The occupation and liberation of Cyprus

I would like to thank my Cypriot comrades for the opportunity to speak here today. Anyone who has ever been to Cyprus knows how harsh an impact the Turkish occupation of over one third of the country has on the island. The continued presence of the Turkish military particularly affects the people living in the occupied territories. And the military has a say in everything. Indeed, we can quite justifiably say that the Turkish military dictatorship continues to live on in the occupied territories of Cyprus. Add to this the continued British occupation in the so-called British sovereign military bases in Cyprus. London has even taken precautions with regard to its illegal activities there – such as supporting the US wars in the Middle East – with these bases not even counting as part of European Union territory.

This continued Turkish and British occupation is countered by the Cypriot people’s struggle to end the occupation. The Cypriot people’s heroic struggle for liberation. And I must say, I admire this struggle. I admire the Greek and Turkish Cypriots who refuse to be discouraged, and who fight to be Cypriots. And I would like to say to them today, in the name of my parliamentary group, the Left Party in the German Bundestag: We stand by you in solidarity in your struggle against oppression and for the reunification of this wonderful island of Cyprus.

Unfortunately, last year the German Federal Government performed a U-turn in its policy towards Turkey, which also has a very considerable bearing on the situation in Cyprus. Now it succumbs to the demands of German capital to push forward the EU accession negotiations even more swiftly without so much as a second thought. Here the sole concern is to access new markets after Merkel’s brutal austerity policies and those of the troika comprising the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have triggered huge slumps in the demand for German products in Southern Europe. Now the opening of the markets and the pre-accession privatisation policy in Turkey are designed to compensate for these losses and to secure additional market shares and investment possibilities for German capital. Not even the brutal suppression of the Gezi protests, which left 7 dead and thousands injured and arrested, was enough to stop the Federal Government from championing a new chapter in accession negotiations being opened. The Left Party parliamentary group in the German Bundestag strongly condemned this stance. The Left Party is against opening this accession chapter at the present moment, as the Erdogan government views it practically as a reward for the brutal action against peaceful demonstrators. In connection with this, allow me to point out that I was downright shocked to read the press release yesterday from the GUE/NGL here which actually welcomes the new accession chapter with Turkey being opened. The Bundestag parliamentary group of the Left Party, for its part, voted unanimously against this.

And let me state in no uncertain terms here that it is unacceptable for us here from the EU, sitting in Brussels, to be sugar-coating the situation in Turkey. Nor do I want us to sugar-coat what an aggressive policy Turkey continues to pursue against the Republic of Cyprus. This policy, too, which continues to reject the signing of the Ankara Protocol and attempts to isolate Cyprus diplomatically and politically must be condemned. The Left Party in the German Bundestag, for its part at least, is endeavouring to ensure that the Ankara Protocol finally be signed. Ankara is key to the liberation of Cyprus. That is why we must apply pressure here so that Turkey finally recognises Cyprus and ends the occupation. However, the end of the occupation is the prerequisite for liberation!

In light of this it is appalling that the new conservative president Anastasiadis has declared that Cyprus will be joining the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP). By taking this step, he is literally putting his country at the mercy of the Turkish military because what is it like inside NATO? The military structures of NATO are shaped above all by Turkish Generals – that was the price paid for Erdogan’s approval when Rasmussen was appointed NATO Secretary General. Bearing that in mind, a "NATO Light" membership – and this is precisely what this would mean for a small country like Cyprus – would be equivalent to surrender at the expense of the Cypriot population, further prolonging the occupation. Furthermore, this means the final obstacle to an even smoother EU-NATO cooperation (I am referring to Berlin Plus) is removed. This membership therefore also means more wars and aggression by an EU-NATO alliance in the broader Middle East. And that we do not want! We need peace, not one new military threat after another like those we are currently seeing against Iran or Syria. We stand for political solutions, not imperialistic wars!

And I am ashamed that it is the conservative German Federal Government that is not only exacerbating the dire economic situation in Cyprus through its support of the policy of austerity but also ruthlessly exploiting the situation to its own gain in order to exert pressure so that the Cypriot side gives in to Turkey and thus the prospect of a federal solution for Cyprus slips further and further out of reach. One can see how strong this pressure is from the minutes of the relevant Council working groups, which make it clear that step by step – incidentally, in response to German pressure – the Cypriot side is conceding its positions on defence with regard to democratic sovereignty in the Balkans in the negotiations on economic agreements with Kosovo, which will have unknown repercussions for the negotiations on a solution to the Cyprus conflict as well. This was also indeed the reason why the USA and the large EU Member States endeavoured to replace AKEL President Christofias. Because one thing is certain – under President Christofias international humanitarian law, the UN Charter and democratic sovereignty were not neglected the way they are today. And in my opinion our shared responsibility has to be to defend international law and democratic sovereignty against today’s attacks from the EU-led troika or indeed NATO.

As the largest opposition party in the German Bundestag – in the likely event of a grand conservative-social democrat coalition – the Left Party has a special responsibility to stand up to German imperialist policy serving the interests of capital. This also and in particular holds true for Cyprus. Here, as I said, we need a different German stance towards Turkey, one clearly in favour of international law and human rights. And on the issue of foreign military bases, too, the Left Party must exert pressure, as this after all is the prerequisite for ending the occupation in Cyprus. Especially against the backdrop of the NSA, CIA torture flights and new wars, we must make it crystal clear that we can do without military bases from which human rights violations are staged. And on this topic I have to tell you that I am very happy that the British troops are to withdraw from Germany by 2020 and I hope for Cyprus that here too the British will finally renounce their military bases and that this beautiful country can finally be used for civilian purposes.

In terms of a specific parliamentary initiative, I could envisage us calling upon our respective governments at the beginning of next year as simultaneously as possible to take positive action in favour of the liberation and reunification of Cyprus, so that a European parliamentary network combined with a network of social and peace initiatives can emerge for the people in Cyprus. What we need here is new courage! What we need here is new strength and new optimism! The liberation of Cyprus is possible!

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