EUROPE, GREECE & AMERICA AT A CROSSROAD: WE NEED A BROADER VISION!

EUROPE, GREECE & AMERICA AT A CROSSROAD: WE NEED A BROADER VISION!

By

Alan Berlind

It is hard to read the daily press coverage of the Greek financial crisis and the increasingly ugly public bickering between officials of the leftist regime in Athens and the conservative guardians of fiscal responsibility at the European Union without wondering how they can all keep a straight face while pretending that money is all that counts. This is not the space and this blogger not the man for a close and expert examination of the financial arguments put forward by the debtor and creditor. Leaving that to The Economist (April 25) and others, let us take a look at the political game being played on all sides and the very serious consequences of failure to reach a deal that (a) subjects neither Greece nor its current leadership to shame and poverty, that (b) saves face as well for national leaders in Germany, France and elsewhere, that (c) preserves full membership in the Eurogroup as currently constituted, that (d) enhances the position of the EU itself as a major actor on the world stage, and that (e) offers no gifts to either Russia or Turkey. The United States stands to gain from such a result and lose considerably from failure.

There is no question but that Greece has experienced a long run of domestic political turmoil responsible in large part for the economic hole in which it finds itself today, beginning a half-century ago with the military coup d’état of April 21, 1967. It must be added at once, however, that acquiescence followed by more active support in Washington back then and over the succeeding seven years was a welcome gift to those seeking to deal a death blow to democracy in its birthplace. As it had been since the end of WWII, the US was the major source of foreign influence in NATO member Greece, but President Lyndon Johnson slapped the new “government” of colonels on the wrist with a mild reduction in military aid and turned the other way, and successor Richard Nixon, advised by Henry Kissinger, was more than comfortable having a military dictatorship as an ally for another four years. In 1974, however, those colonels, with no apparent objection from their American fans, tried to incorporate independent Cyprus into the Hellenic homeland. Reacting swiftly, the Turks invaded and left more than 30,000 Turkish troops in place, still in place today as a more enlightened US administration works hard to forge agreement among Turkey and the two ethnic Cypriot communities on an independent, non-occupied bi-zonal federation.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen makes a strong argument for a reasonable compromise between unreasonable senior financial negotiators from Greece, the stressed but combative debtor nation, and other EU and Eurozone nations seemingly bent on punishing a noisy leftist government unable to repay excessive loans. Cohen wrote on April 24: “Despite a brutal fiscal adjustment, the fact remains that Greece’s debt is not repayable …. At some point there must be debt forgiveness; the cost of stupid loans has to be recognized. Or there may be a Greek default. The worst outcome for Europe would be a Greek exit from the euro. Joining the shared currency, for all the nations in it, was an ‘irrevocable’ decision. Once one country goes, the whole edifice wobbles. Markets are not sentimental about probing weakness. The constant question will be, ‘Who’s next?’ “

It is crystal clear that the question of overriding concern in Cohen’s view is the future of Europe rather than the angry, spiteful bickering over who’s to blame mentioned at the start. As he convincingly puts it, Europe today is “a borderless market of more than half a billion people between whom war has become impossible …. a continent where entitlements including universal health care are seen not as socialist indulgence but basic humanity …. it (Europe) has delivered peace above all, prosperity however frayed, and freedom to former inmates of the Soviet imperium. It has also created an awareness of European identity that falls short of European patriotism but is nonetheless a counterweight to the primal nationalism that stained the continent with so much blood”.

Whether it is Greece, the Eurozone, the EU itself or the US that stands to benefit most from a halt in the warfare that has driven the negotiations underground, there is a new light at the end of the tunnel: the recent news from Athens that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has reorganized his team so as to remove Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis from the negotiating table without relieving him of his policy responsibilities. It is to be hoped that tempers will no longer override diplomacy at the table and threaten all parties with a result that serves nobody. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

We welcome your comments!

Cyprus in the News – but Where?

By: Alan Berlind

The most senior and most important American visitor to Cyprus in half a century, Vice-President Joseph Biden, arrived in the country on May 21. In public statements – and surely in his meetings with Cypriot officials – Biden made absolutely clear the United States’ position concerning the matter of sovereignty and the country’s importance to the United States, both in general terms and with respect to its role as a strategic partner in the future of energy production and distribution. That Biden had by his side a senior U.S. energy official underscored the last point. Continue reading

CYPRUS PLUS

CYPRUS PLUS

Alan D. Berlind

The recent post by this inattentive blogger (“A CYPRUS SOLUTION”) named various political and geographical entities that have substantial interests in the success of the discussions underway between the two Cypriot communities aimed at re-uniting them under a single sovereign banner:  Cyprus herself, the United States, Turkey, Israel and the European Union, with special mention of France and Italy.  One might have included Russia but did not, principally because its national interests did not seem to be obviously at play.  Wrong! Continue reading

NOTHING IS EASY: ISRAEL, TURKEY, RUSSIA, CYPRUS, THE EU (AND US NATIONAL SECURITY)

  The heralded and most welcome rapprochement between American friends and allies Turkey and Israel will need, as is normal, some time before it bears fruit.  As reported from Ankara by the Associated Press on March 24, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been cautious in presenting his agreement with Israeli counterpart Netanyahu to his domestic constituency, along the lines of “actions speak louder than words”.  (At the same time, Netanyahu has been sharply attacked for apologizing for the 2010 Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla by his former Foreign Minister Lieberman.)  There is nothing remarkable about a leader protecting himself at home from charges of weakness in dealing with “the enemy”, and Erdogan’s announced intention to visit Gaza and the West Bank in the near future need not upset the substance of the agreement.  Let us hope that is so but not disregard the warning signals in the AP report, worth repeating here in full.

          QUOTE:  Associated Press ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested “normalization” of ties with Israel would take time, hinting that Turkey wanted to ensure the victims of a flotilla raid were compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before restoring relations.

Erdogan’s comments on Sunday came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish leader to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Erdogan accepted the apology and both leaders said they would begin the work of restoring full relations.

But in a public address Sunday, Erdogan suggested there would be no quick restoration of ties.

“We have said: ‘an apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted. There will be no normalization without these,” he said. “Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry.”

The statement was largely seen as effort to ease concerns of his religious and pro-Palestinian support. Erdogan has won praise both at home and the Arab world for his criticism of Israel and for breaking off ties with the Jewish state over the flotilla raid.

Turkey and Israel were once strong allies but relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey’s Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become a leading voice in the Muslim world, distanced from Israel.

Animosity increased after the flotilla incident and ambassadors were later withdrawn. Netanyahu had previously refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.

Israel lifted most restrictions on the import of goods into Gaza following the flotilla incident and only restrictions on some construction materials and most exports remain in effect.

During Friday’s conversation between the two leaders, Netanyahu said Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into Gaza and the Palestinian territories and this would continue as long as “calm prevailed.”

But Israeli military officials have taken to punishing Gaza residents for breaches of a November truce. Since Thursday, in response to militant rocket fire from the territory, all movement through a civilian crossing between Gaza and Israel was cancelled, except for humanitarian cases. Gaza fishermen had their permitted fishing territory restricted and a commercial goods crossing was shut down, according to Israeli rights group, Gisha.

Netanyahu said Saturday concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile were the motivating factor in restoring ties with Turkey. He said the two countries, which border Syria, needed to communicate with each other over the issue.

Meanwhile, Erdogan said he plans to travel to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank “within the month, in April.”  END QUOTE

     Where do the other parties named in the title of this post fit in?  Turkey has occupied some 40% of Cyprus going on 40 years, proclaiming the existence of a “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.  Such an entity has never been recognized by any country in the world, Israel, Russia, all EU members and the US prominent among those that have refused.  In May 2012, Turkish jet fighters challenged an Israeli plane hovering near a gas and oil exploration region off of Cyprus, a challenge based on Turkish defense of the “rights” of the fictional republic.  A year later, Turkey continues to challenge the right of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus to explore for energy resources in its exclusive economic zone, an exercise it has been conducting in cooperation with American, Israeli and other partners.  Moreover, it has been reliably reported that Russia, which currently supplies EU countries with well more than a third of their gas supplies, has been pressuring the Cypriots to let the Russian gas giant “Gazprom” into the bidding as the price of helping Cyprus out of its desperate financial dilemma.  Figures indicate that the exploitation of Cypriot gas by, among others, French and American companies could potentially reduce the EU’s dependency on Russian supplies.

     According to the French newspaper Le Monde of March 23, the Russians have been making another, equally important, proposal to the Cypriots in exchange for Russian financial help: the provision of a naval base for Russian warships.  With continued use of Syrian port facilities out of the question, Russia will be left with no berthing or basing rights in the Mediterranean, leaving Cyprus as the only feasible option.  (This scenario was hinted at, perhaps foreshadowed, in a post of July 23, 2012 headlined “Cyprus, Russia, Syria, America, the EU, Turkey et al”, which reported the docking of two Russian Black Sea Fleet warships in the Cypriot port of Limassol – and not, it must be mentioned, in the Turkish-occupied port of Famagusta.)

  NOTHING IS EASY.

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!

Turkey, The EU and – Oh, Yes – Cyprus

“This half-a-country, this incomplete country will take over the EU Presidency. There will be a half-presidency leading a miserable union.”

The partial country?  Cyprus.  The speaker?  Turkish President Abdullah Gul in remarks to Turkish journalists during his recent official visit to Great Britain, as quoted by Reuters and published in the newspaper Cyprus Mail of November 23.  The Head of State of Turkey, an applicant for EU membership while for thirty-seven years the occupier and colonizer of much of EU member state Cyprus, in the absence of any official correction or contradiction would seem to have dropped the bid and set back hopes for Cypriot reunification.  But, let’s hope not: in politics, as elsewhere, action often speaks louder than words.

European purists, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, will welcome Gul’s pronouncement, taking them off the hook for killing Turkish accession to the EU while at the same time justifying their conviction that Turks and their like simply do not belong in the club.  Merkel, Sarkozy and their like, but the two of them in particular, had surely been outraged by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s (undated) response to the final question posed by an interviewer from Time magazine (see the October 10 issue) as to whether Turkey no longer planned to join Europe: “We’re still determined, because no leader in the EU will be there forever.  But Turkey is getting stronger as time goes by, and the situation of many European states is quite obvious.”

It is also quite obvious that the principal actors in the multi-faceted drama on stage today are going for sound bites over policy, as often as not for reasons of domestic politics and survival.  Sarkozy was widely quoted as saying the following on October 7, during a visit to Armenia:  “France doesn’t see Turkey in the EU…. Turkey is a kind of bridge between the East and the West.  Being a part of Asia Minor, it has an important role in the world, but that role is not for the EU.”  The intended nail in the coffin, if one were needed, was his public call for Turkish recognition of and apology for the Armenian Genocide of 1915, but he failed to mention the importance of the votes of the Armenian diaspora in France, said to number more than 300,000, when presidential elections are held next Spring.

Sarkozy is not alone, for Merkel and Erdogan/Gul (along with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu) are playing in large part to home audiences as they seek to prolong their presence on the scene.  What they shout now from center stage may be trumped in the end by those diplomats working hard in the wings (and with no worries about upcoming elections) for peaceful resolutions of potentially dangerous disputes.  As recently as October 12, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, introducing the publication of the latest annual progress report on Turkey’s accession process, spoke calmly but firmly about measures remaining to be addressed by that country in advance of EU membership, and he did not hesitate to speak of Cyprus in several respects.  Likewise, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Special Advisor on Cyprus Alexander Downer continue to promote talks under UN auspices between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities aimed at a federal solution agreeable to all parties concerned.  In short, while we must be wary of the big words shouted by the leaders, we ought not let their big mouths convince us that progress on several fronts is impossible.  Nevertheless, it was discouraging and scarcely comprehensible to read the eight-page cover story on Erdogan and Turkey in the November 28 edition of Time without finding a single reference to Cyprus – not even when the EU accession topic comes up.

The American role in the 1974 events that led to the long-standing military occupation by Turkish troops of some 40% of EU and UN member Cyprus, discussed here under the heading “Cyprus and National Security” on October 25, has been treated in two articles appearing in the July-August 2011 issue of the Foreign Service Journal (FSJ).  In an excerpt from her forthcoming book, The Dissent Papers: The Voice of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond, Hannah Gurman writes that, before the coup launched by the Greek military junta that overthrew the Cypriot Government, State Department Cyprus Desk Officer Thomas Boyatt had warned in official channels of the consequences of US inaction, to wit, that continued passive support of Cypriot rebels would result in an overthrow of the government and give Turkey an excuse to invade the island on behalf of the Turkish-Cypriot minority.  While Gurman does not say so explicitly, it is extremely difficult to imagine that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was unaware of Boyatt’s views, which cannot have failed to work their way up through the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, Gurman is careless enough to write that Cyprus experts agree that “Kissinger was willfully ignorant of the area’s complex political dynamic” (emphasis added).  In supposed support of this judgment, she quotes former Under Secretary of State George Ball as having written that Kissinger “knew nothing about Cyprus and did not bother to inform himself”, but she does not explain how Ball’s apparent attempt to excuse Kissinger meets the definition of “willfully”, which means nothing other than “deliberately” or “intentionally”.

The second FSJ article is by Boyatt himself, and he leaves no doubt concerning the warnings he had given, with support of fellow officers working on Greek and Turkish affairs:  “The Greek junta was planning to overthrow (Cypriot) President Makarios, notwithstanding their denials of such intent; if the Greek colonels established a puppet regime in Cyprus, the Turkish Army would invade and partition the island; and such an outcome would be disastrous for the United States, for it would destabilize NATO’s eastern flank, giving the Soviets a chance to intervene, and turn the Cyprus problem into a permanent irritant.”  Boyatt goes on to say that he had argued further for confronting the junta and telling them to stay out of Cyprus, but that his recommendations had been ignored.  Kissinger’s public admission thirty years later that Boyatt’s views had not received the attention they deserved, cited by Boyatt in his article, did nothing to relieve his guilt, tarnish his reputation or help the small country he had sold down the river to keep the Turkish generals happy.  Instead, it served only to confirm the sad truism that holds that “old new is no news” and carries no threat for the exposed party no matter how guilty.

Once again, the criminal goes free and the interests of the United States suffer.

Footnote:  A greatly expanded, well-researched and totally convincing account of Kissinger’s absolute responsibility for both the Cyprus events of 1974 and the situation in which that country finds itself in 2011 can be found at the following site: http://hellenicantidote.blogspot.com/2011/04/exposing-kissingers-cyprus-lies.html

By Alan Berlind.

Cyprus and National Security

The ongoing harsh dispute between Turkey and Israel has been treated in the media as if only those two countries, plus the United States and the European Union, were involved.  There has been mention of the Cypriot angle, since one major aspect of the dispute involves seabed exploration for hydrocarbons in the area composed of the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Israel located between the shores of those two states.  But otherwise, if one judges from “the news”, Cyprus is a bit player in the Israeli-Turkish drama that may yet produce an unhappy ending for all actors mentioned above and a tragic one for Cyprus itself.

Former American Ambassador to Turkey Morton Abramowitz, who knows better, is among those who give Cyprus short shrift, witness the op-ed he co-authored for the September 17 edition of the Washington Post entitled “Obama must deal with Turkey-Israel crisis”.  Cyprus gets only quick mention in the eighth paragraph.  Reuters news agency on September 22 hinted at the importance of Cyprus with the following dramatic report:  “Cyprus has said it will block negotiations Turkey began in 2005 to join the European Union if Ankara continues to oppose its gas exploration. Turkey has said it will freeze relations with the EU Presidency if Cyprus is given the rotating role next July before a settlement over the island is reached.”  Nevertheless, the emphasis is clearly on the question of Turkey’s application for EU membership, with little Cyprus just a technical, albeit annoying, stumbling block.  Little though it may be, the Republic of Cyprus is a member in good standing of the United Nations and the EU and, as Turkey has fretfully acknowledged, will assume the EU presidency next July.

For reasons given below, a little history is in order. Following a bitter struggle, Cyprus won its independence in 1960 from Great Britain, with the departing colonial power retaining small sovereign air bases in the southern part of the island.  Serious and often bloody strife between the majority Greek-speaking community and its Turkish-speaking  counterpart led to a UN military presence and the establishment in 1964 of a “green line” to prevent inter-communal violence. 

Ten years later, on July 15, 1974, a faltering Greek military/police regime in Athens participated in a rightist coup attempt aimed at incorporating the island into Greece.  In just over a week, a cease-fire had been declared, the coup had collapsed, civilian rule had been restored, and the reign of the Greek junta, which had mounted its own coup in 1967, had ended.  But, three days before this potentially happy ending, Turkey had dispatched its own troops to nip the Cypriot coup in the bud and, it claimed, to protect the minority Turkish-Cypriot population. 

Finally, while talks were under way in Geneva among the ludicrously labeled “protective powers” (Great Britain, Turkey and Greece), Turkey on August 14 launched a massive invasion and occupied 37% of the island’s territory, from which 180,000 Greek-Cypriots were expelled, their homes and properties to be given to Turkish settlers imported mostly from the plains of Anatolia.  In 1983, Turkey and its vassal proclaimed the establishment of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, which as of this writing has never been recognized by any nation on earth but the new colonial power itself.  Today, thirty-seven years after the invasion, and in disregard of dozens of UN Security Council resolutions, some 30,000 Turkish troops remain in armed occupation.  (This of course makes an absurd mockery of Turkey’s repeated recent references, otherwise valid, to Israel’s disregard of an even larger number of UNSC resolutions.)

Why was this little history in order?  The focus of this blog is on “rethinking national security”.  President Obama’s recent decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of this year brings to mind his absolute failure to call his predecessor to account for the illegal, unprovoked and disastrous invasion of that country.  The conviction here is that accountability and honesty go hand in hand with America’s standing and influence throughout the world and, accordingly, its security.  It is in that context that the role of America in the history recounted above is recorded below.  These are not revelations by any means; it is all on the public record.

When Greek colonels on April 21, 1967 mounted their lightening coup, ostensibly to pre-empt the election of a liberal, or leftist, prime minister, the administration of President Lyndon Johnson did absolutely nothing other than impose a mostly cosmetic reduction in military aid to its long-standing ally.  The debate continues to this day as to whether the U.S. was taken by surprise, knew of the coup in advance or was in fact more actively involved.  In any case, when Richard Nixon was inaugurated in 1969, he and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, dispatched a new ambassador, Henry Tasca, to Greece with instructions to report back in six months on the progress of the military junta in restoring democratic norms to Greece – the unstated expectation being that such would be the case.  In the absence of any evidence whatsoever, Tasca dutifully complied.  Aid was restored to former levels, and the junta carried on with no civilizing reforms and scant opposition to speak of until a major demonstration in Athens in 1973 paved the way for that pitiful attempt to overthrow the Cypriot Government.

Kissinger, now dual-hatted as Secretary of State and in total control of American foreign policy, was warned explicitly by Cyprus experts in the Department about the dangers of a Greek coup attempt in Cyprus and a decisive counter-attack by Turkey.  Some wish to blame Kissinger for no more than unfamiliarity with the territory, or for personal antagonism toward Cypriot President Archbishop Makarios, or for the enormous weight on his shoulders following Nixon’s resignation. Whichever excuse is offered, he certainly let it all happen.  There is every reason to assign the blame to this genius of realpolitik for consciously permitting the desperate Greek junta to kick off the fight and thereby furnish Turkey with an excuse for intervening and then colonizing a large part of an independent UN member state.

Will Henry Kissinger ever be called to account for his role in events that paved the way to the current situation in Cyprus, still suffering today from the longest military occupation in memory, by a force the largest ever in relation to the local population?  (One can of course ask the same question concerning other crucial decisions made on his watch, for example, immediately excusing Yassir Arafat after the latter in early 1973 ordered that American diplomats in Khartoum be slaughtered in cold blood, or agreeing to delay the end of the Vietnam War so as to ensure Nixon’s re-election in 1974.)

The greater misfortune, however, lies not just in the sins of one man.  Kissinger’s actions and policies, given his authority, were the actions and policies of the United States Government, which itself therefore shoulders much of the blame for the dilemma facing Cyprus today and the closely related problems involving Turkey, the EU and, given its own national interests, the United States.  This history, in combination with the current threat to U.S. interests stemming from the Turkish-Israeli-Cypriot-EU imbroglio, requires attention on the part of Washington. 

More on the Cyprus question will follow.  In the meantime, all comments will be welcomed.

By Alan Berlind.

Heat In, and Over, the Eastern Med

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking the major role in both the Arab Spring and the wintry chill between Israel and the Palestinians, may be headed for a major confrontation on more than one front and involving several parties, including Turkey itself, Israel, Cyprus, the European Union and the United States of America.

Last December, Israel and Cyprus signed an agreement concerning exploration for hydrocarbon resources beneath the seabed between the two countries, setting the median line as the mutual boundary in the absence of a full economic zone on either side (just 230 nautical miles separate the two shores) and pledging unspecified cooperation with respect to future exploration.  Since Israel (for unrelated reasons) has not signed the UN Law of the Sea Treaty, the parties cited other unremarkable legal justifications for the agreement.  Turkey, itself not a signatory to UNCLOS, objected at once on the wholly unsustainable grounds that the interests of Turkish-Cypriots had been ignored, i.e., that the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” itself has a legitimate interest in the seabed area at stake.  That so-called “state”, proclaimed unilaterally in 1983, has since been recognized by neither the UN nor any state on earth other than Turkey and has no standing whatsoever in international law.

The Cypriot daily “Phileleftheros” reported on September 14th that Turkish fighter and reconnaissance aircraft had flown through Cypriot airspace – by no means for the first time – and are patrolling the area off of the eastern coast of the island opposite Israel, while Israeli aircraft are monitoring the median line.  On September 8, an article in “The Cyprus Mail” reported that exploration on the Cypriot side will be undertaken by an American firm, Houston-based “Noble Energy”, which has announced that it will proceed with drilling later this month despite the Turkish threats in coordination with the U.S. State Department and the American Embassy in Nicosia.

Every bit as important, the same article of September 8 reports as follows:  QUOTE  The European Commission yesterday issued its strongest rebuke yet to Turkey over its threatening behaviour towards Cyprus’ efforts to drill for hydrocarbon reserves within its own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  Unfazed, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to raise the stakes in his row with Israel and Cyprus over hydrocarbon explorations in the eastern Mediterranean, vowing yesterday to stop them from exploiting natural resources in the area while also pledging to send warships to escort aid to Gaza. The EU, through Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, yesterday “urged Turkey to refrain from any kind of threat, sources of friction or action which could negatively affect good neighborly relations and the peaceful settlement of border disputes.”  In a released statement, Fule said, “The Commission regrets any statements that are not conducive to this objective,” noting that it “regularly reiterates these issues in its discussions with Turkey and will continue to monitor Turkey’s commitments to good neighborly relations in the light of the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes.”  The Commission further highlighted the importance of progress in the normalization of relations between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus. The EU also “stressed all the sovereign rights of EU member states which include entering into bilateral agreements, in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”  The Commission underlined the “urgent need” to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue.  END QUOTE

These reports, in combination with earlier Turkish threats relating to potential Israeli reaction to a second Gaza flotilla mission, point both to imminent danger and longer-term negative consequences for all those parties mentioned in the lead paragraph above.  An armed conflict between Turkey and Israel cannot be ruled out, given the unbending stances of the two, no matter what frantic negotiations are surely under way.  The strong EU statement and Erdogan’s apparent determination not to let the prospects for EU membership, if indeed he still judges it to be in his or Turkey’s long-term interests, get in the way of his drive for regional leadership only serve opponents of membership within the EU.  US interests in these developments are all too obvious, quite aside from the undeniably legal right of an American firm to drill on behalf of the universally recognized Republic of Cyprus.

A final note: is it not absurd for the Prime Minister of Turkey on his current tour to be lecturing Arabs on the benefits of democracy while presiding over the massive, thirty-seven-year-old military occupation of some forty percent of Cyprus, a member in good standing of both the UN and the EU?

By Alan Berlind.