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Unbearable Lightness of Being a Puppet! – by Kemal Baykalli

Απρίλιος 18, 2018

Careful commentators on this blog, must have noticed that a lot of friends make comments on issues regarding the Turkish Cypriots not based on reason or knowledge, but mostly based on stereotypes and propaganda.

I am happy to share this piece of writing by my friend Kemal Baykalli putting a lot of things right.

A long piece (that is the only excuse for not reading it) but a must read for anybody who pretends that knows or is interested in what is happening a few meters north of the Green Line.

It is generally accepted that late father Denktash had the ability to pull the entire Turkish establishment behind him, just like a little kid holding the rope of his giant dog. He had deep and strong relations with Turkey’s deep state (read: military) and nobody dared to challenge him in the Cyprus affairs… until Erdogan came to power in 2002 and decided that solution of Cyprus problem will strengthen his cards at that time. That almost triggered a military coup against Erdogan.

Talat had great relations with the new AK Party government and Erdogan. Please remember, at that time Erdogan had fully supported the Annan Plan, pulled Turkey’s support from Denktash and portrayed himself as a pro-EU reformist. Erdogan and Talat worked closely before and after Annan plan referendum. Erdogan backed Talat in the elections but Talat lost when his comrade Christophias refused to document the progress they have achieved together.

Veteran Eroğlu has always been a “TRNC politician.” If you ever need to think of one Turkish Cypriot politician who scored political victories through distributing wealth and spoils of war among the voters – it is him. A real “TRNC politician” with ability to remember names, family links and balances of power in small political games. A fox if you like. And not only! He was the first right-wing politician who challenged Denktash in the elections and made it to the second round in 2000, but had to pull out after a bomb exploded in front of his house few days before the second round. Turkish deep state did not like to be challenged.

Akinci on the other hand known to be disliked by Erdogan. At the heyday of the Turkish Cypriot velvet rebellion during the Annan plan campaigns, he was remembered for taking the microphone and openly challenging Erdogan during a conference they both attended in Spain. When Akinci was elected it did not take him a week to get into an open confrontation with Erdogan when Akinci openly declared North Cyprus is not the “baby homeland” of Turkey. “We deserve brotherly relations, not that of a mother and a child” spoke Akinci on the Turkish TV – which made him an open target by the pro-Erdogan trolls in Turkey and North Cyprus. To make things even worse, Akinci lost a lot of credibility in the eyes of Erdogan when Akinci decided to take matters into his hands, and presented maps and territorial percentages unilaterally, without fully consulting with Turkey, during the final round of talks.

None of the Turkish Cypriot leaders fit comfortably in the definition of a “puppet”. Denktash, for example, was more puppeteer than a puppet. Being Cypriot, all of them were stubborn, egoistic and scheming but hardly a puppet.

Turkey has always had a massive amount of influence in Turkish Cypriot politics. And in Cyprus politics,Turkey has red lines and it does not want anybody to violate them. Nobody can deny this. After all, no political establishment is free from outside influence nowadays; some more, some less. However, failing to understand the complex relations between the political forces in Turkey and Northern Cyprus seems to be a common weakness among the Greek Cypriot politics.

Is Akinci a puppet? My answer is a clear no. He might be a self-centric, emotional, populist and a stubborn Limassolian. Maybe he failed to use his leadership skills at the right place and right time and now he has neither willingness nor leverage to do so. We all know that he does not trust Anastasiades anymore therefore he is not willing to take any bold steps. And now that he lost his credibility in the eyes of the Turkish establishment after wasting his “political capital” abundantly in the talks – probably he has chosen to steer his ship towards more cautious and conservative waters. Maybe he wants to prove himself as a trusted leader who understands the delicate balance of making bold moves for solution and respecting certain red lines. Maybe he needs to prove his merit for a future referendum – he needs YES votes from conservative circles as well. And, even a bigger sin, maybe he now thinks that there is no possibility for a solution in Cyprus as long as Anastasiades is in power, so it is better to invest into his re-election campaign. Any political or personal crab, but puppet!

But why do many Greek Cypriots believe that he is a puppet?

Well, since the TRNC, the ‘pseudokratos’, is heavily depended on Turkey it is only logical to assume that its leadership is taking direct orders from Ankara. But let us not get confused, positioning of Ankara and Northern Nicosia is not always conflicting. Quite the contrary, over the years, both political establishments have developed a habit of aligning political positions, especially during talks. Just like… Athens and (Southern) Nicosia. While it might be correct to assume that Ankara has a bigger leverage, experience and dedication to assert its own line, this is not always the case as we have seen during Akinci’s initiatives in the talks.

Let’s face it. It is also comforting for the unsuccessful Greek Cypriot politicians to define a uniformed evil axis in order to divert attention away from their lack of vision, lack of planning and lack of leadership. Rather than recognising the differences between the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot positions, it is easier to associate your Turkish Cypriot counterpart with evil Ankara – it works every time, tested over and again. Which ungrateful traitor has the guts to criticise the Greek Cypriot leader instead of Ankara and its puppet? And when the blame game starts, which accusation is likely to stick most?

The Greek Cypriot OXI camp loves portraying the Turkish Cypriot leaders as puppets. It proves them right that the Turkish Cypriots are untrusted traitors and there is no way they can share their government with them. Nobody wants to hand out the control to Ankara via their puppets. And every time you believe in them, they score another political point.

On this piece of land in Eastern Mediterranean, in the end, status quo pulls all the strings.

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