Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Learning the lessons from Turkey’s forest fires admission

Below is a piece I’ve  translated into English from Greek daily Imerisia written by Washington-based journalist Michalis Ignatiou on the lessons Greece needs to learn from the admission by ex-Turk PM Mesut Yilmaz that Turkish secret services were responsible for arson attacks against Greek forests in the 1990s. (Read original article here).

Turkey’s aims don’t change
In Greece, the last thing that interests us is the truth. Even when Mesut Yilmaz admitted that Turkish agents were responsible for starting forest fires in Greece in the 1990s, many wished it was lies, precisely because they don’t have the courage to look truth in the eye.

Despite the assurances of certain Greek politicians, Turkey is not that which they hoped for. For the Turks, Greece and Cyprus are long-term enemies, and Turkey will not cease to claim Greek and Cypriot territory.

Unfortunately, Turkey’s provocative stance in Cyprus, where the occupation of the northern part of the island has lasted 37 years, has not taught the necessary lessons to Greek politicians, some of whom even gave their support to the pro-Turkish Annan plan, which sought to legitimise the results of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus.

The rapprochement policy with Turkey that began with the premiership of Kostas Simitis, following the Imia crisis, was a mistake from the start. Simitis’ successor Kostas Karamanlis, who even if he soon realised that for Ankara ‘friendship’ is only possible if you submit to its demands, didn’t change tack. Rapprochement reached its apotheosis when Giorgos Papandreou became prime minister. Despite the fact that in the last three years, Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan hasn’t made a secret of Turkey’s plans – on the contrary, he projected and advertised them whenever he could – Papandreou continued to adhere to the failed policy of Greek-Turkish co-operation. Not even when it became clear that for Erdogan co-operation was preconditioned on Greek concessions and the dilution of Greece’s national sovereignty could Papandreou be convinced to adopt another line.

Mesut Yilmaz’s statement in Birgun newspaper didn’t provide any new details regarding Turkish secret service involvement in Greek forest fires. All it did was confirm information in circulation since November 1996, when the Turkish deep-state agentHaluk Kirci admitted to arson attacks against neighbouring countries. Besides, whoever paid attention to and correctly analysed Turkish politics, didn’t need Yilmaz’s admission to be persuaded that Turkey has been systematically acting inside Greece. 

After the Chios fires in 1996, which decimated the forest wealth of the island, I was informed from an official police source that four Turks were arrested in relation to the arson, only for them – after orders from Athens – to be deported to Turkey. Clearly, the then government in Athens considered the policy of rapprochement with Turkey more important than holding to account those responsible for the Chios arson attacks.

As for the statements reacting to Yilmaz’s admission from the foreign ministry, New Democracy, LAOS and Dora Bakoyannis, I was convinced they were written in the framework of the stupid policy of issuing statements for the sake of supplying material for party archives. The absence of a statement from PASOK can only be attributed to… Christmas! Still, attitudes towards Turkey shouldn’t be revised because of impromptu announcements from that country’s politicians. They should be revised on the basis of facts, such as the continuing occupation of Cyprus and Turkey’s provocations and illegal claims against Greece. Greek politicians need to come up with a Turkey policy, which all governments should subscribe to, taking into account that ‘whoever is in charge in Ankara, Turkey’s predatory designs will not change’.