Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

A Cypriot Lesson to the Lebanese!

A Cypriot Lesson to the Lebanese!

Monday, 1 November, 2021 - 12:00

The 200 kilometers that separate the Lebanese coast and Cyprus is no longer merely distance. It is a hierarchical system that arranges the two countries’ choices.

Let us imagine, for a moment, Cypriot youths deciding to behave as some Lebanese youths do, or the way they say they behave: liberating their island and reuniting it. This task would necessarily imply the expulsion of the Turkish forces stationed in the island’s northeast and defeating the 9,000-man army of Turkish Cypriot volunteers.

Achieving such a task could be considered a very legitimate demand by many, and an argument in favor of this demand could indeed be made. It is their country, and it was split during the Turkish incursion in the mid-1970s. Thus, these youths forming a national resistance front that launches military attacks and continues along that path until the entire country is fully liberated becomes valid and required.

There are more than a couple of political conditions that would potentially help them make the argument: domestically, a far from unsubstantial number of Turkish Cypriots are in favor of reuniting the island, though many are opposed as well. Internationally, Turkey is the only country that recognizes the northern republic, which unilaterally declared its independence in 1983. The rest of the world sees this republic as illegitimate, and many countries have boycotted it, refusing to do business with its airports and seaports, which ended up shutting down. On top of that, Turkey’s economic woes and the declining purchasing power of its currency have constrained Ankara’s ability to help Northern Cyprus, which needs help.

With all of that, we don’t find such youths in Greek Cyprus. There is no front pledging to liberate the rest of the country and declaring that it will pave this path with blood and martyrs.

That is the case although we are not talking about Cypriot Shebaa Farms here, as the north constitutes more than a quarter of the island’s territory and is home to a quarter of its population. And we are not talking about a matter that could be compared to Palestine vis-a-vis Lebanon, as the two Cypruses had been two parts of a single country, and that was the case until the partition.

In all likelihood, several factors are preventing the emergence of such a liberation front and of Cypriot imitators of the Lebanese model. These factors would be contrasted with old concepts regarding national struggle:

Firstly, Greek Cypriots hate war. They do not sing songs or write poems to it, and they do not raise their children on the idea that they should become tomorrow’s martyrs. It is their hatred of war that protects them from themselves and developments that could have negative repercussions for them. It is their hatred of war that has prevented both Cypruses, Greek and Turkish, from being destroyed in one go. They probably prefer to see their country and its democracy develop, as well as enjoying the fruits of its membership in the European Union. For them, these concerns trump those associated with resistance, liberation, and unity.

Secondly, they can live with their island’s peaceful division, so long as their war is a thing of the past. They prefer division accompanied by peace and stability over unity that could potentially lead to open civil strife. Of course, they haven’t abandoned the idea of uniting the island in principle. Rather, they are probably betting on this being realized through changes in public opinion or balances of power… If the island is to be united, that is how this unity would be achieved. If not, they will proceed to enhance the liberated part of the island politically and economically. Avoiding violence and conflict, though, is the priority.

This proclivity is evident in their political landscape, as among the country’s powerful parties, none base their legitimacy on liberation and resistance. The strongest of those parties, the Democratic Rally, supported what was known as the “Annan Plan” for the reunification of Cyprus. That is as far as it has gone. This party’s leadership works on restraining its most extreme voices. The second strongest party, the Progressive Party of Working People- AKEL, which used to be the Communist Party, supports a federal solution, prioritizing good relations with Turkish Cypriots. The third party, the Democratic Party, takes a hard line politically, but its enthusiasm for Europe and the country’s membership in the EU moderate its position. The Democratic Front is the fourth party, and it emerged from a split within the Democratic Party after disputes over the latter not being soft enough. The fifth party is the National Popular Front: a fascist party whose fascism translates into hostility to Turks and Turkish Cypriots, but it doesn’t adopt resistance. In any case, it only won four of Cyprus’s 56 parliamentary seats.

Finally, no foreign actor incites the Greek Cypriots to wage war and liberate their country. Greece doesn’t do so, and neither does the European Union. They don’t hope Cypriots die and Cyprus disappears. The conventional wisdom is that change is realized through pressure, boycotts, and political and economic measures. Destruction is war’s only outcome.

The Greek Cypriots’ stance is not taken from a position of weakness. We recall that China, with its massive size, population and capabilities, has, since 1949, refrained and indeed continues to refrain from “liberating” Taiwan. It had also refrained from annexing Hong Kong before that was realized peacefully through China’s agreement with Britain, which had already committed to handing Hong Kong over to the Chinese mainland.

Facing this Chinese model is the Lebanese model (!), which must be strengthening Cypriots’ aversion to resistance and liberation. If ending the “era of defeats” requires ending everything else with it, maybe it would be better to give defeats a try.

In contrast, the majority in armed, resisting, impoverished and dark Lebanon no longer aspire to become like further, richer and more advanced countries. That has become impossible. They hope to become like their Island neighbor. Some are thinking of moving there, with the move akin to fleeing. Yes, it is divided and unarmed; it has “surrendered,” but it lives and moves forward.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks