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25 June, 2024
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European leaders standing firm against Erdogan's tactics

NATO's controversial acceptance of Turkey's terrorism labels

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is riding high after extorting Europe and forcing not only Sweden but also NATO to humiliate themselves as supplicants caving to extortion. For the first time, NATO has accepted in its documents Turkey’s terrorism label for organizations neither NATO nor Europe consider to be terrorists. Meanwhile, Islamic State, an Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian organization, and members of US-designated terror organizations roam free in Istanbul and Ankara.

The Turkey terror nexus increasingly poses a threat to Europe’s security. Last month, for example, Cyprus disrupted an Iranian terror attack aimed at Israeli and Jewish interests on the island. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps used Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus as its staging ground. Turkish intelligence and soldiers crawl over the Turkish-occupied zone. No one can enter without clearance from Turkish intelligence. To believe that Turkey was unaware of the Iranian presence is naive. Northern Cyprus may once have been a sleepy manifestation of a frozen conflict, but today it is a growing security concern.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson undermined Europe’s commitment to democracy and freedom, but Europe should not allow Erdogan to get the last word or walk away victorious in the eyes of the Turkish people. It is time Europe goes on the offensive to roll back Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus. Europe has many potential arrows in its policy quiver.

The so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is an illicit entity and, after the latest Iranian plot, is also a terrorist Trojan horse in Europe.

Part of Turkey’s understanding after Vilnius is that its European Union membership aspirations will receive a boost in exchange for its agreement to lift its anti-Sweden veto. It is unconscionable that Turkey should receive any integration into Europe while it continues to occupy a member state.

If the European Union is serious about its defense, it must enunciate a policy. As any non-European Union citizen utilizing Ercan International Airport in the occupied zone illegally enters the European Union, they should face permanent bans on Schengen and European visas and revocation of European work permits. Every other country punishes illegal immigrants; there is no reason why Cyprus should be an exception. Russians, Turks, Iranians, and Israelis who disrespect Cypriot sovereignty should pay the price.

Stop Turkish and Pegasus Airlines: Both Turkish Airlines and Turkey’s low-cost Pegasus Airlines fly to and seek to profit from the northern Cyprus tourist trade. Europe should not tolerate this. It is time for Europe to demand: Either you fly to Europe or you support Cyprus’ occupation, but you do not do both. There are also strategic reasons to sanction Turkish Airlines.

It is not merely Turkey’s flagship carrier, but it is the standard-bearer for Erdoganism. The state owns 49 percent of the company, but Erdogan’s allies and cutouts dominate the rest. After phone intercepts a decade ago revealed the airline’s involvement in covert weapons shipments to Nigeria, European security agencies would be negligent to trust that Turkish Airlines would not smuggle contraband into Europe.

Erdogan has also used the airline to ferry refugees to Belarus, where he used their presence on the Polish border to blackmail Brussels. If Europe were serious about ending Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus, and irredentist claims against both Greece and Bulgaria, it would ban Turkish Airlines from its airspace and airports. Erdogan might threaten to reciprocate against European carriers, but this would be an empty bluff. With the Turkish economy on life support, can Erdogan afford to have European tourists bypass Turkey completely? Should he try, many Greek beaches and resorts could accommodate the tourist inflow.

The so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is an illicit entity and, after the latest Iranian plot, is also a terrorist Trojan horse in Europe. That it maintains offices in Brussels, London, Geneva, Stockholm, Berlin, Strasbourg, Budapest, and Helsinki is a shame on its European hosts who should do nothing to tolerate its pretensions of statehood or even legitimacy.

These offices provide no diplomatic value. The occupation regime cannot sign a letter without preapproval from Turkish intelligence or the Turkish General Staff. If Europe is serious about its territorial integrity and standing up against aggression, it is time to cease sending mixed messages. Europe should close all northern Cypriot offices and take a zero-tolerance policy toward Turkish irredentism.

Erdogan relishes playing hardball with Europe. It is time European leaders showed that they can return the favor.

Cyprus  |  Erdogan  |  Turkey  |  Europe  |  politics

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