BACKLASH OVER CORBYN DEBATE
Taken from this week's issue
The one-hour show called “Cyprus Talks: The View from the UK and Europe” was broadcast on Thursday night by the British-based station Euro Genç TV and silmultaneously transmitted in the TRNC by Kanal Sim.
It was described as “shocking”, “despicable” and an “insult” and “outrage” by prominent Turkish Cypriots in the UK.
The show included a number of references to the “occupied” North and the Turkish “invasion”, which were allowed to go unchallenged.
The presenter and moderator Alev Adil also came in for criticism for referring to the TRNC as the “occupied illegal zone”.
Others who took part in the debate were pro-Greek Cypriot Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale, who provided the programme with a recorded video message in which he slammed Turkey, and Niyazi Kızılyürek, an MEP for the Greek Cypriot communist party Akel.
The UK Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations (CTCA) general secretary Sonya Karafistan said she heard the “most shocking offensive anti-Turkish rhetoric” on the programme.
“Not only did Corbyn call the North an area under occupation and use anti-Turkish rhetoric, he skimmed over the atrocities committed by Eoka between 1963 and 1974 in his account of the history of the island,” she said.
“He did not acknowledge the attempted ethnic cleansing against the Turkish Cypriot people and the loss of life. He chose to completely whitewash everything and every single answer he gave to the questions was about Turkey-bashing.
“He could not even give an explanation about why the Greek Cypriot side voted against the Annan Plan [in 2004] and claimed the reason was because the ‘plan was incomplete’.
“In one part of the programme, the moderator also referred to ‘Turkish-speaking Cypriots’ – stripping us of our own national identity.”
British Turkish Cypriot Association chairman Ersu Ekrem called the programme “appalling” and an “outrage”.
“The programme . . . gave no sensitivity to the feelings of the majority of Turkish Cypriots at home and abroad,” he said.
“It was one-sided, and full of propaganda. People are indeed entitled to have viewpoints as to what sort of a solution they want to see in Cyprus, but the whole programme knocked Turkey and the two-state settlement policy. The moderator even called the TRNC an ‘illegal state’.
“Ninety-six per cent of Turkish Cypriots see the Turkish intervention as having saved the Turkish Cypriots at a time when the Hellenic Republic of Cyprus was proclaimed.
“All of the participants ignored the fact that President Ersin Tatar was elected because of his policy of a two-state settlement. No-one mentioned this at all in the whole hour.”
Referring to Sir Gale’s diatribe, Mr Ekrem said: “He is known for his very anti-Turkish stance on the Cyprus problem and is one of the most proactive British politicians that lobbies for the Greek Cypriot cause on the island.
“He also failed to mention the Enosis [union of Cyprus with Greece] aspiration of the Greek Cypriots, the reason why the [Republic of Cyprus] Constitution was destroyed, the ‘Yes’ vote of the Turkish Cypriots to the Annan Plan and the Greek Cypriot refusal, and the collapse of talks in Crans-Montana [in Switzerland] in 2017 because of the Greek Cypriot refusal to share power with the Turkish Cypriots. It was not a balanced or productive programme and has caused us outrage.”
Çetin Ramadan, a prominent businessman and former CTCA president, said: “Such programmes need to show sensitivity towards the feelings of the Turkish Cypriots. Clearly, Mr Corbyn has no such consideration. The Annan Plan was not ‘incomplete’, as Corbyn said, otherwise it would not have been put to a referendum.
“What an insult to the Turkish Cypriots who have always acted with sincerity in wanting a settlement. There were four versions [of the Annan Plan] and the Turkish Cypriot side voted in favour of it believing that they would be recognised and the isolation of them would end.
“The moderator made claims that conform to the policies of the Greek Cypriots and it seems it was a platform to air the Greek Cypriot perspective. It was despicable.”
Association of Turkish Cypriots Abroad coordinator Hatice Kerimgil said: “Having programmes with extremist views filled with inflammatory and emotive language and anti-Turkish rhetoric is not going to help bring about a settlement in Cyprus or foster better relations between the two sides.
“If there is any occupation in Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots are occupying a state and have usurped the rights of Turkish Cypriots. And despite our acceptance of the Annan Plan – which they want us to forget – the isolation, which is also against our human rights, is continuing.”
Former Conservative MP and TRNC resident Stephen Day, expressing his “personal views only”, said: “I know Sir Roger Gale well. He is a voice piece for the Greek Cypriot case and both his and Mr Corbyn’s attitudes are biased without consideration.”
No-one from Euro Genç TV was available for comment.