Sunday, 1 November 2009

Turkish Cypriot born journalist Metin Munir has been living in Turkey for many years now. He knows very well how things work in Ankara. He knows how views and policies are formulated. And his critical approach to the essence of official policies, especially those associated with Cyprus, have often landed him in trouble with the political and military establishment. In an interview he gave to the Turkish newspaper Radical, he explains why the Turkish Cypriot administrations are by definition autocratic. Although the interview was published nine years ago, it is still interesting as it still depicts vividly the situation prevailing in the occupied part of Cyprus. Thus, the reason for reproducing it here.

``I am in Exile on the Mainland''.

by Turkish daily Radikal
Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2000 07:35 pm CST
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Turkish daily Radikal (December 4 2000) reports on an interview with Metin Munir by Nese Duzel under the title. In way of introduction, Duzel says: ``Why Metin Munir? Turkey has announced it is ready to go it alone without the European Union and all because of the Cyprus issue. This is a decision that will affect the future of the 65 million people living in Turkey. However, these people are not in full possession of the facts when it comes to Cyprus and the wishes of the Turkish Cypriots. In the belief that by not to keeping the community fully informed on an issue that will determine its fate they are being done a great disservice, I spoke with Metin Munir, a person who knows Cyprus and Turkey very well. Metin Munir has been a journalist for 30 years now. He worked for the BBC and the Financial Times for 12 years as a correspondent and was Chief Editor of the Gunes newspaper for a year and a half in Asil Nadir's time. Author of the book, "The Morning Incident", Metin Munir still writes a column for Yeni Binyil and works as a consultant for CNBC-e television. Born in Cyprus in 1944, Metin Munir quit his studies at Ankara University Faculty of Political Sciences half way through and fought in the Cyprus War for two years''.
Then follows the text of the interview:
``[Duzel] Turkey has implied it could break off from Europe over the Cyprus issue. It is said that Cyprus is the most important issue for Turkey. However, as far as I know from my experience, Cyprus is the topic that readers and television audiences know the least about. Programs about Cyprus are almost never watched. How can you explain this contradiction?
[Munir] In autocratic administrations, the government does not need to conform to the wishes of the people. What the government wants and what the people want are not the same. Looking at it this way, the Cyprus issue is not a matter for the Turkish people. It could well be a problem for the Turkish Government though.
[Duzel] I have very rarely seen instances in the Turkish media of Turkish Cypriots' voices being heard when asked what it is they want. Why is it that we do not listen to the Turkish Cypriots when the issue is said to be one of vital importance for us?
[Munir] Cyprus is where you will find the most Turkish correspondents yet Cyprus is the one issue the Turkish people know least about. The reason for this incredible contradiction is the way the Turkish media practices journalism in Cyprus. They carry out journalism under state supervision. It is for this reason that you will not be able to see any news in the Turkish press that does not conform to state policy. The press takes the side that "everything Turkish governments do in Cyprus is in the best interests of the Turkish people and consequently should be supported". Yet, the policy being guided in Cyprus is not in the interests of either the 150,000 Turkish Cypriots nor the 65 million mainland Turks. It is extremely illogical to mortgage the future of 65 million people because of a policy that is obviously of no benefit to even 150,000 people.
[Duzel] What kind of solution does Turkey want in Cyprus?
[Munir] You should really be asking, "Does Turkey want a solution on Cyprus?" In fact, Turkey does not want a solution. Turkey is pursuing the policy that "the only solution is no solution". What Ecevit said boils down to this: "The Cyprus problem has been sorted out. The current situation is the solution." Yet, the solution is not the current situation, that is the status quo. There are 190 countries on this planet. If 189 of them do not recognize the situation in Cyprus as a solution, do not recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [TRNC], this cannot mean a solution. You are saying, "We came, we liked it and we're not giving it back", but the world does not accept this.
[Duzel] From an economic perspective there is a great difference between the Greek and Turkish sides of the island. The Greek administered section is at least five times wealthier than the TRNC. Why is there such a great difference between the two communities?
[Munir] The difference exists because honest and experienced people administer the Greek side. The Greek Cypriots are one of the most democratic and richest countries in the Mediterranean basin. The Greek administered side is one of the best prepared politically and economically of all the EU candidate countries. There is just one, maybe two Articles from the Copenhagen Criteria that have yet to be fulfilled. The Greek Cypriots will be able to enter the EU come the New Year. It is best to forget the Turkish side.
[Duzel] In what way should we forget them?
[Munir] Forget preparations for membership among the Turkish Cypriots, within the TRNC government or in Denktas's office. The agenda does not even have an article on the European Union. It does not matter who is in government in the TRNC today, they will still have to do what Turkey tells them to. Turkey is telling them they are not going to join the European Union. The Greek Cypriots on the other hand will enter the EU in 2001. Turkey could possibly join in around 2021. Turkey quite rightly does not want a second Greek veto in the European Union. Furthermore, the European Union army is being formed and will contain the Greek Cypriot army, while the Turkish army remains outside.
[Duzel] You said the reason for the different states of advancement between the southern and northern communities stems from the quality of their administrations. Yet it is always said that the Greek Cypriots receive a lot of financial aid both from the EU and Greece.
[Munir] Our people say this because they want to justify why they have not been able to do this. "Nobody recognizes us. They have put an embargo on us. This is why we are so far behind," they say. "They get incredible amounts of aid and that is why they are so advanced." This does not reflect the entire truth. Yes, the embargo does mean we are running this race like a packhorse among thoroughbreds, but the real reason for us lagging behind is the fact we are badly governed. When you go from the north of the island to the south, it is just like traveling from East Berlin into West Berlin. Turkey is confining itself to such a lack of solution, such mentality. Oranges used to be Cyprus' biggest export but these days we have to import them from mainland Turkey.
[Duzel] If the famous oranges with the scent of lemons are no longer being grown on Cyprus, what is being produced there?
[Munir] Bureaucracy is being produced. Turkey gives the money and we live there. We have become a society of civil servants. Some 35,000 people get by on wages paid by Turkey. We never looked after our tangerine orchards. We killed them off. The fact that the tangerine trees have withered away has nothing to do with the embargo and everything to do with us. The Greek Cypriots formed a cooperative to export oranges. They gave cheap loans to the producers and sold the goods off at a good price. As for the cooperatives we founded, they were robbed by those that founded them. Both the cooperative and the orange growers collapsed.
[Duzel] The people invaded the TRNC Parliament this summer. Large meetings were convened. What do the Turkish Cypriots want?
[Munir] They want two things, in fact. Firstly, they want Turkish guarantees against Greek oppression to continue. Secondly, they want a solution to the Cyprus problem and to get the welfare they have. In addition, they want to join the EU.
[Duzel] So, what kind of solution do they want?
[[Munir]] The majority want a solution whereby the island becomes a twinregion federation with an international identity. This is what the world accepts but on the island what the people want and what the government wants are not the same thing. Turk or Greek, if you were to ask me not what the people want but what the governments want, I would say that only God, Denktas and Kliridhis know what the governments want because the situation is that mixed up... The documents that have accumulated over the past 40 years have doubtless become a mountain by now and the solution is lost within a heap of official paper. It is no longer clear just what is wanted and what is being said. The leaders in both the north and the south maintain an iron grip. However, peace creates its own dynamism. When there is peace, the leaders' grip weakens. The two communities will come to live among each other over time; this is probably unstoppable.
[Duzel] An opposition journalist [for Avrupa newspaper] on Cyprus was arrested on charges of spying but later released. Is there antidemocratic oppression on Cyprus?
[Munir] The TRNC is a far more democratic country than mainland Turkey because he judicial system there is independent. This is an extraordinary chance and blessing for the Turkish Cypriots. But you know that they killed a journalist, Kutlu Adali, over there. When was the last time a journalist was killed for thinking the wrong thing in Britain or France or America I wonder?
[Duzel] Is it dangerous to oppose Ankara in Cyprus?
[Munir] It can be dangerous under certain conditions. The moment you say, "Withdraw the Turkish army from Cyprus and let the Greek and Turkish Cypriots work it out for themselves and live together," you will have strayed from the official line. They had one person who strayed from the line killed and another thrown into prison as a spy. Yet, Turkey should not fear these thoughts because the overwhelming majority of Turkish Cypriots do not want to see the Turkish army leave. They want the problem to be solved with Turkish assurances to the effect that both peoples can live in their own regions. They believe that any solution to the problem should never jeopardize Turkey's security. They know the price of peace will be to concede some territory to the Greeks. But above all this, one has to congratulate the army. A radical newspaper like "Avrupa" has become the highest selling paper on Cyprus saying its head writer was jailed. Its presses were burned down six days ago. Just as the people do not believe in the spying charges, nor do they believe the fire was caused by an electrical fault.
[Duzel] Why?
[Munir] Because the workers who came over from Turkey to run the presses were abducted to Turkey by "certain individuals" a short time ago with menaces.
[Duzel] Why are Turkish Cypriots getting poorer and poorer?
[Munir] Turkey sends huge amounts of money to Cyprus. Under current conditions there is no alternative to sending the money. The grave point about this is that as a result of this tremendous flow of money TRNC gives the impression it is a third world country sinking into the swamp. The money flowing into Cyprus has not improved the standard of living of the island community. TRNC has not become a rich country. Most of the money has been and is swallowed up by the elite circles there. Cyprus is being governed by people who are benefiting from the lack of a solution.
[Duzel] So are the Turkish Cypriots happy with the current situation?
[Munir] Most of them are not.
[Duzel] Do the demands of the Turkish Cypriots and those of Ankara coincide or is there a huge difference of opinion?
[Munir] Neither Denktas nor those governing Turkey want a solution but the Turkish Cypriots want one.
[Duzel] Which would the Turkish Cypriots prefer: to be part of an independent state in the European Union or to be a separate state under Turkey's protection?
[Munir] They would prefer the first option.
[Duzel] Do Turkish Cypriots want unification with Turkey?
[Munir] No. When you say this, the people in Turkey look at you as if you are a traitor. But I do want to say this: I want to remain a Turkish Cypriot. I do not want to be a citizen of mainland Turkey. Nor do I want to be an Azeri Turk, a German Turk, a Turk resident in England or a Kazakh Turk. This is not betraying Turkey. This is a person staying as he is and leading the life he is accustomed to.
[Duzel] Have you not been able to remain a Turkish Cypriot?
[Munir] No. I have lived my life in exile. However, both I and the other Turkish Cypriots owe a debt of gratitude to Turkey we can never repay. This is mainland Turkey but for me this is exile. I always wanted to raise my children in my homeland. I am 56 years old and still obliged to live outside of Cyprus.
[Duzel] Do the Turkish Cypriots feel oppressed?
[Munir] Yes. There are 80-90,000 Turkish Cypriots there and 30-35,000 Turkish soldiers. There are 60-70,000 migrants. You cannot say we are in a country living under normal conditions.
[Duzel] Turkey looks like it does not want a solution, but I cannot for the life of me understand how the current situation on Cyprus benefits Turkey. From the diplomatic perspective, there is not a single country in the entire world recognizes TRNC. Furthermore, you remain alone at all international platforms from the EU to the UN because of this problem. From an economic perspective, Turkey is constantly sending money to Cyprus. From the military angle, because we have stationed soldiers there, the Greeks have stationed forces there too and so we have stationed a force in our West directly underneath us. Maybe there is something I am missing here but just how does this situation advantage Turkey?
[Munir] I completely agree. Turkey has locked itself into a policy that is harming it and has thrown the key out the window. Furthermore, Denktas has got destroyed the second key to the door. He cannot his past (as published). I also fought at Erenkoy. The Greeks killed by best friend. On Cyprus all of our lives are scarred and traumatized. However, it is about time a solution was found. Nobody in the world has supported Turkish foreign policy for the past 25 years. Is this not a sign that the policy needs to be changed? Of course, all these curses were created by Greek Cypriot greediness. The Greek Cypriots and Greece have sinned greatly but EU candidacy changes countries. It makes domestic policy more peaceful and civilized. Consequently we cannot tar the Greek Cypriots of today with the same brush we used to. They have changed and so has Greece.
[Duzel] Let us say that Turkey makes all these sacrifices for the sake of the Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots do not want the situation to continue. If there is no benefit to Turkey from this situation, nor to the Turkish Cypriots, just who is benefiting?
[Munir] It most benefits those selling arms to Greece and Turkey. Following the Cold War, with the exception of these two countries all the other countries of the world reduced defense spending considerably. However, Turkey today has got a $150 billion rearmament program, the biggest in the world. For this reason there is no pressure to get the Cyprus issue resolved. It just looks like there is. Had there been real pressure, the issue would have been resolved long ago.
[Duzel] Is Ankara really considering breaking away from Europe all because of Cyprus? Or is it using Cyprus as an excuse to do so?
[Munir] Cyprus is merely an excuse, a pretext. In fact, Turkey does not want to fulfill the conditions set by the EU for membership. Those governing Turkey constantly harp on about Cyprus but they know they will never get into Europe without first resolving the Cyprus issue and their problems with Greece because those are the EU's rules. The EU says that not even the tiniest problem should exist between you and your partners and neighbors. That this is not open for debate is quite clear.
[Duzel] If the Cyprus issue is not resolved, what will the Turkish Cypriot reaction be?
[Munir] Great sadness and despair.''

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