Letter to The Economist, June 17, 1996

Letters to the Editor
The Economist
25 St. James's Street
London SW1A1HG
United Kingdom

To the Editor:

I would like to congratulate your periodical for publishing such an uncharacteristically honest and insightful survey of Turkey. Unlike your 1991 survey, which relegated The Economist to serving as a mouthpiece for Ankara's costly propaganda campaign in the service of European integration, your latest survey was inclusive, balanced, insightful and, above all, unafraid to peel off the multiple facades that have in the past spared Turkey from the painful exposure now meeted out by your publication.

Your commendable rediscovery of journalistic integrity in not again sweeping Turkey's endemic human rights outrage, and its even more egregious Kurdish tragedy, under the rug was bested only by your mention of an insight simple enough to go unnoticed but one that bares the very heart of the Turkish problem for Europeans. Namely, that "the main reasons why Turkey will not get closer to Europe in the near future lie within Turkey itself. The first is the state of its economy. . . the second, and more important, reason is its lack of democratic values and its violation of human rights. Europe is simply not keen to get closer to a country where torture and imprisonment without trial are still reported with disturbing frequency."

Your survey's only oversight was a significant and, unfortunately, a familiar one. Although you recognize that "[t]he treaty of Lausanne left the whole of the Aegean except the Turkish coast in Greek hands", acknowledging what even Turkish international jurists will privately admit to -- that Turkish claims against Greek territory in the Aegean are in patent violation of international law and are founded, instead, upon arguments grounded in national self-interest and realpolitik you nevertheless fail to recognize the relevance of Turkish expansionism to Ankara's European ambitions. Namely, that it is not just Turkey's domestic transgressions which betray its lack of allegiance to democratic European values but, even moreso, it is Turkey's international ones.

Turkey's invasion and occupation of Cyprus, its claims over Greek territory in the Aegean and attendant threats of invasion against EU-member Greece, its invasion of northern Iraq in furtherance of its war against Kurdish rebels, and its illegal blockade of its former genocide victims, the Armenians, are but a few of the more egregious examples of Turkey's foreign policy of aggression. Unlike its domestic policies involving human rights violations, Ankara's expansionist policies have a direct transnational impact offering, among other things, militant adventurers throughout the world a striking example of unqualified Western support for an international aggressor. International pariahs such as Saddam Hussein, Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic, and Maummar Quaddafi have all explicitly cited to Turkey's invasion, ethnic cleansing, and continuing occupation of Cyprus to justify their own international transgressions.

Your statement -- that "[i]f you had to pick the ten countries in the world you would least like to live next to, they would be bound to include some of Turkey's neighbors" -- would strike a Kurd, Iraqi, Greek, or Armenian as counterintuitive if not absurd. While Turks have either invaded, ethnically cleansed, or perpetrated outright genocide against every one of these peoples' nations, none of them has ever invaded or perpetrated even remotely comparable crimes against Turkey. Furthermore, Turkey has threatened imminent military force against most of its neighbors in the recent past. Those states unfortunate enough to share a border with Turkey find themselves facing the largest and most powerful armed forces in the region, and have far more reason to fear than to be feared by Ankara.

It is not simply the mess within Turkey's own house that must be put in order before Turks can realistically expect greater integration with Europe but, more importantly, the mess Ankara has created in its own neighborhood.

Very truly yours,

Phillip Spyropoulos, Esq.

* E.g. Yialtsin Doyan of the Turkish daily Milliyet, April 21: "during the previous week in London, Turkish foreign ministry officials examined the Aegean Sea issues with distinguished legal experts who specialize in the area of International Law. From a legal point of view, it was emphasized to the Turkish officials that Turkey will be found in a difficult position regarding the Imia islets issue . . . Turkey's position on Imia is weak . . . that's why the Greek Premier reminded US President Bill Clinto n during their meeting that the Turkish Foreign Ministry in 1977 had stated to the Greek Government that the rock islets Kardak [Imia] belong to Greece."

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