The 'desecration' of Cyprus

Brian Coleman on Northern Cyprus, the treatment of Orthodox churches and why the government promotes

The deaths of a couple of dozen Turkish troops in operations against the Kurds and the vote by the Turkish Parliament to in effect invade Northern Iraq to pursue operations against the Kurdish people has focused world attention on a conflict which the modern state of Turkey has pursued for many decades.

Last weekend I was in Cyprus (and yes my expenses were paid by my hosts) to attend events to continue to protest about the Turkish occupation of North Cyprus in particular the beautiful town of Morphu, twinned with my home Borough of Barnet.

Whereas over the last few years the legitimate Republic of Cyprus has made huge economic strides.

On the back of EU membership it operates as a mainstream European Country. The occupied north meanwhile continues to exist in a form of Asiatic poverty with an army of occupation of about 40,000 troops.

Most of the native Cypriots (both Greek and Turkish) have long since given up and abandoned the place to settlers flown in from Anatolia.

The desecration of Orthodox churches and the wholesale stripping and sale abroad of religious icons and archaeological treasures has to be seen to be believed and the ethnic cleansing carried out in the north of this magnificent island is as bad as anything experienced in the former Yugoslavia.

Yet as the new female Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis told me in rather a forceful manner - she has a touch of the Margaret Thatcher about her - there are thousands of Britons buying property illegally confiscated from Cypriots many of whom are my constituents in North London. In fact 95% of sales in the occupied area are to Brits.

Quite why anyone would buy property they have no legal entitlement to and which, when the eventual reunion of Cyprus comes, they may well lose with no compensation at all is beyond me. However the British Government sits back and does little to prevent these sales and the environmental damage to picturesque North Cyprus which the huge building boom is causing.

This last fortnight has also shown that Britain is not alone in playing softball with Turkey; the attitude of President Bush to Congress which was discussing the Armenian genocide was bizarre.

As the Armenian ambassador explained in his excellent piece on the New Statesman website last week, nobody with any common sense denies that the Armenian Genocide of 1915 onwards took place. Yet if the Germans can admit their guilt over the Nazi Holocaust why cannot the Turks do likewise?

The plucky little democratic country of Armenia still has to contend with a blockade by Turkey not to mention the aggression of its neighbour Azerbaijan whose idea of Democracy is to pass the presidency down from father to son.

So why this desire by Britain and the US to butter up Turkey? Gone is the Cold war threat from the Soviet Union and, with the election of President Gul, the Islamists are taking over Turkey anyway. Quite how the Turks imagine they can have any place in the EU whilst maintaining their belligerence on Cyprus, Armenia and towards the Kurds is beyond me.

Exactly why does the British Government continue to promote Turkey’s EU membership? Could it by any chance be to do with Labour’s need of the Muslim vote?