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By Marios Evriviades, Cyprus, translated from Greek by John Helmer, Moscow

From time to time we read that Russia will recognize the separatist faits accomplis of Turkey’s occupation in Cyprus, in exchange for Turkey’s recognition of the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation. And each time the Russian government categorically refutes the existence of such a dubious oriental bargain. The most recent statement of Maria Zakharova, the spokesman of the Russian Foreign Minister. was that this claim is “fake information” being spread by the “Greek and Turkish media”.  

Zakharova went further: “The Republic of Crimea is an integral part, one of the most dynamically developing regions of the Russian Federation. The territory of our country has never been and will not be the subject of bargaining. Stating the opposite is close to provocation. Finding analogies between Russian Crimea and the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is incorrect and I would say, unsafe, even dangerous. Such insinuations confuse international audiences, undermine trust, and generate negative emotions, also with regard to the Cyprus settlement.”

To be clear, there is not one iota of truth in what is reported. The dubiousness that is alleged between Moscow and Ankara and focused supposedly on Cyprus is no more than targeted Turkish propaganda. Its goal is to roil the waters in the Eastern Mediterranean and create among the Cypriots confusion as to what other “mistake” the Cyprus government may be making with Russia that will end up with another calamity for Cyprus.  

Unfortunately, this obvious Turkish propaganda is being reproduced uncritically in Cyprus and Greece. At the same time, however, it is also a good example of the calculating way in which one Turkish regime after another promote their interests over time. And they do this with absolutely no effective response and counter-propaganda from Cyprus. Successive Cyprus governments have been lying prostrate, allowing Ankara to roll over them with their conquest narrative. Against a backward, bullying neighbour what causes this paralysis is beyond any logic.

I have tried to identify the most “serious” source of this misinformation and I have concluded that this is a Turkish professor named Hasan Unal in an interview he gave to a journalist named Pepe Escobar in Asia Times.  

In that publication three years ago on November 30, 2018, Escobar’s despatch appeared from Istanbul entitled “The trials and tribulations of Turkish foreign policy” and subtitled “Professor Hasan Unal, a top political scientist based in Istanbul, explains the geopolitics of his region, the eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea”.  Escobar claimed Unal “is one of Turkey’s foremost political scientists and international relations experts. I had the pleasure of spending a long afternoon with Unal at Maltepe University in Istanbul, where he now enjoys plenty of time to ‘just teach’ after an extremely busy academic career in Ankara.”

Left, Hassan Unal -- Source: https://www.youtube.com/
Right: Pepe Escobar. Escobar’s employer, Asia Times,  is an internet medium based in Hong Kong, owned by Asia Times Holdings Ltd, a British Virgin Islands entity controlled by an American financier and manager of offshore Chinese money in the US market.    Follow the money trail from publisher to reporter’s pocket in this filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission of 2018.

In the course of their lengthy interview, Escobar asked: “Tell us About Turkey, Russia, Cyprus and Crimea.” I leave it to the reader to decide whether this question conflating Cyprus and Crimea  is,  or is not,  what Americans call a patsy. What we have here is a question rigged by the reporter.

Unal answered:  “In the end, it might actually come to the point where the Russians recognize northern Cyprus and we recognize Crimea as part of Russia. I would basically set up a naval and air base in northern Cyprus jointly used by Russia and Turkey. Don’t forget, the whole geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean has changed since the Syrian conflict. There’s got to be concessions. When states want to do something, they formulate a policy with a little bit of international law, a bit about historical arguments, politics, population, geography, and then you make an argument. And if you don’t want to do anything, again you bring this all together to support the opposite. The other important concession is the Russians should get the Armenians out of Azerbaijan-occupied territories.”

You can’t miss the cynical “professionalism” displayed in the answer.  Realism it would be called, according to Escobar, by people of like mind as the political scientist Unal whom Escobar praises as a foremost expert.  Putting in tidbits of everything, he makes out of the case of Cyprus and Crimea a “Russian salad”. And in case that isn’t tasty enough, he tells Escobar the Turks are ready to remix the ingredients into a Chinese salad flavoured by money. “There are Turkish-Chinese negotiations about joint production of missiles. Building of roads and high-speed railways is something our present government would love to see happening.”

Just as President Erdogan does these days with his tour of African countries.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting the Angolan President Joao Lourenco in Luanda on October 18, 2021.  Erdogan announced: “the fate of humanity cannot and should not be left at the mercy of a handful of countries that won the Second World War. There are still those who cannot accept the independence, freedom and equality gains of the African peoples. We have been witnessing the recurrence of this indigestion recently. As Turkey, we reject western-centered orientalist approaches to the African continent. We embrace the peoples of the African continent without discrimination.”

In Africa Erdogan presents Turkey as a continuer of the Ottoman empire. Turkey, in his version of the history, is Africa’s liberator acting in solidarity with the Africans against western imperialists and colonialists. In fact, it was the Ottomans who were the first slavers of the Africans, selling them throughout the Ottoman empire, many with the Turkish fancy for turning them into eunuchs. All this happened long before the western imperialists took their African colonies. When the Turks lost the power struggle to the westerners for control of sub-Saharan Africa, they continued to act as enablers of the black slave trade in a lucrative partnership to deliver Africans to the slave plantations of the Americas and Caribbean.

What can one say about Hasan Unal? In a state where university professors are expelled, persecuted, imprisoned, exiled by the hundreds, even murdered, Unal lives and reigns in the city and is a co-worker of renowned journalists. He “excelled” as a Kemalo-careerist professor in Ankara. In his old age he went to Istanbul to devote himself, he says, to reading and to his students. Although he criticizes Erdogan’s Islamists – he accuses them of “losing” Egypt by giving it to the Greeks and Israelis – yet he keeps his immunity from Erdogan’s Islamists. What is the explanaion?  It is because he is a kemalo-fascist and protégé of the Grey Wolves gang of Devlet Bahcheli, the fascist ally of Erdogan. In the script with Escobar the reader gets to understand the links there are between Unal, Bahcheli and Erdogan. All three are promoters of pan-Turkism.

Above:  Devlet Bahcheli campaigning for votes with Erdogan in Ankara, March 2019.   For Bahcheli’s role in running the Grey Wolves since 1997, read this.
Below: Bahcheli campaigns for Susha, captured by the Azerbaijan Army  last November.   Source: https://www.azerbaycan24.com/

Source: https://www.azerbaycan24.com/

As for Unal’s interlocutor Pepe Escobar, he hails from Brazil, though he would rather be from Argentina or Cuba in fancying himself the Che Guevara of the 21st century. He is described in print as the roving correspondent for Asia Times, Russia Today Television (RT), the Russian news agency Sputnik, the Qatari news agency Al Jazeera, etc. He presents himself as an analyst of world events with a revolutionary or leftist perspective.  According to Escobar, the world is going to the dogs, and the only viable alternative is an emerging Euro-Asianism gravitating – guess where? – to China and Turkish model regimes in Eurasia and Latin America.

I do not know whether Pepe Escobar was a guest of the Erdogan regime, whether he was fed and watered in Turkey, or whether he went there at his own expense or at the expense of the media employing him. Be that as it may, the interview with Unal is indicative of the way Turkish state propaganda is circulated around the world.

Nikos Christodouldis and Sergei Lavrov. The Russian position on Cyprus, Lavrov’s spokesman said last week, “remains unchanged… Consistently we advocate a solution achieved within the international legal framework established by the UN Security Council resolutions and based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality….We have seen a recent increase in the activity aimed at international recognition of the illegal state in northern Cyprus. We urge everyone to refrain from steps that could lead to heightened tension between communities and unbalance the situation on the island.”  

It is certain that on his visit to Moscow this week, the Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulidis will receive from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov assurances of the steady and principled Russian position on Cyprus. But the Cyprus minister and his subordinates should not remain passive on the receiving end.

Turkish propaganda is unstoppable. It cannot be combatted by Russian reassurance by itself. The most effective and practical way to counter Turkish aggressiveness is the in-depth strengthening of Cyprus-Russian relations. Cyprus does not have the luxury of choice on these vital issues. Proclamations by themselves are not enough.

This article has appeared in Hellas Journal.  Marios Evriviades is a university professor in Cyprus.

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