GENESIS OF THE GREECE-TURKEY CONFLICT

GENESIS OF THE GREECE-TURKEY CONFLICT

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established in 1949 with the sole aim of ensuring security and to safeguard its alliance’s protection through military mechanisms. In the present scenario, NATO has not been able to counter the regional conflict that is emerging between countries, Greece and Turkey. The membership of Greece and Turkey to the NATO was offered to both the countries in 1952, believing that this would alter the contour of their relationship. President Harry Truman had granted memberships to both Greece and Turkey believing that they would enact as a bulwark to communism. Turkey’s support to Western values and perception of it as a stable democracy indeed attracted attention and increasing support from the West. Not only that, she has enacted as a buffer to the Middle East and Russia. On the other hand, if Turkey would be expelled, funding would have to be drastically escalated.  However, it is rather important to understand the genesis of such a dispute that has assumed an international acreage to it. It was in 1570 that Cyprus had come under the rule of the Ottoman Empire which had a sizeable Turkish population settling in this region. Indeed, the enemies in both countries have experienced a buildup of a stereotypical image as well as ‘otherness’ through literary texts, historiography and education. However, Turkey’s atrocities on the minorities beginning with the Armenian Massacre in 1894-1896 and thereafter the Armenian Genocide in the 19th century steered the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France to intervene. Not only that, Turkey perpetrated ethnic cleansing of its Greek minorities in 1922 when nationalism was on the rise (Kaloudis, George, Cyprus: The Enduring Conflict, 1999, pp: 40). World War I only accentuated the diplomatic ties shared between the countries. Yet, colonization of this region in the 19th century by the British Empire was a repercussion of the Ottoman Empire’s loss of territories during World War I, by which Cyprus was ceded.

The Cyprus conflict has remained remarkably a major bone of contention between the Greek and Turkish communities as the 1950s witnessed the unleashing of inter-communal violence. It was the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, a guerilla force which rebelled against the British Raj during this period that compelled the United States and the United Kingdom to rethink its foreign policies. On the other hand, a paramilitary group was established by the Turkish Cypriots which became known as the Turk Mukavemet Teshkiati or TMT. Rather, enosis has fitted well into the vision of pan-Hellenism or the Great Idea, known also as the “Megali Idea” and has been the sole goal for Greek Cypriots since British colonization and even after its independence. With no assistance from the United Nations, enosis had to be forgotten and a compromise was sought for, whereas the British authority realized the dominance of Cyprus military bases would fulfill its strategic necessities (Bishku, Michael M, Turkey, Greece and the Cyprus Conflict, 1991, p: 169). Therefore, independence of Cyprus was sought by Archbishop Makarios, the Greek Cypriot as the formidable choice, although many Greek Cypriots demanded union with Greece, termed as “enosis” which was refuted by Turkish Cypriots as they believed partition known by the nomenclature of “taksim” was the only solution. However, Makarios desired for alteration in the constitution which the Turkish Vice President, Dr Fasil Kucuk feared would sabotage their minority rights and led to inter-communal fights. The new constitution for Cyprus was then ratified on 16th August 1960. However, London and Zurich Agreements became the foundation of the three treaties as well as the embodiment of the constitution of 1960. By this, the presidentship would be headed by a Greek Cypriot whereas the position of the Vice-President must be awarded to a Turkish Cypriot. The Treaty of Establishment defined the territory of the Republic which excluded the British military bases; the Treaty of Guarantee which erased enosis as a proclamation and permitted Great Britain, Turkey and Greece to engage in ensuring the constitutional and institutional integrity of the Republic. Lastly, the Treaty of Alliance stated the utilization of Greek and Turkish servicemen to be working towards the defence of the region. It was again in 1963 that peaceful co-existence between communities was disrupted when the Greek Junta, a paramilitary group overthrew the government of President Makarios. The purpose was to demand reunification with Greece and as a result of this, Turkey deployed troops in Cyprus in 1974 which finally cumulated into the partition of this region. Northern Cyprus was occupied by Turkey and Southern by the Greek counterparts. Nevertheless, because of the existence of allegiance of both the communities in Cyprus to their motherlands, namely Greece and Turkey has resulted in absenteeism of patriotism in this region (Kaloudis, George, Cyprus: The Enduring Conflict, 1999, pp: 7).

A Greek Cypriot demonstration in the 1930s in favour of Enosis (union) with Greece
A Greek Cypriot demonstration in the 1930s in favour of Enosis (union) with Greece

Quandary: Defining the Turkey-Greece Diplomatic Ties

The Aegean is a semi-closed sea which separates the mainland constitutes to function as a bickering territory between Greece and Turkey. The former argues that Turkey has been violating Greek sovereignty, whereas the latter believes that Greece has been aiming to turn the Aegean into a Greek lake. In 2017, a Turkish vessel had been shot down by the Greek coastal guard and it was in April 2018 that two patrol boats came neck to neck in Kardak islets. It was in July 2020 that Turkey was sending a research ship which would carry out a survey over the close to Kastellorizo, which covered the region between Cyprus and Crete. Rather, the conflict has become militarized as both countries are mobilizing ships in the Mediterranean. Thereafter, Ankara had signed a deal with Libya to establish an Exclusive Economic Zone or EEC from the Turkish southern coast to Libya’s north-east coast. Both Cyprus and Greece stated that the treaty violates the International Law of Sea or the United Nation Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). Both have accursed this move as they perceive that this may emerge as a barrier to the development of the Eastern Mediterranean. Not only that, Greece was horrified when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided to transform the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque, which is a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage site. This museum had been built by the Roman Emperor, Justinian in the year 537 CE. This was condemned by the Eastern Orthodox Church, based in Greece. These instances have only accentuated the relationship which is fuelled with animosity.

Conclusion

Turkey’s history of such acts against the minorities constitutes what she envisions himself: a visionary leader. No doubt, she believes that expansionism can give her this recognition. NATO must remain true to its core values which have been its foundation, yet her indecisiveness to take a stand in Greece and Turkey conflict has proved to be fatal.

Samanneeta Chakraborty

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