Meltem Oral from the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (DSIP) in Turkey and Panos Garganas from the Socialist Workers Party (SEK) in Greece spoke to Marksist.org on the rising tensions between the governments of both countries.
Meltem Oral: "Peace and brotherhood of the peoples against nationalist discourse"
"Hostile language towards Greece always finds a place in the rhetoric of Turkish nationalism. In a political climate where nationalist discourse has been heightened, it is not surprising that the recently formed AKP and MHP alliance, where everything “local and national” is acceptable, has turned it’s attention on Greece. After more than a year of continual military operations, first in Syria and now talking about entering Manbij and Raqqa, the government needs a discourse of “local-national power protecting the survival of the state when we have enemies on all sides”.
However, the issue of “Greek-Turkish tension” isn’t just a pretext put forward to consolidate the right wing base of the two countries. Trading polemics and threats on the return of the coup makers or Kardak is on the one hand a reflection of the power struggle for control of the Agean and Eastern Mediterranean. Both states have different interests that they consider important to this region. At a time when there are debates on the solution in Cyprus, both states are asserting themselves.
Cyprus is not just a historical problem. It is seen as important in the geostrategic struggle for hegemony in the Middle East today.
We have to be clear in opposition to this hostile policy coming from government representatives, MHP leader Bahçeli andvarious columnists. This conflict is a promise of war, blood and death for the people. We must defend the peace and the brotherhood of the peoples against all kinds of nationalist discourse directed against Syria, Greece and the Kurds."
Panos Garganas: "Long live international workers solidarity!"
"Politics in Greece these days is dominated by the prospect of a fourth “Memorandum”- a new bailout agreement between the government and the EU and IMF that will prolong severe austerity for many years. At the same time the greek press keeps repeating that there is a danger that tensions between Greece and Turkey may result in incidents of military conflict in the coming months.
This kind of propaganda here puts the blame on the turkish government. Erdogan needs a nationalist agenda for internal reasons, the argument goes, and this kind of brinkmanship may provoke an incident in the Aegean or in Cyprus. What is always missing from this lopsided analysis is the responsibility of the greek side for the rising tensions.
Traditionally, at least since 1974, greek nationalism claims that the Aegean Sea is more or less a greek lake and that the Cyprus problem is the creation of a foreign invasion in an otherwise peaceful island (obviously they consider the greek military coup in Cyprus as “peaceful”).
Greek diplomacy insists that it has the right to expand territorial waters in the Aegean to 12 miles, which would reduce the share of international surface area of the sea from 49% to 19%. Nowadays, the greek ruling class has even greater aspirations in the East Mediterranean where it claims an economic zone that stretches from Crete to Cyprus and borders with the zones of Israel and Egypt. This huge area includes valuable gas resources and its exploitation depends on who controls Cyprus and on alliances with the Zionist state and the Sissi dictatorship. Hence more tensions between Greece and Turkey.
Unfortunately the current government led by SYRIZA (a party that claims to belong to the radical Left) has surrendered foreign policy and the ministry of defense to these nationalist views. The minister of defense is Panos Kammenos, the leader of the party of Independent Greeks, a breakaway from the conservative New Democracy party. He led a delegation of parliamentarians including neonazi MPs of Golden Dawn on a visit to the most remote islands in a show of patriotic bravado. The minister of foreign affairs, Nikos Kotzias, has stated that if the Treaty of Lausanne collapses we may return to the Treaty of Sevres that gave control over Izmir, Edirne and Tekirdag to Greece! Tsipras himself has been on official visits to TelAviv and Cairo to shake hands with Netanyahu and Sissi and discuss carving out the economic zones.
The workers of Greece and Turkey have nothing to gain from such inflammatory politics. On the contrary, we have a lot to lose both in economic and in political terms. The resources of the East Mediterranean will be exploited by big multinational companies that will reap huge profits while the workers will have to bear the cost of military spending. Nationalist rhetoric disorients the discontent of populations that are sinking in poverty. Greek and turkish governments' concern over the fate of greeks and turks in Cyprus is utterly hypocritical: the so called “mother countries” have only offered violence for the population of the island. The Left must oppose warmongers and fight for peace. We refuse to shed blood for the sake of some rocky islets that are not inhabited even by goats. Long live international workers solidarity."
(Thanks to Rumeysa Özüyağlı and Carol Williams for helping us with the translations)