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Boris Johnson rushes to Athens after Kotzias accuses UK of “lobbying for Turkey”

The Brexit, Cyprus peace talks, Greek-Turkish relations and the bilateral relations will be on the agenda of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and his British counterpart Boris Johnson in Athens on Thursday, April 6, 2017. The visit comes after Kotzias accused the UK of lobbying for Turkey on the Cyprus issue and threatened to reconsider Greece’s attitude at the EU-Brexit negotiations

The visit was not planned long ago and many puzzle what made Boris Johnson to rush to Athens.

The visit is not reciprocal in terms of high end diplomacy. According to KTG information, most likely the two foreign ministers arrange the visit when they met at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting on March 31, 2017.

Some media say one of the reasons for Johnsons’ visit is the fact that the Cyprus peace talks resume on April 11th. Others speak of geopolitical balances after the signing of the East Med underwater natural gas pipeline agreement between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy. Or the recent defense agreement signed between Cyprus and France.

Various Cypriot but also Turkish media had blamed Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias for the break of peace talks in January.

According to Cyprus Mail on Jan 15 “Kotzias “insulted”, “lectured” and “annoyed” a number of participants at the Conference, convened to discuss security and guarantees in a Cyprus solution, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Kotzias’ behaviour towards Guterres so irritated the new UN chief that he refuses to sit in the same room as the Greek FM for the foreseeable future. This means that if and when the Conference on Cyprus convenes again, it will have to be at the highest level of representation.

Two days before the NATO meeting, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias sharply criticized not only the United Nations but also the UK as “lobbying for Turkey” on the Cyprus problem.

In his speech at the Archbishop Makarios Foundation on March 28th, Nikos Kotzias said:

The Cyprus problem became an issue at the UN and was internationalised. The mistakes that were made gave a “foothold” to London, which endeavoured:

–    to involve Turkey as a “third player” in the Cyprus issue,

–   to impose itself as the promoter of the “castrated independence” of the Cypriot republic, and

–    to make Turkey once again a player on and within the Cyprus issue.

Neither of the two – Turkey or the UK – wanted a fully independent democratic Cyprus. At the same time, in Greece – as among the Greek Cypriots – there was self-deception as to the role of the UN. The old colonial powers, rather than the emerging world of independence and the liberation movement, were still dominant within the UN.

Unilateral perspectives led to problems with the Turkish Cypriot community, which utilised the British factor with “exceeding skill”.

Turkey and certain Turkish Cypriot leaders were “incorporated” with great ease into the British plans for instigating opposition between the two communities of Cyprus.

The British made Turkey a player again in a game in which the latter had officially and “irreversibly” renounced (then and only then) any rights with regard to Cyprus.

Kotzias who does not mince his words, did not omit to make a reference to British brutality while Cyprus was still under UK occupation.

The foreign player, as in 19th century Greece, intensified the domestic strife in Cyprus. They capitalised on every mistake made by the self-determination movement. They tried to transform the Cyprus issue from a matter of self-determination, social justice and national liberation into a matter of relations within Cyprus.

They treated the island’s swelling liberation movement harshly. They tortured and killed members of the struggle who chose, starting on 1 April 1955, to resist by every means, including armed means, pointing up the courage, self-sacrifice and tragic end of a number of heroes of the Cypriot struggle.

Did Kotzias’ speech matter to Boris Johnson? It may ahead of the Brexit negotiations. And here is the key word that made the British Foreign Minister to catch the first plane to Athens” UK’s military bases in Cyprus!  Nikos Kotzias recenlt made a link between the UK stance to the Cyprus issue and the stance Greece will adopt in the EU-Brexit negotiations.

Nikos Kotzias let Boris Johnson know that Greece and Cyprus stance on the future of the British military bases on Cyprus will much depend on UK’s stance on Cyprus problem.

In the Brexit guidelines sent by the European Council to the 27  EU member-states the British military bases are explicitly mentioned. “The EU should agree with the United Kingdom on arrangements relating to areas of the bases in Cyprus and to ensure that the bilateral agreements and arrangements between Cyprus and the United Kingdom are compatible with the EU, in particular with regards to the situation of EU citizens living or working in these areas.”

As a result of Brexit, UK citizens working at the military bases could not freely move outside the bases areas.

A couple of weeks ago, Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon praised the importance of the two  UK military bases on Cyprus because of the rise of extremist terror and mass migration flows coming from the region. He said British warplanes stationed at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus have made 1,200 strikes against Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq and Syria in the last two years.

Boris Johnson will need Athens help to avoid that UK military personnel and other workers at the military bases are held in …cages and face similar conditions of isolation as in Afghanistan or Iraq.

London has indicated that it intends to associate the issue of the British bases in negotiating for Brexit, as it is an overseas British territory. But this is of minor importance.

The meeting between Boris Johnson and Nikos Kotzias will take place at the Greek Foreign Ministry at 5:00 pm, followed by a joint press conference at 6:30 and a working dinner.

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  1. So now Brexit begins. And all the member states who have absolutely no chance of any influence at all, are talking big. All those with their begging bowls out are shouting the loudest. Malta wants a say – the reaction in the UK was laughter greater than the earthquake in Patras yesterday.

    Spain wants an agreement on Gibralter, the laughter grew louder.

    Greece now are howling about Akrotiri in Cyprus, how cool is that? We have almost no tears of laughter left to shed. Kick us out and perhaps invite Turkey or Russia to take our place – but of course using humans as bargaining chips is immoral, right?

    When Spain started up about Gibralter I advised my friends to go and spend their Euro’s in Greece, now Greece has started up about Cyprus, I am advising all my friends to go to Turkey.

    When will you ever learn?

  2. Chriss: if you are advising people to go to Turkey, then perhaps your advice is worthless. i am also advising people under no circumstance to go to the UK — which makes far more sense than anything you posted above.
    As for the comments about small EU member states, what the dimheaded Brexiteers have failed to grasp is that any EU member state can veto any deal between the EU and the UK. This is a likely catastrophe for the UK: so anyone laughing about it is just, well, a little bit stupid. To put it politely.

  3. Never forget: Boris Johnson’s grandparents were Turkish. They went to the UK and changed their name to Johnson.