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31° Nicosia,
22 August, 2019
 
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Cry havoc!

The decision by the President to call the Turkish incursion into the Cyprus EEZ an invasion has raised eyebrows both at home and abroad

Yiannis Kafkarides

Yiannis Kafkarides

A coherent discourse to be effective under our present polity must involve at least a projection of how a particular decision will play out.

The decision by the President to call the Turkish incursion into the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone an invasion has raised eyebrows both at home and abroad.

EU countries and the US have been unusually forthcoming in voicing support for Cyprus and this is mainly due to the new path the Cyprus Foreign Ministry has taken

Sources say that the President’s statement was thought of as a call for EU solidarity, preferably in the form of sanctions on the Turkish Petroleum Corporation. The play relies on the mutual defence clause in the Treaty of Lisbon - article 42(7) - which provides that if an EU country is the victim of aggression on its territory, the other EU countries have an obligation to assist. This clause is in turn a reflection of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

Of course under UNCLOS countries do not have sovereignty over their EEZ, instead they have an exclusive right or sovereign right to use the resources in the area which allows for a selective reading of the treaty. EU Council President Donald Tusk’s carefully crafted statement called for respect to the ‘sovereign rights’ in his own statement in Sibiu. In this sense, the Turkish drilling is not an invasion, it is a violation of international law.

Under UNCLOS, the most widely accepted rule setting convention for the use of the world's oceans, Cyprus has the right to utilize resources in the area in question. The median line delineation of maritime areas between the two countries submitted to the UN by Cyprus is a fair arrangement and the phrase ‘’overlapping claims’’ used by international media does not accurately describe the essence of the dispute.

The conflict originates with the Cyprus issue and the Turkish aggression in the Aegean. On the first point, claims derive from Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus. On the second, the geography of the Greek islands and Cyprus means that Turkey has very limited EEZ area in the Mediterranean. This is the primary motive behind the Turkish belligerence.

EU countries and the US have been unusually forthcoming in voicing support for Cyprus and this is mainly due to the new path the Cyprus Foreign Ministry has taken.

However, the President’s remarks have ultimately legitimized warmongering and created a war hype that does not serve Cypriot interests.

The Press is also underwriting this by purposefully digging up provocative Turkish statements in order to force the government to express a harsher reply that would serve their political motivations and sentiment. On screens, quarrelsome journalists, academic experts and politicians act out apocalypse scenarios, without considering the consequences of their actions. Public relations campaigns by EU Parliamentary elections candidates and their political parties have become viral and the use of social media means that no-one can guide the discourse -the fringe becomes mainstream and when tragedy arrives political institutions point the finger at each other.

What we witness has taken on a life of its own and state institutions may not be able to control the consequences. For example, political parties have developed the ability to court both nationalist or leftist groups as well as pro solution supporters, using similar ‘information warfare’ strategies seen in the US and UK. A statement is made, which attracts a certain demographic, followed by a revisionist statement which allows the public to pick and choose which statement they will adhere to. Finally, everyone is right in their interpretation of the statement. The consequence is that the public is exposed to conflicting versions of events, unable to make informed –democratic- decisions.

The most likely scenario is that such rhetoric will entrench ethnic divisions even further, weaken the authority of state institutions and strengthen the reactionary vote.

Reports defining the Turkish move as a Cyprus problem negotiating tactic do not explain nor justify the cost for Cyprus going forward.

‘Item, qe nul soit si hardy de crier havok’, no one should be so foolish as to cry havoc.

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