting Closer to Divorce

Turkey, NATO: Getting Closer to Divorce

PETER KORZUN | 24.03.2017 | WORLD

Turkey, NATO: Getting Closer to Divorce

Turkey has been a NATO ally since 1952, and US aircraft have used Incirlik Air Base in the south during the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The base is home to a stockpile of US tactical nuclear weapons. A perusal of media reports leads to the conclusion that Turkey and NATO are heading for a major rift or even a breakup – a problem the North Atlantic alliance hasn’t experienced in its nearly seven decades of existence.

Germany and the Netherlands have blocked Turkish ministers from staging rallies to court the vote of expatriate Turks in the April 16 referendum on giving President Erdogan greater powers. Denmark is siding with its north European neighbors. Turkey faces deep differences with the USA, accusing it of being behind the failed plot in 2016. Both countries have opposing views on the role of Kurds in Syria. Former State Secretary John Kerry came close to threatening Turkey with the loss of its NATO membership.

Add to this the perennial tension between Turkey and Greece and the problem of Cyprus to get the whole picture. According to Bloomberg, «All in all, Turkey appears to have more disputes than friendships with its NATO allies. And its engagement with the alliance itself, which it joined in 1952, isn’t particularly strong».

The NATO annual report for 2016 says Turkey only took part in four of the 18 key NATO exercises held last year. Despite having the fourth-strongest military in the bloc (after the US, France and the UK but ahead of Germany) and the second-highest number of military personnel (after the US), its involvement in NATO’s deployments is small, amounting to just 4 percent of the personnel in the mission to train the Afghan security forces, and 7 percent of the Kosovo force.

Ankara has recently blocked some rolling programs with NATO, including political events, civilian projects and military training, in an escalation of a diplomatic dispute with a number of European states.

Turkey is unable to block cooperation with full-fledged NATO members. The move to block the activities is apparently aimed at Austria, which is not a member of NATO but is a partner country. It has banned Turkish referendum rallies on its territory. Austria has called for the EU to end accession talks with Turkey over alleged human rights violations after the aborted coup.

As a result, a very important NATO project to threaten Russia is in jeopardy. This month, Brigadier General Vladimir Chachibaia, new Chief of General Staff of Georgian Armed Forces, proposed to turn the port of Poti into a NATO military base. This, he argued, would help the alliance get around the provisions of Montreux Convention, which limit non-Black Sea powers access to the Black Sea.

Increasing the number of port calls is a way to boost the bloc’s naval presence, but the passage of naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states is restricted by the Convention. Strengthening the naval forces of Georgia and Ukraine and building a bloc’s «coast guard» base in Georgia would boost NATO’s sea power in the region. Poti could become a home port for the ships of Black Sea NATO members. Georgian military expert Irakli Aladashvili told Russian Kommersant daily that the facility would be protected by ground based weapons systems and land forces.

Ukraine’s plans to buy old ships from NATO members could also be suspended.

Turkey’s action encompasses many more areas of NATO’s activities. The programs cover most of Europe, plus many countries in the Middle East and Asia. Kosovo, Georgia, Ukraine and Afghanistan are affected. Austria is one of the biggest providers of troops in Kosovo. «It is a very unfortunate situation and it means some cooperation programs can’t be launched», said NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a visit to Copenhagen.

Last November, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could become part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The idea had been discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Established in 1996, the SCO is a political, military and economic organization comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Iran, Mongolia, Belarus and Afghanistan are granted observer status. India and Pakistan are set to join this year to make the SCO a powerful group with global influence. Turkey’s accession would be a milestone bringing together the Shanghai Pact and the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (CCTS) – an international organization of Turkic countries, comprising Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. The General Secretariat is in İstanbul, Turkey. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are possible future members of the council.

Turkey is developing military cooperation with Russia. This January, Russian and Turkish air forces launched a joint operation against Islamic State (IS) militants holding the town of al-Bab northeast of Aleppo. The parties have agreed to form a joint military and intelligence mechanism to coordinate their activities in the Middle East. If peace efforts to stop hostilities in Syria succeed, Russia and Turley lead the crisis management process. It could be a start on the way to forming a broader alliance against global terrorism.

Russia and Turkey have been getting increasingly close recently, especially after the two countries brokered a Syria truce in late December to join together in the Astana process. Turkey is in talks with Russia on purchasing the advanced long-range S-400 air defense systems to protect its skies. This issue was on the agenda during the President Erdogan’s visit to Moscow on March 9-10, 2017. Ankara also seeks procurement deals in electronic systems, ammunitions and missile technology.

Both nations are parties to the ambitious Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline project. It should be noted that Russia, not the US or any other NATO member, was the first country to be visited by the Turkish president after the failed coup last year.

Ankara is also getting closer to Beijing. The two countries are closely cooperating to implement China’s the One Belt One Road project. Turkey is again taking the position as a key investment and cooperation partner that will help bridge the East and the West.

Turkey is distancing itself from the West while getting closer with the partners outside NATO and the EU. The abovementioned events conform to the trend. NATO stands to lose its second largest military power as well as one of its key airbases, while Russia, China and other countries are developing the relationship of alliance with the country, which enjoys a unique geographic location between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It gives it easy access to strategically important areas and major energy resources. Turkey is a founding member of the OECD (1961) and the G-20 major economies (1999), it has the world’s 15th largest GDP-PPP and 15th largest Nominal GDP. The development is a major loss for the West and a major win for those who strive for a multipolar world.

EU to offer 2-speed solution too late to stop French election

March 17, 2017

by Ramin MazaheriEU to offer 2-speed solution too late to stop French election

Keep asking the fundamental question: Has the European Union brought the prosperity and security it promised?


Then that will always be a perfectly valid reason for exiting.

Because it hasn’t brought prosperity and security, can the European Union be reformed?

I have said “no” for years, but it’s been a month of historic changes in Europe, with more to come.

After years of rejecting such an idea, Europe’s leaders are expected to unveil a new plan for a “two-speed” European Union – where countries can choose their level of involvement – on March 25th, the 60th anniversary of the EU.

This is a rather shocking about-face, but will it save the Union?

Let’s be honest: The EU is nearly 60 and the bloom is off the rose, especially if she cuts her hair any shorter.

The timing is clear: France’s anti-Euroeverything Marine Le Pen seems assured of making it to the 2ndround presidential vote 8 weeks from now.

Le Pen has promised a Frexit vote this year if elected? Yes, she’s still losing in the 2nd round of all polls, but it has been a year of upsetting the political establishment: Cameron, Renzi, Hollande, Sarkozy, Clinton, etc.

My question is: Why not earlier, Brussels?

Yes, all governments move slowly, but the Brexit vote was last year.

A year ago is also when the uber-neoliberal International Monetary Fund admitted that austerity policies don’t work, which is something proven by the fact that they have never worked anywhere in recorded human history.

If Brussels thinks this can be a game changer in the French election, it may be too late.

That will all depend on if the EU/mainstream media’s preferred candidate – neoliberal globalist Emmanuel Macron – picks up the ball and runs with it or not.

But how can an unprecedented plan to unify a continent work if Brussels is always behind the curve, instead of setting it? The European Union is a revolutionary idea, but it bypassed the formation of a revolutionary leadership class and went straight to a middling, self-protective, corrupt bureaucratic guardianship.

Monday morning quarterbacking aside, 2 historic events just occurred

First, on March 1st European Commission President and Luxembourgeois Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled a White Paper on the future of the EU. He described five different scenarios about what the EU could be like in 2025.

Juncker clearly doesn’t have much faith in the future of the EU because, à la Francois Hollande, he won’t be seeking a 2nd term in 2019. Heck, he may even quit this month.

Hardly an inspiring leader who can unify a bloc, eh? Castro, he ain’t! Juncker’s (non) leadership is only inspiring to Eurosceptics.

The five options were presented to give the impression of democratic choice. Had they presented just one option…well, that would have been straightforward – and a bureaucratic class always rely on obfuscation to maintain power.

Hidden and middling to the maximum – at number 3 – among outgoing president Juncker’s five different plans was a two-speed Europe.

We aren’t going to waste time with the other four, because a two-speed Europe is the only one that really matters.

It is already a fact that it’s the only one that really matters because this week the heads of Germany, France, Italy and Spain met in Paris and said this is what they will push for.

This is a veritable political earthquake, even if people don’t realize it yet. It’s also an overturning of years of explicitly rejecting such changes.

But after Brexit the EU knows they have a problem, and that changes must be made.

Waitaminut: Yer telling me the EU is actually gonna change?

Is there any chance any major changes – such as a two-speed Europe – will be implemented, and quickly?

That depends – do you mean “democratically implemented”?

Firstly, let’s recall that a lack of democratic approval has never stopped the EU before: 8 times since 1992 national referendums have rejected key aspects of the EU, only to be totally and undemocratically ignored or subverted.

Amazing how such facts of history get ignored by the rabidly pro-EU supporters….

What would “democratically implemented” actually look like?

Well, European PMs are up for re-election in 2019. To give any changes the democratic approval they certainly require, EU leaders would need to decide, agree and campaign on the proposed changes well before this next legislative vote. That would give the public the chance to give their say – via vote – on the new changes.

But democratically proposing, debating and voting on structural changes to the EU’s political foundations by 2019?

It’s not impossible, but that’s still a very ambitious goal.

It would be ambitious of any single nation to hold a referendum on radically altering its very political structure.

But we are not talking about a single nation – we are talking about 28 of them. Well, 27 after Brexit.

More importantly, I have repeatedly stated that the EU is structurally incapable of reform because any major change requires the unanimous approval of all 27 members. Getting just 27 people to agree on anything is an arduous process, much less 27 nations.

Case in point: On Friday the EU was stymied in their effort get Poland’s Donald Tusk’s re-elected as president of the European Council. One country voted against him, so the body was nearly brought to a halt.

The dissenting country? Poland.

Noble Poland! Free Poland! Partitioned…Poland.

Why? Because there is both intense Euroscepticism in Poland, and also intense pro-EU sentiment…and this is the same everywhere. It’s complicated and emotional.

Perhaps EU “founders” realized this by installing this principle of unanimity, one which was likely taken from…Poland again!

The “liberum veto” was used during the era of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a dominant and important (if unfairly ignored) European power. The veto was a major democratic advancement against absolute monarchy, and the PLC produced just the 2nd codified constitution in modern history, after the US.

When all the nobles were truly noble and in agreement, the unanimity principle worked out fine and the union peaked in the early 17th century. But when some aristocrats were bought off by foreign powers…proceedings could easily come to a dead halt and thus stagnation set in.

And then partition. And more partition.

In the case of Tusk, the liberum veto principle was not technically in play, but it had been common precedent for the council president to be elected unanimously.

Furthermore, Poland persuasively argued that the EU had no right to elect Tusk as their president when he was not even backed by his home country, LOL!

No matter – the EU ignored Poland’s claim for sovereignty over their own officials and re-elected Tusk anyway.

Poland expected the unanimity principle to be followed, but it wasn’t technically enshrined in this case, and so the bureaucrats got their way.

A new precedent has also been set: The EU can apparently dragoon anyone they want into power.

However, it is still this liberum veto system which ultimately defines the political structure of the European Union and which will make any change – two, three, 18-speed – seemingly impossible to democratically implement.

News flash: A multi-speed Europe is already legal, so they don’t need democracy

EU rules already permit groups of at least nine member states to pursue “enhanced cooperation”.

Barring a major earthquake that brings the EU to a halt – like a Frexit – the bureaucrats already have all the tools at their disposal to enforce the will of the elites. They don’t need any “referendum” – they’ll say “the rules for a multi-speed Europe have already been democratically approved” (except when they were rejected).

The basis of a multi-speed Europe is already permitted, it’s going to happen with or without a vote, and you can check the Rome Summit on March 25 to find that out for sure.

That’s the reality.

I predict they will use this rationale to create a two-speed Europe, regardless of the democratic preference of over 500 million people. Perhaps they will put it to a vote…in which case March 25th will announce the start of that campaign, and this is all we’ll be talking about for 2 years.

But I am Eurosceptical because the EU, and especially the Eurozone, was never a very democratic project. The EU is, fundamentally, a bureaucrat and lobby-dominated institution, after all – it was never truly revolutionary.

So what is a multi-speed Europe? We do have to move on….

A multi-speed Europe is basically a “coalition of the willing” – countries can join or not join multinational policies on economic growth, border protection, common defense, tax systems and others as they wish.

That’s the positive spin on it.

The negative spin is: This allows Western Europe to integrate at an even more breakneck pace, which is something many Western Europeans already do not want (see, “Brexit”).

Secondly, I hardly doubt the 27 nations of the EU will be democratically consulting their citizens for each and every multinational policy they join. The EU’s policies of economic austerity have been rammed through over the will of their people, so why will the future be any different?

Thirdly, a multi-speed Europe is already deeply opposed by many members in Central/Eastern Europe, who see themselves as being left out. Opposition to this plan was a major reason why Poland refused to vote in favor of native son Tusk.

Is a multi-speed Europe a good idea?

The existential crisis of the EU has always boiled down to this: Should there be “more Europe” or “less Europe”?

Clearly, changes are needed, because countries which have followed EU and Eurozone dictates have gone into a prolonged crisis.

EU economic growth since 2010 is just 1.3%, which is below the 1.5% required to start producing jobs. And this is me being charitable: I’m ignoring the -4.4% growth of 2009.

The best gauge of economic policies is how long and how deep an economic downturn lasts, as capitalism guarantees there will definitely be downturns, after all. For an alternative system, please check the stable long-term growth rates of communist behemoths like China as well as international blockade victims like Cuba.

The need to end the EU’s economic woes is immediate and clear.

Also clear is that there are huge economic divergences between EU countries – standard of living, borrowing rates, economic output, etc.

The EU was supposed to end this divergence. It was going to bring prosperity and stability, remember?

But capitalists never waste a good crisis and the 2009 European Sovereign Debt Crisis will go down in history as the time when the EU stopped working and started dying.

It is now abundantly clear that the economic solidarity which would be required from the richer nations of the EU to make “more Europe” work…simply does not exist.

Germany, France and the Netherlands only had the stomach to economically gut and destroy weaker nations like Greece and Portugal.

The rich nations got what they wanted – ports, airports, water departments, laws favoring their own industries against local industries – and now they want to take their money and leave “more Europe” behind.

Thus we will have “multiple speed” Europe on the table for the first time ever.

A “multiple-speed Europe” could indeed be a great option – it recognizes the fact that the required economic solidarity does not exist amid economically divergent countries.

The best option would be for Germany to leave, as many economists suggest – their economy is too strong and it upsets the entire balance. This is quite logical, if you think about it. You never read about that, though.

Germany can take their stupid, economically-blind, false-morality ideology of “We refuse to recognize that for us to export means someone has to import, and thus imbalances are required to exist, ” and not come back, as far as the rest of Europe is concerned.

Germany wants to stay in because neoliberal plundering is very profitable, after all.

Or countries like Greece could leave and start choosing their own economic policies to benefit their own citizens instead of French and German bankers.

They could drop out of the Euro and re-adopt the drachma, allowing them to set their own exchange rates, pay off their debt (read: interest on debt) and regain economic competitiveness.

But there are no guarantees on what a “multiple speed” Europe will actually look like, however….

Two-speed Europe will be “Rich Eurozone, poor everyone else”

It seems difficult to believe that high finance won’t win the day, as this is Europe and it is capitalist.

Therefore, the dividing line is likely to be set by Eurozone members banding together to form the top speed.

This why I don’t see “multiple speed” Europe being decided in March, or implemented by 2019, because the EU/Eurozone has to punish the hell out of Britain for Brexit.

That is a serious job!

Brexit is expected to be formally trigged this week (March 15), which means it’s not until 2019 that France and Germany can prove to Greece, Portugal and anyone else thinking of existing just how costly it will be to quit the club. If “multiple speed EU” is decided before Britain pays, we should see a rash of Euro exits.

And doesn’t France and Germany want to intimidate anyone from exiting? Doesn’t France and Germany want the neoliberal looting of poor countries to continue ?

Because there’s money still to be had! Smaller native industries to be bankrupted! Key infrastructure to be privatized! What kind of a half-hearted bust-out scheme are they running?!

Did they grow a conscience, maybe?

Well, I don’t think like a capitalist, so maybe I’m not seeing the bigger picture.

However, the Eurozone-speed group will almost certainly put up tariffs against the non-Eurozone speed members, and the latter will lose time after time.

How can they compete economically in a two-speed system when they were already behind during the time of single-EU unity?

The countries which didn’t adopt the Euro will band together, and you’ll basically have Western Europe versus Central Europe, economically. Capitalism is “the biggest corporation wins, not the best”, of course, and Western Europe has many more huge corporations set to dominate.

Also, the EU is currently in a crisis – why would the weaker EU countries even want to renegotiate the structure of the EU right now?

They are worse off than anyone else in the bloc, so they have even less pull than usual, therefore the solution can only entrench the current state of increased inequality.

So, given that it looks so bad for the lower gear of 2-speed Europe, why will Central Europe even stay in the European Union? They won’t, and the EU will ultimately disintegrate.

This is exactly what the Visegrad Group – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – said in a response to Juncker’s proposal.

This is the path I foresee for the EU: Slow, painful, and the current winners will remain winners because that’s capitalism, which lacks the multinational solidarity of communism.

Frankly, Central Europe would do much better to join up with Russia, Iran and China and become the easternmost point of China’s “One Belt, One Road” program, which is going to be the new McDonald’s.

Another option: A zero-speed Europe

Why go through this slow, painful, inevitable process I just described?

There is another option: a zero-speed Europe.

That is what will happen if Marine Le Pen wins (though I prefer Jean-Luc Melenchon, of course), as France has historically been the biggest advocate of a unified Europe – lose France, and Europe goes down.

Why choose an inherently elitist 2-speed solution – how is entrenching inequality any form of progress?

The EU would do better to bring a total halt to the project in order to debate and make totally new changes. A “2nd Federal Republic of Europe” or something like that. It should be communist, of course.

The biggest obstacle is changing the idea that a total halt is equivalent to death.

This is true firstly on the most-simple literal level: pro-EU propagandists say that the death of the European Union means the return of European war.

This type of logic is not logic at all, as it based on the ultimate fear: massive death. We deserve better than that; we should think more of ourselves than that.

So why must a halt to the European Union mean the end of the concept of a united Europe?

Is THIS version of a united Europe the only possible version?

Must it continue because it has lasted 60 years and it must last another 60, or another 160?

A resounding “No” is the only logical answer to all of these. There IS an alternative.

Monetary systems and political unions come and go, and this crazy blue marble keeps on spinning, and mankind keeps advancing in knowledge just the same.

If the system is not working, why not replace it? Why try to patch up a clearly-flawed system?

The world has changed drastically in the last 30 years, the rise of computers and digital finance being two sweeping societal changes – why not start fresh with a new system that confines the vast powers of these two behemoths? That’s just a start.

Must we continue with the new lack of limits on the spying powers of national governments? With the neoliberal ideas that have gutted European industry and its social safety net?

The European Union can be entirely remade – that IS a real alternative.

It would be a true revolution which sweeps away a dead, undemocratic and structurally unworkable version.

Detractors will say that there is not a clear plan, but neither is there a clear plan for this version of the EU’s future!

The difference is: we are actually talking about and working on the latter instead of the former. This is the same rationale intelligently used by environmentalists: “Well of course renewable energies aren’t as good as nuclear, oil or coal yet – we put all of our funding and R&D into those three options!”

The European Union can, should and must be reborn if it is going to start ending economic inequality and start promoting true unity, solidarity and mutually-beneficial cooperation.

A new European Union must reject what has clearly failed and what has been rejected: neoliberalism and capitalism.

A return to socialism is the only logical choice – history’s pendulum can only swing this way for Europe.

People need to grasp – and they don’t, and the mainstream media purposely obscures it – just how far to the right we currently are economically: Neoliberalism, European austerity, Trump’s domestic economic agenda – we cannot get much more unregulated and thus more unequal.

But working within the current structure of the EU is not going to work.

No one knows what a “multi-speed Europe” option will even look like, but for many it seems like: institutionalized 2nd-class citizenry for Central Europe; the cementing of the neo-imperial looting of countries like Greece; the cementing of right-wing roll backs to social rights and living standards in countries like France.

It’s been a historic fortnight. In another fortnight we’ll see what the aristocratic leaders of the European Union actually propose. On March 25th “two-speed Europe” is going to get very real!

More interestingly and more importantly, we’ll see what democratic votes in France and the Netherlands produce. In an intelligent world it would be more communism, but sometimes people just have to hit bottom before they turn themselves around.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.

The Cyprus Problem

February 06, 2017

by Kakaouskia

Part 1 – A Beginners Guide

Greetings to the Saker community and readers.

In the past few months there has been a flurry of international activity in an effort to resolve the Cyprus problem. While to most people the problem is either unknown or a passing note, it does pose a bit of a headache for the southern flank of NATO as it is a constant point of friction between Greece and Turkey.

With this article I will try to present the problem in brief and establish historical context; a second article will follow analyzing the latest developments in the area.

First, let us consider early Cyprus history in a brief. Throughout the ages, Cyprus was conquered / administered one way or another by every single major power of the time.

Greeks came to Cyprus around the 13th century BC, followed by the Phoenicians around the 9th century BC. Then Cyprus became part of the Roman Empire (30 BC), followed by the Byzantines (330 AD). After a relatively long period King Richard the Lionheart of England ruled for a year (1191 – 1192) followed by the Lusignans (Franks) until 1489 and the Venetians until 1571.

The Ottomans came in 1571 and until 1878 ruled over the island. The Ottoman Empire, having been weakened by that time agreed as part of the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 to hand over the administration of Cyprus to the British Empire in exchange for protection against Russia. The British annexed Cyprus in 1914 after the Ottomans joined WW I on the side of Germany, formally acquired Cyprus as part of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and declared the island a Crown Colony in 1925.

After an unsuccessful uprising in 1931 with the aim of unification with Greece, the British promised Cypriots that they will consent to unification with Greece should the Cypriots volunteer to fight for them during WW II; that promise was duly broken once the war ended. To give an idea of the hatred for the British, at the early stages of WW II Cypriots working for the British were engaging in active sabotage as the Germans looked to their eyes as fighting the oppressors (the British). All that changed once the Axis powers invaded Greece.

After WW II the British seeing the tendency of Crown colonies to break from the Empire begun to take measures to hold on to Cyprus as it was deemed too strategic; an example being the relocation of the Middle East Land Forces HQ to the island. The pivoting point came in 1955 when, despite the fact that colonialism was collapsing all around the world in Cyprus Georgios Grivas (a Cypriot born Colonel of the Greek Army) formed a guerrilla organisation (EOKA) with the aim to unify Cyprus with Greece. According to a character profile by MI5’s head in Cyprus, Grivas was a “ferocious anticommunist”(Original archives here and here). Indeed, in a manifesto of EMAK (the organisation preceding EOKA) discovered on a boat loaded with weapons by the British which prohibited Cypriot communists from joining the struggle against the British (http://euacademic.org/UploadArticle/872.pdf page 17)

“EMAK demands from them and their party not only to be opposed to EMAK but also not to get involved in the armed conflict, just like the population will. We will not accept communists at EMAK, mainly for purposes of feasibility and if the communists are really interested in the Enosis, they will not desire to get involved in the battle for liberation… The best patriotic action they can do is not to participate and one day this action will be recognized as wise and patriotic.”

According to records, EOKA in its 4 years of action is accountable for the deaths of 371 British servicemen, 14 Greek-Cypriot policemen, 198 Greek-Cypriot citizens (full list of Greek-Cypriot names, dates and conditions of death here – in Greek). Note to readers – I am unable to find accurate numbers for Turkish-Cypriot victims – if one has such sources I would be very grateful if a link is provided.

Up until then Cypriots lived in mixed villages; they were predominantly either Greek or Turkish but mixed none the less. In 1958, the first major inter-communal riots erupted. The starting point was the predominantly Turkish-Cypriot town of Lefka and the cause appeared to be rumours that EOKA murdered two Turkish- Cypriots. It took some time for the British to restore order; however these events lead to the first round of physical segregation between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots and to the creation of TMT, the Turkish-Cypriot equivalent of EOKA.

EOKA also made another strategic error by effectively giving an ultimatum to Greek-Cypriot policemen to either resign from their posts or be treated as traitors and summarily executed. The British took advantage of this to replace Greek-Cypriot policemen with Turkish-Cypriots, thus further seeding discord among the populace along racial lines.

At the end of the conflict, the Republic of Cyprus was established; a total of four documents were signed that are valid to this day and constitute the foundation of Cyprus as an independent state. The signatories for all documents are The United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey and The Republic of Cyprus. This is an important detail as to this date any agreement to change the current status of Cyprus must have the approval of all original signatories. These documents are:

Treaty of Establishment: This is the foundation of the Republic of Cyprus. From the very first Article the sovereignty of the British military bases still present in Cyprus is established.

Treaty of Guarantee: While a two page document, this treaty is the basis which Turkey used in 1964 skirmishes and 1974 during its invasion of Cyprus. Effectively, this treaty states that The UK, Greece and Turkey guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus, that Cyprus cannot be partitioned nor be part of any political or economic union with any other State. Finally, this treaty allows for any of the guarantors to unilaterally take action when this Treaty is breached.

Treaty of Alliance: The least known of the four documents, it states that Cyprus, Greece and Turkey are to be allied for the defence of Cyprus and that a Tripartite HQ will be established in Cyprus commanded by a Cypriot, Greek and Turkish general on a one year rotation basis. Most importantly, it grants the right for Greece and Turkey to staff the Tripartite HQ with a contingent numbering 950 personnel for Greece and 650 personnel for Turkey.

Constitution of The Republic of Cyprus: The basis of Cyprus laws, it sets the foundation for the separation of power between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots. It grants the right of veto on government decisions to both the Greek-Cypriot president and the Turkish-Cypriot vice-president. Importantly Article 130 states:

“The security forces of the Republic shall be composed as to seventy per centum of Greeks and as to thirty per centum of Turks:

Provided that for an initial period and in order not to discharge those Turks serving in the police on the 11th February, 1959, except those serving in the auxiliary police, the percentage of Turks may be kept up to a maximum of forty per centum and consequently that of the Greeks may be reduced to sixty per centum.”

Note that at the time the population of Cyprus was about 80% Greek-Cypriots, 18% Turkish-Cypriots and 2% other nationalities.

In 1963 the first president of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III citing “constitutional deadlocks” put forward a document with 13 points suggesting constitutional amendments:

  1. The right of veto of the President and the Vice-President of the Republic to be abolished.
  2. The Vice-President of the Republic to deputise for or replace the President of the Republic in case of his temporary absence or incapacity to perform his duties. In consequence, therefore, all the constitutional provisions in respect of joint action by the President and the Vice-President of the Republic to be modified accordingly.
  3. The Greek President of the House of Representatives and its Turkish Vice-President to be elected by the House as a whole and not as at present the President by the Greek Members of the House and the Vice-President by the Turkish Members of the House.
  4. The Vice-President of the House of Representatives to deputise for or replace the President of the House in case of his temporary absence or incapacity to perform his duties.
  5. The constitutional provisions regarding separate majority for enactment of Laws by the House of Representatives to be abolished.
  6. The constitutional provision regarding the establishment of separate Municipalities in the five main towns to be abolished. Provision should be made so that: (a) The Municipal Council in each of the aforesaid five towns shall consist of Greek and Turkish Councillors in proportion to the number of the Greek and Turkish inhabitants of such town by whom they shall be elected respectively. (b) In the Budget of each of such aforesaid towns, after deducting any expenditure required for common services, a percentage of the balance proportionate to the number of the Turkish inhabitants of such town shall be earmarked and disposed of in accordance with the wishes of the Turkish Councillors.
  7. The constitutional provision regarding Courts consisting of Greek Judges to try Greeks and of Turkish Judges to try Turks and of mixed Courts consisting of Greek and Turkish Judges to try cases where the litigants are Greeks and Turks to be abolished.
  8. The division of the Security Forces into Police and Gendarmerie to be abolished, (Provision to be made in case the Head of the Police is a Greek the Deputy Head to be a Turk and vice versa).
  9. The numerical strength of the Security Forces and of the Army to be determined by Law and not by agreement between the President and the Vice-President of the Republic.
  10. The proportion of the participation of Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the composition of the Public Service and of the Forces of the Republic, i.e. the Police and the Army, to be modified in proportion to the ratio of the population of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
  11. The number of the members of the Public Service Commission to be reduced from ten to either five or seven.
  12. All the decisions of the Public Service Commission to be taken by simple majority. If there is an allegation of discrimination on the unanimous request either of the Greek or of the Turkish members of the Commission, its Chairman to be bound to refer the matter to the Supreme Constitutional Court.
  13. The Greek Communal Chamber to be abolished.

These amendments were duly rejected by the Turkish-Cypriots. Further inter-communal violence erupted just before Christmas in 1963 forcing an even deeper physical segregation between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots. In 1964 and as clashes continued between militias from both sides and the newly founded Cyprus National Guard the UN passed resolution 186 (1964) which established the UN peace keeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) which remains active to this date. Community segregation was so bad that many roads had roadblocks and the only way to travel between the capital Nicosia and the northern sea city of Kyrenia was by being part of regular UNFICYP-organised and escorted convoys.

In 1967 and as clashes once against climaxed, Turkey made its first use of the Treaty of Guarantees to launch an air campaign against Cyprus. This forced Greece to recall Georgios Grivas (then acting commander of Cyprus NG) in an attempt to defuse tension. Grivas returned in 1971 forming EOKA B in an attempt to unite Cyprus with Greece by force. The coup of 1974 against Makarios provided the final pretext for Turkey which invaded Cyprus and to this date occupies the north of the island.

This is the end of Part 1. In Part 2, I will provide more information on what is the basis being discussed for a solution and what are the key points of contention between the two sides.

Part 2 – Trying for a solution

Since 1974 the UN has been trying in vain to solve the Cyprus problem.

In 1977, the basis for the talks between the two communities was set: the new Cyprus will be a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation consisting of two states – Turkish-controlled north and Greek-controlled South – with a single international representation. Let’s call this United States of Cyprus. Since then, the discussions focus on the following key points:

Property: After the war in 1974, tens of thousands on both sides were displaced from their homes and land. Should all of them be allowed to return? If not, how and who will compensate those who will be left behind? What happens to the properties which were used for public infrastructure? Unfortunately the Cyprus government in 1974 in its efforts to recover from the war made some crucial mistakes which add to the complexity of the problem:

  • It recognised as refugees only those people whose father had a house in the occupied part of Cyprus (the people whose mother had a house were recognised as refugees a few years ago). As an example of the paradox this created, consider this scenario: There was one 20 year old builder born in Kyrenia working at Paphos. You also have another 20 year old builder born at Paphos and working in Kyrenia. The second builder liked Kyrenia much so he bought land to settle there, but did not build a house yet. The war comes, Kyrenia is occupied. The first builder is considered a refugee and gets government help, the second is an unlucky person who gets nothing.
  • The status of refugee is hereditary to this day and government funds are still allocated to the “relief of refugees”. Since the war happened 43 years ago, we are now in the fourth generation of refugees, the majority of which were born after the war. A colleague of mine offered me her experience on the subject: Her grandparents owned a plot with a house which they lost in the war. They also had 5 children. After the war, the government provided them with a hastily build house to live in. Once their children became adults, they each received about 75,000 euros as government help because they could not mortgage their occupied property (for every one the whole of the property was used in the calculation, not the 20% they would inherit from their parents). Then each had 2-3 children which they also got government help when they were building their houses, using the same calculation method. While the government of Cyprus did limit the amount of help and has introduced financial criteria, until today the grants for refugees are considerable if one takes into account the financial state of the country (details here, in Greek).
  • Gross misuse of Turkish Cypriot properties. After the war the Cyprus Government formed a body to manage all the property left behind by Turkish Cypriots. At first, the land was used to either build infrastructure (schools, hospitals etc.) and government settlements to house the Greek Cypriot refugees. As the years passed though, the people living in the government settlements got title deeds for their apartments. Worse, the managing body started renting out the land for commercial purposes (especially high-valued land in tourist areas). Coupled with the hereditary nature of the refugee status, there are cases today where the children of the children of the refugees rent plots for a couple of hundred euros per month which in turn they sublet for over 5,000 euros per month.

A characteristic case highlighting the complexity of the property issue is the case of Dr. Mike Tymvios. Dr Tymvios filed a lawsuit against Turkey in the ECHR on the grounds of inability to use his property due to the occupation. His property in question is an area of 8,640,000 square feet in which part of the Tymbou airport has been build and the value was estimated at 60 million euros. He won the case in 2003. In the meantime, Turkey established a committee in the occupied Cyprus to facilitate property exchanges as a way to resolve the property issue. In its decision, ECHR requested the use of this committee on a trial basis. Turkey was quick to act and offered Dr Tymvios an exchange of property; his property in the North with the property of a state organisation in the South, valued at the time at 30 million euros, which Dr Tymvios accepted. A key point is that both parties in this deal were the legal owners of their respective properties; the title deeds issued by the land registry of the Republic of Cyprus. However when Dr Tymvios approached the Cyprus government asking how to proceed with the land transfer (parts of the land were used for building schools), he was practically accused as a traitor and told he should have waited for a solution to the Cyprus problem. Dr Tymvios in one of his interviews in 2009 (here – in Greek) claimed that he did not want to evict anyone nor demolish the schools, however the government refused to answer his letters on the issue. In the end, after threatening the Cyprus government with a lawsuit in ECHR, in 2012 the council of ministers agreed to buy the land from Dr. Tymvios for 13 million euros, a decision which raised a small political storm.

Security: While Greece and the UK have no objection in abolishing the Treaty of Guarantees and the Treaty of Alliance, Turkey insists on keeping its right to militarily intervene when they deem it necessary (Responsibility to Protect, 1960s style). This is a red line for the Greek side; Russia and France also made clear statements that having third parties guaranteeing the security of an independent state is ridiculous in the 21st century. Still, the fear exists in both communities. There are voices saying that perhaps EU can guarantee the safety of the new Cyprus; how this can be accomplished though since EU does not have an army is a mystery. What is being proposed is upon agreement for a solution a big percentage of Turkish troops (50%+) be repatriated to Turkey and the rest to gradually leave within 5 years. Recent visits by Victoria Nuland probably have something to do with this issue. While guarantees by NATO will not be easily accepted, both for ideological reasons plus the oxymoron of removing Turkey as a guarantor and bringing it back as a NATO member, a formula can be found for “neutral” NATO members like Germany to help with the security. Basically, the US is trying to avoid Russia establishing yet another base in the Mediterranean.

Power Sharing: The provisions inside the Constitution of 1960 made it unworkable. To this effect the Greek side wants to remove the veto powers from the constitution; however the Turkish side wants to have rotational presidency in return. The Greek side has for the most part accepted the rotational presidency and discussions are under way to build a framework for this.

Settlers: Since 1974 Turkey has encouraged a great number of people to immigrate from its eastern provinces to Cyprus altering the demographics to such extend that it is estimated that settlers and their descendants make up 45% of the population of the north part of Cyprus. These people were given homes and land that belonged to displaced Greek Cypriots. What will happen to those people should a solution to the problem becomes a reality? Should a person born from settler parents in 2000 be forced to move to another country? While a possible peace plan will allow for a number of settlers to remain (number are estimated between 40,000 and 50,000), it will still require massive population movement to Turkey (over 100,000 people). This is hard to stomach for the Turkish government, as it will portray Erdogan to be weak.

Territory: What percentage of Cyprus should each state control? At the moment, Turkey controls roughly 36% of Cyprus territory; how much shall be returned to the Greek state to make the deal work? Currently on the table is the transfer of about 7% under Greek state control. The issue here is that the Turkish side is reluctant to return a major town.

Finally, one has to consider the geopolitics involving the three signatories to the original agreements (Greece, UK and Turkey).

Greece is the weakest party of the three. Under the IMF boot and facing an endless influx of migrants, Greece would like nothing more than to settle this issue and remove a permanent problem. This being said, Greece is not set to selling out Cyprus; it is assisting diplomatically the best they can although the options are limited.

For the UK, as long as its military bases are left alone it will agree to any plan. This also presents an opportunity for British diplomacy to show that is still relevant and can play in the big league after Brexit. It will be a big plus for the current British government to be able to claim they helped solve this issue. The UK though in its efforts to build business relationships after Brexit is not very choosing with whom it makes deals; recently Theresa May travelled to Turkey and signed a 100 million pounds deal for BAE to assist Turkey in developing an indigenous stealth fighter jet, while the EU is blocking companies from providing engines for the Atlay tank. It is reasonable to conclude that the UK will not be applying much pressure to Turkey for concessions in the upcoming negotiations.

Turkey is the most complicated and unpredictable of the three. It has always seen North Cyprus as some sort of province and has a habit of issuing orders to the local “government”. For example this year they were forced to keep their time zone the same as Turkey’s resulting in Nicosia being perhaps the only city globally having two time zones on the same street. Erdogan does not want to appear weak for any reason; the recent bleeding Turkish army received in Al Bab in Syria resulting in joint operations with the Russian air force to help the Turkish army needs to be eclipsed by a success somewhere else. This also poses a dilemma for Russia; while traditionally were very supportive of Cyprus, joint military operations and shedding of blood with a country tend to realign diplomatic priorities. Erdogan also tries to use a united Cyprus as a backdoor for Turkish citizens to be allowed free movement in the EU (taking into advantage the confirmation by the EU that Cyprus will still be a member after any form of resolution), something the EU is vehemently against. It is telling that in the latest round of negotiations at Mont Pelerin the EU was represented as an observer by its ambassador to Geneva plus the special envoy of Commission President Pete van Nuffel; their instructions were to assist the Turkish Cypriot side with preparing for EU regulations, plus intervene if deemed necessary.

While not as close to a solution as in 2004 with the plan proposed by Kofi Annan (full text here – interesting read if one is interested in seeing a UN peace plan), there are good prospects for a solutions this time. What I see on the Greek side though does not leave me with much optimism. Apart from the main two political parties, I would dare say that everyone else knows they will become politically extinct once the Cyprus issue is resolved. The Church also wants to revive its role as the nation’s leader above the government (role bestowed to it by the Ottoman Empire along with the role of the tax collector). It is telling that in a recent public appearance, the current Archbishop told the Cyprus President that “the next President of Cyprus will be the one chosen by me”. Unfortunately the Church in Cyprus is in favour of an ethnically and religiously clean Cyprus, meaning only Greek Orthodox Christians to stay.

I still recall the events preceding the 2004 referendum for the proposed solution. The fact that the published plan was 192 pages long and written in advanced legal language enabled various parties to interpret it at will and push that interpretation to the people. There were politicians going on public record with the words “whoever voted yes is a traitor and should be hanged in the main square” – after 24% of the Greek side population voted yes (something similar to the “deplorables” speech by Hillary). There were students in the streets protesting against the plan, before it was even published. Meetings were organised for the members of the armed forces and the police telling them that if the plan passes, they will be out of a job – my military commander actually celebrated the night the result came out once it was clear the plan was rejected, and made sure the whole unit knew of his sentiment. All of these took place due to the continuous indoctrination of people at schools; for the past 40 years students in Greek side only hear that we are victims, Turkey is not to be trusted ever and always to be feared, that we did nothing wrong etc. And no one dares question why our history books jump from 1960 to 1974.

Still, if both sides decide to become adults and realise that hard decisions have to be made, followed by harder work then there is hope. Oh, and focusing on the single national identity of Cypriot instead of prefixing with Greek or Turkish (of course one should be able to speak their language and follow whichever religion they one sees fit) will be a good place to start. Otherwise, identity politics will do what they do best; permanently destroy the country.

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