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FACTDROP: Greece's and Cyprus' 'Dangerous Dance'


Greece's and Cyprus' 'Dangerous Dance'

Πηγή: HEL.C.E.I.A.
By William Mallinson
March 19 2012

Since at least the middle of 2010, when nine Turkish pro-Palestine peace activists were murdered by Israeli soldiers, Greece and Cyprus have been flaunting a somewhat sudden friendship with the Jewish State, underpinned by oil and gas interests. This has become even more intense in recent months, with the discovery of huge gas resources between Cyprus and Israel, while Greece is now looking at the seas south of Crete. Unlike the majority of Oxford dons, it seems that some Greek academic establishments are doing their best to nurture good relations with Israel, regardless of its barbarous treatment of Palestinians.

For example, some rather average international relations people from Panteion and Piraeus Universities recently held an ‘academic’ love-in with some former Israeli defence advisors and journalists. The workshop was entitled’ Greece-Cyprus-Israel Cooperation and the New Geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean’, as if we are meant to assume that geopolitics, one of the oldest scourges of organised Mankind, based on greed, can become new! Hardly a day goes by without an increasingly tame Greek newspaper or channel reporting on the new situation, and how friendly Greece and Cyprus are to Israel. This whole sudden bout of bonhomie is however a naοve and dangerous dance. Let us seek a little more precision.

First, the geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean have not altered in substance, only cosmetically. The basics are, have been, and will continue to be that the United States, and its closest ally, Israel, will continue to be inextricably intertwined, as Obama’s caving in to the Jewish lobby before he was elected, re-emphasised. As regards at least foreign policy, and certainly Middle Eastern policy, the US and Israel are as one, whatever the mild public disagreements about Israeli settlements, which Mrs. Clinton has ever so harshly described as ‘unhelpful’. In this respect one can indeed talk about the ‘United States of Israel’ (USI).

Second, as regards the current fashion to show that there is a crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations, apart from an enormous amount of Turkish rhetoric, aimed at internal audiences and the Moslem world, there is no real evidence that Israel would help Greece or Cyprus in a war with Turkey, only vague words about co-operation, and back-slapping visits to Greece and Cyprus by the extreme right wing Netanyahu. As for Turkey, not only does it accommodate the Inηirlik NATO airbase, but has installed the NATO missile defence shield, to Iranian and Russian anger. Demonstrations in Turkey against the shield simply distract attention from the fact that the Turkish government has accepted them. Should the USI attack Libya and/or Iran, the Turkish position will somehow transmogrify, just as it did over Libya.

Third, Israeli policy vis-ΰ-vis Greece and Cyprus is virtually identical, particularly on a question vital to Greece. When I asked the Israeli embassy in Athens whether the Israeli government recognised Greece’s twelve nautical mile limit and ten nautical mile airspace limit, the response was: ‘The ambassador does not wish to answer this question.’ A hardly surprising answer, since the US embassy had written to me: ‘Greece claims a six-mile territorial sea and a ten-mile territorial airspace. We recognise the six-mile territorial sea claim and a claim to the superjacent airspace. We do not recognise Greece’s claim to territorial airspace seaward of the outer limit of its territorial sea.’ In fact, although Greece is legally entitled to a twelve mile sea limit, having signed, unlike Turkey, the Law of he Sea Convention, it has not dared to implement it, since Turkey has declared such an action a casus belli.

Fourth, the US and Israel consider Cyprus, in particular the British bases, important to the defence of Israel: when Britain tried to give up its Cypriot territories following the Turkish invasion, Kissinger simply pressurised her to keep them, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office referring to Kissinger being anxious that Britain ‘continue to occupy this square of the world chess board.’ More significantly, Kissinger was reported to be ‘concerned with the effects of United States policy over Cyprus on the resolution of the Arab/Israel problem’, regarding ‘this as more important than Greek hostility towards the United States, despite this dissension on the Southern flank of the Alliance.’ He was also concerned with the maintenance of Turkish goodwill as a bulwark between the Soviet Union and the Arab states, as well as with the continued use of US bases in Turkey.

Fifth, Israel is delighted that Cyprus and Greece are being so forthcoming and friendly. Yet it was only fourteen years ago that two Mossad agents were arrested and held for spying on the sites being prepared for the – eventually abortive – arrival of Russian S-300 air defence missiles. Cyprus actually appears to have dragged Greece into an even trickier position with Turkey than it had before the oil and gas flirtation. Yet Greece has still not dared to declare its own EEZ, as Cyprus has.

Little has changed in the Middle East, except cosmetically. Turkey is indulging in its traditional bout of muscle-flexing, and testing the limits of its ‘have your cake and eat it’ policy. In the meantime, those Moslem countries and movements that clearly support Palestine will no longer see Greece as a reliable supporter of a free Palestine, whatever the empty rhetoric. The US must be happy with all this, knowing that the currently supine Greek government will succumb to all kinds of pressure, including granting Israel support as it moves into the Balkans. And here is the clincher: Israel recognises the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as the ‘Republic of Macedonia’, just as the US does. Greece and Cyprus are dancing dangerously.


A former British diplomat, William Eustratios Mallinson lectures in British history, literature and culture at the Ionian University / Corfu. He was awarded his doctorate in international history, by the London School of Economics. He has numerous academic (and some media) publications. His books are: Public Lies and Private Truths: an Anatomy of Public Relations (Cassell, London, 1996 and Leader Books, Athens, 2000), Portrait of an Ambassador: the Life, Times and Writings of Themistocles Chrysanthopoulos (Attica Tradition Educational Foundation, Athens, 1998), Cyprus: a Modern History, published in Greek and English (I.B. Tauris, London and New York, Papazissis, Athens), Partition Through Foreign Aggression ( University of Minnesota, 2010), From Neutrality to Commitment: Dutch Foreign Policy, NATO and European Integration (I.B. Tauris, 2010), and Cyprus: Diplomatic History and the Clash of Theory in International Relations (I.B.Tauris, 2010 and, in Greek, Estia, 2011). In February 2011, his book Britain and Cyprus: Key Themes and Documents since World War Two (I.B. Tauris) was published.

His speciality is archival research into post- World War Two diplomatic relations, with particular reference to Anglo- Greek- US  relations, and European defence policy. 

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