Thursday, 17 June 2021

Cyprus' reunification: What next after failed talks?

This article was published by Al Jazeera

ATHENS, Greece - Weeks after United Nations-led talks in Geneva failed to resuscitate negotiations to reunify Cyprus, the Turkish-Cypriot foreign minister tells Al Jazeera that the UN process is dead. 


“There will not be negotiations so long as the Greek-Cypriots are treated as if they are the Republic of Cyprus, and so long as the Turkish-Cypriots are treated as if we are nothing other than a mere community of that Republic,” says Tahsin Ertugruloglu. “Equal international status is a must.” 


Turkish-Cypriots proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, but the UN Security Council immediately denounced it as “invalid” and “incompatible with the 1960 Treaty” that established Cyprus’ independence from Britain. As a result, only Turkey recognises it. The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus is where Greek-Cypriots live.  


UN resolutions have since called on the two sides to form a bizonal, bicommunal federation. 

As Greece opens to tourists amid pandemic, some shift strategy

This article was published by Al Jazeera


CORFU, Greece - For the past 14 years, Eleni Chrysikopoulou has raised her children selling trinkets to tourists. Her shop is well situated at the intersection of two main streets in the heart of Corfu town; but that also means she pays a hefty rent. 


Last year nearly ruined her. Covid travel restrictions meant that Corfu received just 28,000 visitors from cruise ships, down from 850,000 in 2019. The 1.5mn visitors who arrived by air in 2019 dropped by three quarters. 


“A lot of shops have closed. I know of many instances, people who’ve been in business for years. I’ve no idea what happened to them. Perhaps they went back to their villages,” says Chrysikopoulou. She thinks she, too, will be forced to close shop. “My only consolation is that... I don’t have underage children.” 

In arms race for air superiority, Russia challenges US hegemony

This article was published by Al Jazeera


ATHENS, Greece – Half a decade since its return to the Middle East with a military base in Syria, Russia is aggressively moving into weapons markets left vacant by the United States and boosting sales to traditional clients. Its expanding arms sales bring money and geopolitical influence, as it seeks to challenge US hegemony. 


On February 25, Russia officially announced that Egypt had received five Sukhoi SU-35 advanced multi-role fighter aircraft, the first of an order of twenty-four. Egypt ordered the planes despite threats of US sanctions after the US refused to sell Egypt its fifth-generation F-35 fighter-bomber. 


Turkey, a NATO ally, is in talks with Russia to buy the SU-35 and eventually the state-of-the-art SU-57 fifth generation combat plane, after being shut out of the US’s F-35 programme. On March 12, Russia announced it was ready to open official negotiations with Ankara, and to help Turkey develop its own fifth-generation fighter, the TF-X. 


Algeria, Russia’s biggest customer in the MENA, is to receive fourteen upgraded Sukhoi-34 light bomber this year, and is also reportedly interested in the SU-57. 


Iran, a historic client of Russian weaponry since the days of the Shah, is free to consider Russian goods again since a decade-long UN arms embargo against it expired in October. 

Refugees forced to uproot again as Greece closes 'safe' camp

This article was published by Al Jazeera


MYTILENE, Lesbos – Anis Alizai is a refugee success story against all odds. 


The 17 year-old Afghan arrived in Lesbos with her parents and four siblings in December 2018. After roughing it for seven months in the olive groves around Moria camp, the island’s reception centre at the time, the Alizais were granted a coveted ISO box at Kara Tepe, a municipal camp that has been an exemplar of humanity and solidarity since it was created in 2016. 


Anise’s dream is to study mathematics at the University of Patra, one of the country’s most competitive technical universities, and she was determined to succeed. 

Cyprus prepares for talks, but Turkey holds the cards

This article was published by Al Jazeera


ATHENS, Greece - Greek and Turkish Cypriots are preparing for new talks on reunifying their island. This time, the UN has asked them to figure out not how to share power, territory and resources, but whether they want a shared future at all. 


“The purpose of the meeting will be to determine whether common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon,” said the office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 


That’s because three attempts at reunification have failed since 2004 – the most recent at the Swiss resort town of Crans Montana in 2017. Last October, Turkish Cypriots elected a president who says it’s time to give up on forming a bizonal, bicommunal federation, which has been the UN goal for two-and-a-half decades. Instead, says Ersin Tatar, Cyprus should split into two states - a position backed by Ankara. 

Refugee pushbacks: Greece prepares to indict whistleblowers

This article was published by Al Jazeera


ATHENS, Greece- In the small hours of April 3, a rubber dinghy filled with asylum-seekers set out from the Turkish coast near the town of Babanli. Among the 27 passengers were 11 children. Their destination was Lesvos. 


By 4:31am, when they were just 450m from Lesvos’ north shore, their engine sputtered out. At 5:20am, a Greek coastguard vessel spotted them, took the passengers on board, sped them back into Turkish territorial waters, transferred them onto a life raft and notified the Turkish coastguard to pick them up. 


That story, with precise geolocation co-ordinates and timings, was told by Aegean Boat Report, a non-governmental organisation run from Tromso by a Norwegian named Tommy Olsen. His sources, Olson says, are the asylum-seekers themselves, who call ABR when in distress, send GPS map points of where they are, and provide videos of what authorities do. 

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

How Poetry Won Independence for Greece

This article was published by the Wall Street Journal.

The grave of Theodoros Kolokotronis on March 25, 2021

"All art is propaganda,” George Orwell wrote. This month Greece celebrates the bicentennial of its War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire, won with the help of some of the most powerful propaganda ever written. During a virtual conference on the east Mediterranean last November, New Jersey senator Robert Menendez quoted some of it: “The mountains look on Marathon—/And Marathon looks on the sea;/And musing there an hour alone,/I dream’d that Greece might still be free.”


Lord Byron wrote these lines in his poem “The Isles of Greece” just before the outbreak of the Greek Revolution. Revered today as a Greek national hero, Byron saw in the modern Greeks the flicker of ancient genius fallen on desperate times, and he wasn’t the only one. Percy Shelley and his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of “Frankenstein,” were also famously Philhellenes. In Pisa they took Greek lessons from Alexandros Mavrokordatos, a Constantinopolitan Greek who would become the first president of independent Greece in 1822. The literary result of this relationship was Shelley’s verse play “Hellas,” written to help finance the Greek cause and portraying the Greeks as re-emerging from antiquity: “The world’s great age begins anew,/The golden years return.”