Columnist in HURRIYET criticizes the Turkish General’s statements and stresses the illegality of the Turkish military occupation of Cyprus
by Hadi Uluengin
I will say what I should have said at the end of this column right at the very beginning: I do not share the opinions expressed by Chief of the General Staff General Hilmi Ozkok, especially those related to Cyprus. I should, however, first make some comments about the way those remarks were made.
There is no doubt that the military’s habit of expressing opinions about almost all issues and dictating those views to the government by means of recommendations made by the NSC [National Security Council] or memoranda does not square with democratic traditions.
The comments made by Ozkok, who has presented himself as a legalist general since he took office, should, however, be assessed in a different context.
Given that Ozkok is in charge of the TAF [Turkish Armed Forces] and the current issues he commented on, including the national security strategy, are of vital importance to Turkey, it is only natural that he has conveyed his message through a “barracks messenger,” namely Mehmet Ali Kislali, who is one of the examples of this type of journalists in the world.
This ethical and legalist posture should be considered normal at least under the existing conditions in Turkey.
The situation, however, would look abnormal if the government strictly obeys Ozkok’s advice, acting as if it is a part of the chain of command. It has, however, not done such a thing so far and therefore it would be irrational to make comments about a hypothetical situation.
In fact, Ozkok made his comments in a manner reflecting the chain of command and hierarchy within the military and it was much better than letting every general expressing his opinions, which usually gives rise to the speculation that a military coup is imminent.
As I have just said, my objections to the gist of his remarks are not negated by the withdrawal of my objection to the method he has used. I believe that it is my responsibility as a civilian intellectual to voice those objections.
Firstly, Ozkok said that Turkey’s military presence in Cyprus was based on international agreements. He actually referred to the London Agreement signed in 1960 and the ESDP treaty.
In fact, his assertion supported by the words “based on” is only an interpretation.
Furthermore, it is a very subjective, relative and flexible interpretation, which is only made by Ankara. It is not accepted by any other country in the world.
If we do not agree that it is a subjective interpretation, how could we explain the fact that Turkey is the second mostly condemned country by the United Nations, the main forum of the international community, after Israel?
How could we also justify the fact that Turkey ranks second after Israel in terms of the number of UN Security Council resolutions they refused to comply with?
In fact, it is a very obvious fact, which we are still trying to ignore.
Therefore, we could not even attempt to declare our candidacy for UN Security Council membership in the past forty years, while small countries such as Chad has become a member of the Council, because the interpretation that Turkish military presence in Cyprus is based on international agreements, which we have used to justify our arguments, was not endorsed by any other country, whether it is an ally or a foe or Muslim or Christian. I do not mention the EU, which is much more important than the United Nations, and other organizations.
In fact, the situation I mentioned above is an objective reality, not a subjective assertion. It is not open to interpretation.
Another objective reality, which is not subject to interpretation, is that the `TRNC΄ which is a suis generis state, has not been recognized by any capital except Ankara and its name is not even pronounced by anybody in the world.
Therefore, the assertion that Turkey’s military presence in Cyprus is based on international agreements, which is only accepted in Turkey, cannot be described as an internationally recognized fact.
Today I will continue to criticize General Hilmi Ozkok’s comments about Cyprus as a follow-up to yesterday’s column, that is to say from the standpoint of international law and diplomacy, before proceeding to some of the words he used, such as “war” and “embargo”, which cause great anxiety even when they are pronounced.
The chief of the Armed Forces emphasized that the island had strategic importance for Turkey.
I want to focus on that assertion, because it is even beyond Ozkok’s own interpretation that Turkish military presence in Cyprus is based on international agreements, which is only shared by Ankara, and represents an approach that could lead to further isolation of our country.
Turkey has never used the word “strategic” during implementation of its policy on Cyprus, which is allegedly based on international agreements, even in connection with the military operation carried out in 1974.
You could not find even a single document including that term in the diplomatic archives of the past 30 years. In fact, Turkey’s approach avoiding the use of that word is very normal based on its own logic.
Otherwise, it would have justified criticisms that Turkey is pursuing an expansionist policy.
Therefore, Ankara has always cited the need to ensure security for the Turkish Cypriots as a reason for its presence in the island and frequently repeated on every international forum that it would withdraw its forces from the island if that objective was achieved.
What is the situation now?
What could be the possible reactions when the international community hears that the chief of the TAF [Turkish Armed Forces], which is lending clear support to Rauf Denktas, who is known for his hawkish views about Cyprus and regarded as a champion of stalemates, has said that Cyprus is a strategic area from Turkey’s standpoint?
If the reason for the failure to reach a settlement is ascribed to the motive cited by Ozkok, which, in fact, would be a very natural outcome, would not the whole world come to understand that the promises given by Turkey so far were only designed to deceive the international community?
Would not such a conclusion totally undermine Turkey’s credibility on the international stage?
Would not it also cement the deep-seated conviction shared by the international community that the Turkish Armed Forces is capable of dictating its terms through coercion?
Furthermore, are we going to maintain our military presence in the island even if the native Turkish Cypriots oppose it?
Thus, the emphasis laid by Ozkok on Cyprus’ strategic importance was at least uncalled for or unfortunate from the diplomatic and legal viewpoints.
Furthermore, although Ozkok added that he was in favor of finding a solution, his perspective renders the solution he has in mind open to interpretation just like his assertion that Turkish military presence is based on international agreements. Meanwhile, the fact that I was not graduated from a military academy cannot prevent me from expressing my opinions. I do not share the thesis that Cyprus has strategic importance for Turkey also due to practical reasons.
The approach taken by Ozkok could be taken seriously only if air force and navy units of another country are deployed in the island in a manner posing a threat to our country.
In fact, Annan’s plan, if accepted, would totally preclude such an eventuality.
Aside from that, the island across our southern coasts would become our main partner as part the EU, which Turkey will also join over the medium term, in the event of a settlement. In other words, we would become separate states within the same united organisation.
If the issue is approached from that perspective, the assertion that Cyprus has strategic importance for Turkey would be as meaningless as arguing that Saarland has strategic value for Germany.
Therefore, the TAF’s chief, who has reflected a general mood of isolation by saying that the issue could assume different dimensions affecting Turkey’s rights on the Aegean Sea and its airspace, has shown that he is approaching the matter from an angle isolating the events from their political and diplomatic context.
*** Hadi Uluengin is a Columnist in HURRIYET. This two part article was published on November 11 and 12.