By Gene Rossides
It gives me no pleasure or satisfaction in taking sharp issue with the New York Times (NYT) editorial of December 30, 2006, titled “Obstacles in Turkeyʼs Path” and characterizing it as a flagrantly biased, pro-Turkish, anti-Greek Cypriot and anti-rule of law editorial.
The NYT is considered our leading newspaper regarding news coverage and as the paper of record. I do not know where the editorial page ranks.
The editorial contains numerous distortions of fact and of the historical record and serious omissions of fact. The editorial is an outrageous appeasement of Turkeyʼs aggression against Cyprus in 1974 and its illegal occupation of 36.2 percent of Cyprus now entering its 33rd year. It applies a double standard on the rule of law for Turkey.
Letʼs examine in detail the NYT editorial assertions and omissions.
The editorialʼs first paragraph states:
“It came as no surprise when the European Union recently suspended some of its planned membership talks with Turkey. The sticking points pertain to the strained relations between Turkey and Cyprus, which have long threatened to undermine Turkeyʼs membership bid. What is surprising—and dismaying—is that the union is treating this as primarily a legal problem. Thatʼs a distortion.”
For the NYT editorial board to state that it is “surprising—and dismaying…that the union is treating this as primarily a legal problem” and then state “Thatʼs a distortion,” is utter nonsense.
Of course itʼs a legal problem and a rule of law issue. Turkey signed the Ankara Protocol requiring it to open its ports and airports to the ten new members of the E.U. including Cyprus. Yet Turkey refuses to do so for Cypriot ships and planes.
The second paragraph of the editorial states:
“Turkey is indeed in violation of European law on the proper treatment of Cyprus. But the problem is mainly political, and of the union’s own making. The E.U. blundered when it allowed a divided Cyprus to join the union in 2004. Reunification — of Greek Cypriots in the south and Turkish Cypriots in the north — should have been a precondition. Still, it’s widely acknowledged that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots did their utmost to reunite the island so that both Cyprus and Turkey could peacefully join the E.U. But the Greek Cypriots scotched a United Nations reunification plan.”
In the first sentence the NYT editorial admits that “Turkey is indeed in violation of European law on the proper treatment of Cyprus” and then in the second sentence comes up with the following ludicrous pronouncement: “But the problem is mainly political, and of the unionʼs own making.”
Is the NYT editorial board stating that the agreement Turkey signed (the Ankara Protocol) to open its ports and airports to the 10 new EU members including Cyprus is not a rule of law issue but is “mainly political” and that the law should be disregarded for Turkey?
But the legal problem goes well-beyond the immediate issue of Turkey opening its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and planes. The overriding and basic issue regarding Turkey and Cyprus is the invasion of Cyprus in July 1974 by Turkey and its occupation of 36.2 percent of Cyprus. The issue is the rule of law and that is a legal matter. It may also be a political matter of enforcing the rule of law but that does not alter the basic issue.
U.S.- supplied arms and equipment were illegally used by Turkey in the initial invasion/aggression of July 20, 1974 when Turkey occupied about 4 percent of Cyprus before a UN cease-fire was established on July 22, 1974. On August 14, 1974, three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus was restored on July 23, 1974, Turkey broke the UN cease-fire with a massive renewed attack with the illegal use of hundreds of U.S. supplied tanks and planes and grabbed another 33 percent of Cyprusʼ territory and “ethnically cleansed” 170,000 Greek Cypriots from the northern part of the island. Thatʼs nearly one-third of the total Greek Cypriot population of Cyprus.
In the fall of 1974 the Congress passed a rule of law arms embargo against Turkey because of Turkeyʼs illegal use of American-supplied arms and equipment for aggression against Cyprus in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended and the Foreign Military Sales Act.
Turkeyʼs invasion of Cyprus also violated the United Nations Charter and the North Atlantic Treaty. The provisions of the UN Charter violated by Turkey are the preamble, article 1 (1) on the purposes of the UN Charter which states that one purpose is “To maintain international peace and security,” and article 2 paragraph (4) of the Charter, which states:
“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
The provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty that Turkey violated are the preamble and article 1 which mirrors the UN Charter article 2 (4).
Turkey continues to be in violation of the UN Charter and the North Atlantic Treaty by its presence in Cyprus.
Is the NYT editorial board also stating by implication that Turkeyʼs invasion and occupation of Cyprus in 1974 is not a rule of law issue but is “mainly political” and that the law should be disregarded for Turkey?
Is the NYT editorial board also stating by implication that Turkeyʼs aggression against Cyprus with its ethnic cleansing, killing of innocent civilians on a substantial scale, its rapes of women from 12 to 71, and looting as determined by the European Commission of Human Rights in its report of July 10, 1976, is “mainly political” and not a matter of law, and that the law should be disregarded for Turkey?
It would appear that the NYT editorial board is not aware of the July 10, 1976 report of the European Commission on Human Rights which found Turkey guilty of violating the following articles of the European Convention on Human Rights:
(1) Article 2- by the killing of innocent civilians committed on a substantial scale;
(2) Article 3- by the rape of women of all ages from 12 to 71;
(3) Article 3- by inhuman treatment of prisoners and persons detained;
(4) Article 5- by deprivation of liberty with regard to detainees and missing persons- a continuing violation;
(5) Article 8- by displacement of persons creating more than 170,000 Greek Cypriot refugees, and by refusing to allow the refugees to return to their homes- a continuing violation;
(6) Article 1 of the First Protocol to the Convention- by deprivation of possessions, looting and robbery on an extensive scale.
On January 23, 1977, the London Sunday Times published excerpts of the report and stated: “It amounts to a massive indictment of the Ankara government for the murder, rape and looting by its army in Cyprus during and after the Turkish invasion of summer 1974.”
In the latter part of the second sentence and in the next two sentences of the second paragraph the NYT states that the problem is “of the unionʼs own making” because the “E.U. blundered when it allowed a divided Cyprus to join the union in 2004. Reunification—of Greek Cypriots in the south and Turkish Cypriots in the north—should have been a precondition.”
The editorialʼs reasoning is erroneous and exhibits the editorialʼs pro-Turkish, anti-Greek Cypriot and anti-rule of law bias. Cyprus worked hard for ten years to meet the conditions for membership in the E.U. Cyprus was the first of the ten new members to meet all of the E.U. acquis requirements. Further, there never was any linkage between a settlement of the Cyprus problem and accession of Cyprus to the EU.
Since the economic and physical devastation from Turkeyʼs invasion and occupation in 1974, and 170,000 refugees ethnically cleansed by Turkeyʼs armed forces from the occupied north, Cyprus has scrupulously adhered to the rule of law and has not resorted to violence. Cyprus put its faith and fate in the rule of law and the UN Charter. It worked hard and achieved economic success in what has been referred to as the “economic miracle” of Cyprus. Cyprus should be congratulated by the NYT editorial board for its adherence to the rule of law and its achievements and used as an example for others instead of being criticized.
Turkey on the other hand continued its illegal conduct by bringing illegal colonists/settlers from Turkey into Cyprus in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949.
There should be preconditions on Turkey, the aggressor and illegal occupier, and not on the Greek Cypriot victims!
Turkey should have been required, before being allowed accession status for negotiations, not only to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus by opening its ports and airports to Cyprusʼ ships and planes but also to remove (1) its estimated 43,000 armed occupation forces; (2) the estimated 120,000 Turkish “colonists/settlers” illegally in Cyprus in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949; and (3) the Turkish barbed wire fence across the face of Cyprus. These conditions should be required to be met before negotiations resume.
Further Turkey should also have been required to pay compensation to the 170,000 plus ethnically cleansed refugees in accordance with the criteria in the property decision of the European Court of Human Rights on July 28, 1998 in the Titina Loizidou case. This condition should also have to be met by Turkey before negotiations with Turkey continue.
The next sentence of the second paragraph namely: “Still, itʼs widely acknowledged that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots did their utmost to reunite the island so that both Cyprus and Turkey could peacefully join the E.U.” is factually inaccurate, highly misleading and exhibits a pro-Turkish bias.
The facts are that Turkey refused to cooperate unless all of its demands were met. Turkeyʼs demands were met and they made the United Nationʼs Annan 5 Plan undemocratic, unfair, unworkable and unacceptable to 76% of the Greek Cypriots. The Annan 5ʼs plan (1) provided the 18 percent Turkish Cypriot minority with vetoes over all legislative and executive decisions; (2) required the Greek Cypriots, in effect, to pay themselves for the damages Turkey inflicted on them; (3) absolved Turkey of all liability for its invasion and occupation and war crimes; (4) gave Turkey the right to intervene; (5) authorized a number of Turkish troops to remain; (6) incredibly and corruptly gave Britain control of the waters and continental shelf bordering the two British bases; and (7) abolished the sovereign state of Cyprus and created a new legal entity, among other damaging features.
The last sentence of the second paragraph namely, “But the Greek Cypriots scotched a United Nations reunification plan,” is also highly misleading in that it implies that the Annan 5 Plan was fair and balanced. The NYT editorial board has obviously not read Annan 5ʼs 9,000 pages or Claire Palleyʼs highly regarded book on the UN negotiations from 1999-2004, titled: An International Relations Debacle: The UN Secretary-Generalʼs Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus 1999–2004 (2005) by Hart Publishing, a specialist legal publisher based in Oxford, England. Ms. Claire Palley, OBE, BA, LLB (Cape), a distinguished British lawyer, is former UK member of the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (1988-1998) and former Constitutional Consultant to the President of Cyprus (1980-2004).
The third paragraph of the editorial reads:
“That has left Turkey in an untenable position. Other European leaders should be pressuring the Greek Cypriot leadership to end the impasse and working with Turkey to find a solution. Instead, some are using the stalemate as an excuse to hamstring Turkey’s entry.”
The third paragraph is also inaccurate and misleading and fails to acknowledge the initiative of President Tassos Papadopoulos with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in February 2006, their joint statement and press conference of February 28, 2006 and the subsequent agreement of July 8, 2006 between President Papadopoulos and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat.
That agreement, initiated by the UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, included a “Commitment to the unification of Cyprus based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council resolutions,” and “Agreement to begin a process immediately, involving bi-communal discussion of issues that affect the day to day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both of which will contribute to a comprehensive settlement.”
Further it is misleading in that it fails to state that Turkey is the obstacle to a fair, balanced and workable settlement. It should have called on the European leaders to pressure Turkey to end its illegal occupation of Cyprus and its refusal to negotiate a fair, balanced, workable and democratic settlement. Apparently the editorial board is unaware of numerous public statements from the Erdogan government and from the Turkish military who have been controlling Turkeyʼs policy regarding Cyprus.
The fourth paragraph of the editorial reads:
“Opposition to Turkey fails the test of Europe’s values of tolerance and political compromise. It is also a failure on Europeans’ part to discern their own self-interest. There is a growing awareness in the West of the need to engage Iraq’s neighbors in an effort to quell the war in Iraq and, more broadly, to work for peace in the Middle East. Turkey is an underutilized resource in this regard. Turkey is also becoming an important hub for transporting oil and gas to Europe from Russia and Central Asia, making it crucial to Europe’s energy security.”
It is difficult to believe the NYT editorial board could have written the first sentence of this paragraph. Is the NYT advocating that the E.U. change its rules for accession, which all other members had to meet, in order to accommodate Turkey regarding Cyprus and to absolve Turkey of its aggression against Cyprus and its war crimes against innocent civilians and, in effect, to support Turkeyʼs position on Cyprus?
I respectfully disagree with the next three sentences of the fourth paragraph regarding Turkeyʼs role in Iraq and the Middle East. Turkey has a different agenda in Iraq than the U.S. agenda. Turkey has a serious human rights problem regarding its 20 percent Kurdish minority and is antagonistic to the Iraqi Kurds and seeks Iraqi oil. Regarding “peace in the Middle East,” Turkey, the former harsh colonial master of the Arabs, has little or no influence with the Arab nations of the Middle East.
The last sentence of the fourth paragraph regarding Turkey as “an important hub for transporting oil and gas to Europe” overstates the matter. What is Turkey going to do– halt the flow of oil and gas to Europe? Not likely. Indeed any such attempt by Turkey would damage Turkey more than Europe. Further to state that Turkey is “crucial to Europeʼs energy security” is nonsense and has no basis in fact. The dictionary defines crucial as “of immense and decisive importance.”
The last paragraph states:
“Turkey, for its part, could strengthen its hand by making progress on issues that are still under discussion, especially the need to repeal Turkish laws that impede free speech. But it’s up to the European Union to mend the Cyprus divide and clear the way for a dispassionate recognition of Turkey’s vital role in Europe.”
The first sentence of the last paragraph is a truism. Why didnʼt the editorial reveal that the Cyprus issue covered only several paragraphs of the 78 page EU Progress Report on Turkey dated November 8, 2006. That report was highly critical of Turkey on practically all matters dealing with Turkeyʼs accession negotiations.
Also, why didnʼt the editorial call on Turkey to remove Cyprus as an issue by taking actions to remove its occupation troops, its illegal settlers and its barbed wire fence and to recognize the Republic of Cyprus by opening its ports and airports to Cyprusʼ ships and planes?
Instead, the editorial incredibly states in its last sentence: “But itʼs up to the European Union to mend the Cyprus divide and clear the way for dispassionate recognition of Turkeyʼs vital role in Europe.”
Did the European Union or Turkey invade Cyprus? Did the European Union or Turkey commit the war crimes set forth in the European Commission of Human Rights report of July 10, 1976? And why didnʼt the NYT editorial call on Turkey, the aggressor, “to mend the Cyprus divide” that it created?
The assertion in the last sentence that Turkey has a “vital role in Europe” is clearly false and typifies the pro-Turkish, anti-Greek Cypriot and anti-rule of law bias of the editorial. The Illustrated Oxford Dictionary defines “vital as “essential to the existence of a thing or to the matter in hand.” How can anyone assert that Turkey has a vital role in Europe?
Why did the editorial board of the NYT use the word vital? Did they lose their way or were they subject to undue influence from the State Department and Turkey and its lobbyists?
The NYT editorial board should apologize to its readers and to the news gathering staff of the paper not only for using the word vital but for the entire tenor of the editorial.
Previous NYT editorials
The NYT editorial board should read the NYT editorials of September 14 and 26, 1974 and October 13, 1974 which condemned then Secretary of State Henry Kissingerʼs failure to apply the law mandating the cutoff of military aid to Turkey in response to its invasion of Cyprus.
Eisenhowerʼs Suez speech October 31, 1956
President Dwight D. Eisenhower condemned and reversed the invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel in October of 1956. In his memorable October 31, 1956 television and radio address to the nation on the Middle East crisis, which I viewed, President Eisenhower said:
“There can be no peace without law. And there can be no law if we were to invoke one code of international conduct for those who oppose us and another for our friends.”
I urge the several NYT editorial board members concerned with foreign affairs and the rule of law to read President Eisenhowerʼs entire speech, one of his most important, for its support of the United Nations and the rule of law in international affairs.
It is not in the interest of the United States to downgrade the rule of law in international affairs as the NYT does in its editorial of December 30, 2006.
I will be sending these remarks to the NYT editorial board members and I urge readers to write and call the NYT editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, and the public editor, Byron Calame, and voice your views.
Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.