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15 June, 2024
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Kasselakis' visit uncovers Cyprus crisis and Greek divide

How Greece lost touch with Cyprus

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

Stefanos Kasselakis, the President of SYRIZA, finds himself in Cyprus amidst a whirlwind of controversy stemming from his recent use of the term "state" when referring to the illegal entity established by Turkey in northern Cyprus.

During his stay on the island, Kasselakis will have the opportunity to witness firsthand the repercussions of his political misstep.

One of the stark realities he'll encounter is the physical separation wall in Cyprus, a stark reminder of the events that transpired in 1974 when it was imposed through military means.

Even if we were to extend some leniency and consider his words a mere linguistic slip (which, let's be clear, they were not – the truth speaks for itself), we cannot turn a blind eye to the broader implications. Sadly, Kasselakis' choice of words reflects a larger issue in Greece regarding the Cyprus problem.

In Greece, it seems that everyone has suddenly become an expert on the Cyprus problem, using the opportunity to criticize the SYRIZA President. Such hypocrisy cannot be ignored. It wasn't too long ago, just 19 years ago, that the very same politicians and journalists who are now lambasting Kasselakis found themselves in similar, if not more egregious, predicaments during the time of the referendums.

Admittedly, back then, the term "state" wasn't used as explicitly. However, it's a bit of an understatement to describe the Republic of Cyprus as merely a "Greek Cypriot state," as the Turkish side does, or to label it a "pseudo-state." This realization came many years after the establishment of the illegal entity. Beyond Kasselakis' slip of the tongue, the problem in Greece lies in the overall apathy towards Cyprus' development.

Younger generations were raised with the notion that "Cyprus is far away." Until the referendums, many generations of journalists grew up with the belief that the Cyprus issue simply didn't resonate with Greek public opinion.

Cyprus only made headlines if there was bloodshed, like the events in Deryneia or the Chlorakas massacre. Information about political developments in Cyprus gradually disappeared from Greek news in recent decades, a stark contrast to the 1950s and 1960s when Cyprus held a special place in Greek journalism and society.

Before 1974, the largest rallies in the Greek capital were held in solidarity with Cyprus. There is visual evidence of ordinary people in Athens passionately discussing Cyprus' plight.

However, over the span of fifty years, indifference and ignorance crept in, affecting a segment of the Greek population. Kasselakis' unfortunate choice of words, painful as it may be for some, stems from the prevailing perception after 1974 that Cyprus was detached from Greece.

Those who vehemently criticize SYRIZA's president for his lack of knowledge about Cyprus should consider asking their own children what they know about Cyprus' history. They should also inquire if modern Cypriot history is being taught in Greek schools.

It's worth noting that for many decades, there was a pervasive perception in Athens that the Cyprus problem was a thorn in Greece's side. It took nearly a decade after the invasion for a Greek Prime Minister to visit Cyprus.

While Minister of National Defense Nikos Dendias rightly states that Cyprus is not "far away," it's imperative that the effort to bring Cyprus closer to Greece begins within the motherland itself. The responsibility lies with the political generation to which Kasselakis belongs. The interest in a part of Hellenism with a 3,000-year history is not unwarranted.

This segment of Hellenism, with its millennia-old heritage, serves as a reminder that Greece need not rely on external forces but should recognize that Cyprus is not a distant entity but an integral part of its identity.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  Greece  |  UN  |  Turkey  |  state

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