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Cyprus conflict: How could be Resolved and Reunified?

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

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Cyprus conflict has been regarded as one of the conflicts that are so far difficult to find a resolution for it. The conflict has been considered intractable, due to its complexity multiple endeavors failed to bring on a solution. The conflict that erupted between Turkish and Greek Cypriots on the island had a different language, culture, and religion. These two components are the triggers of the Cyprus conflict which have dragged external actors into the conflict.  After independence, these two ethnic groups were granted self-governance as one state on the Island. They have been given an authority based on a constitution that has been enacted by the presence of external actors. They shared the governance of the island until the Coup of 1974 that led to separate these two ethnic groups into two constituencies which resulted in two separate regions. Turkish intervention in the 1980s divided the island into two republics. The self-declaring of an independent state for ethnic Turkish in Northern Cyprus has made the conflict intractable. The tension grew strain between them until 2014 when the reunification discussions opened between the two sides. (1)

There is a primary and secondary actor in the conflict, both actors have their interests in the conflict. Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots are the main actors and the external actor such as Turkey, Greece and Britain are the main secondary actors.

Historical background of the conflict

Cyprus has been a victim of its geographical significance, due to its geopolitical importance has been conquered by multiple empires in the region. The ownership of Cyprus has changed hands among the empires such as Greeks, Egyptian, Roman, Ottoman. And British as the last empire took over from the Ottoman empire from 1878 until independence in 1960.Cyprus conflict has national, regional, and international dimensions, so the solution should take the account of multiple actors. In addition to the ethnic nationalism in terms of conflict between Greek -Turkish Cypriots, there are other actors such as Turkey and Greece. Moreover, there are international actors such as the EU,NATO, and the United Nations.(2)As Cyprus connects three continents, its geopolitical importance has lent it both vulnerability and strengths. That is why history has been of external powers’ interest.

The root cause of the conflict attributes to the lack of national identity within Cypriot society, lack of commonality has paved the way to disagreement over multiple cases. When Britain took over the administration of the island did not allow these two ethnicities to intermingle, during the independence made them too strange to each other to get along together under one state. The actual independence struggle itself was to reunification with motherland Greek which was unacceptable for Turkish Cypriots. The guerrilla war itself that was initiated by Greek Cypriot was to reunify with Greece, not for its independent state. The reunification was not in the interest of both Turkey and Great Britain. So, the conflict started, and later the North Cypriots self-declared their ethnic state. External powers fuelled the conflict for their interest. In so case, the conflict in Cyprus took in the international aspect which later UN involved to stop fighting.(3)

One of the main causes of the conflict between these two groups was security, the Turkish Cypriots did not experience security towards their Cypriots counterpart. There was inequality both socially and economically. The Greek Cypriots within the republic had more power in all sectors of life, therefore the Turkish experienced alienation which gave them a feeling of a stranger inside their own country. To fill the security vacuum they resorted to external support and Turkey was ready to present them this security. In this way, external powers such as Greece, UK, and Turkey shifted their role from guarantor to a supporter of one side over the other that made the conflict more intractable. In the referendum, the majority of Turkish Cypriots voted yes to Annan Plan but on the other side most of the Cypriot Greek vote no to this plan. Annan’s plan was an initiative to start the process of the reunification of the Island in one whole state instead of two divided states.(4)

Divide and rule

Divide and rule strategy has been a tactic of all European colonizers from the time of the Roman empire until the end of the colonization. The Dutch and the Spanish have made benefit from this strategy. All of these empires including Britain and France have employed different ways but most Western colonialist have used four basic tactics as 1)“The creation of the differences within the conquered population 2) the augmentation of existing differences 3) the channeling or exploitation of these differences for the benefit of the colonial power; and 4) the politicization of these differences so that they carry over into the post-colonial”. Britain even used an educational system to promote segregated education between ethnic Greece and Turkish Cypriots. In such a way Greek schools were staffed by teachers from Greece and Turkish schools by teachers from Turkey. They used the same tactics in Nigeria between the South and the North in a way opened more schools in the South than in the North which created different education levels.(5)

The policy of divide and rule was one of the most important strategies that have been employed by the British empire during its colony and after decolonization. The British empire has divided the people of the colonized states into multiple parts. The division policy has been followed to facilitate the governing process such as the Partition policy in India. Adoption of this strategy was the paramount goal for British empire expansion. Otherwise, it had been difficult for Britain to keep control over all these places in the world. There are various examples regarding partition policy such as in Palestine in the Middle East or Zimbabwe in Africa. Britain in contrast to France has employed segregation by dividing people to rule better. Internal Cyprus conflict is the result of the independence movement and decolonization process which led to dividing the state between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.(6)The treaties of guarantors and alliances or unworkable constitutions were the start of the intercommunal conflict between Greeks and Turkish on the island.

Multiple differences within Cypriots society laid the foundation of conflict that was exploited by external powers. They have different languages, religions, and cultures which mistakenly have been a catalyst of the conflict.

Primordial attachment

Cyprus geographically is important for major powers in the region therefore all three so-called guarantor countries such as Greece, Turkey, and Britain sought to keep influence on the Island. Through developing nationalism, the external powers gained a foothold there, from the 1960s onwards they urged national identity based on primordial principles. Both Greek and Turkey alongside Britain in a variety of ways intervened in the internal situation of the people of Cyprus. The population in Greece attached to different countries to protect themselves from another side. In such a way the idea of union with Greek the mainland for Greek Cypriot was the goal. And for the Turkish Cypriots, the partition of the Island was a case of maintaining the Turkish identity. The importance of the Island came to the surface even more in the period between 1960 -1974 when the two ethnic groups divided, and the external powers entered the conflict with support confined to nationalism toward both sides(7)

National identity is what binds the people together, in Cyprus, there are religion and language have been the main elements of their national identity. But for the new generation in Cyprus, there are other elements alongside religion and language to become an individual identity. Most of the new generation are speaking fluently English which gives them a new allegiance and a new identity. In the modern era, principles of gender, human rights, freedom, and democracy are the main goals for human beings to stand for it. So multiple factors replaced the traditional elements of identity building.(8)

The conflict in Cyprus starts directly after the independence before the independence both Turkish and Greek Cypriots were fighting Britain and seeking independence. But after Britain’s withdrawal, primordial values in terms of ethnic affiliations were promoted, and intercommunal fighting erupted between them.

Geopolitical interests

Geopolitical interests in Cyprus have played a big role in regional politics in the Middle East. This significance made the Island a victim of regional and international politics. It is an important gateway for three continents namely Asia, Europe, and Africa. Due to its location which is connecting three continents, has attracted major powers. It locates in a place that can control the connections of the most important chokepoints in the Mediterranean such as Bab-el-Mandeb, the Suez channel, and the Hormuz Strait. Where through these chokepoints import and export from oil and gas producers are transported to industrialized countries. Due to its significance has become of external powers’ interest throughout history. From Cyprus, it is easier to surveil all these chokepoints and from modern time, the USA has established an intelligence base to observe the Eastern Mediterranean and further.(9)

Even though Cyprus far away from most of the international powers, due to its importance geopolitically most of the major power through one or another way established a kind of link with it.USA under the excuse of NATO alliances with Turkey and Greece has a presence there. Britain has physical military bases and works as a guarantor based on the London-Zurich agreement. Turkey as a guarantor and links to ethnic Turkish Cypriots, Greece as a guarantor and links to Greek Cypriot, European Union through the republic memberships. So, the conflicts in Cyprus have both national and international aspects. (10)

Late discoveries of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean surfaced the importance of the Island again. Egypt, Israel, and the Republic of Cyprus started to explore gas in the area which provokes Turkey. Against this background, Turkey intensifies its presence in the Mediterranean by starting to explore natural gas alongside other actors there. This development triggers the start of shifting a balance of power and new alliances which leads to a new equilibrium in the region. Even Turkey has threatened to blacklist those firms that are developing offshore gas exploration.(11) findings of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean have enhanced amicable relationship among Israel, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus, on the other side Turkey got a foothold in the waters of Southern Cyprus through the Northern republic which is recognized by only Turkey. These alliances made all countries in the region insecure which reflected negatively on the other conflicted areas such as Syria and Libya.(12)

Solution

The conflict in Cyprus is considered intractable which means resolving is more difficult than the other. Establishing peace on the Island can be achieved by adopting a conflict transformation approach. In this method, all walks of society participate in the peacebuilding process. , through individual participation, reconciliation will be materialized in a way that all citizens on the island are direct contributors and participators in the process. In doing so conflict transformation make benefits from civil society promoting which binds individual from both ethnic groups. In so case the allegiance shifting away from ethnicities to citizenship based on individual rights and interests. Conflict transformation is suited to the case of Cyprus which refrains the two ethnic groups form an in-group attachment.

So far peacemakers on the Island have sought to find a solution for the conflict based on the conflict resolution approach. This kind of solution has promoted ethnic nationalism and in-group allegiance, therefore international mediation whether coercive or non coercive has failed to find a common interest between these two ethnic groups. Coercive peacebuilding is a Modell that is practiced by Russia which has never given sustainable peace such as Russia’s mediation in Ukraine, Chechenia, Libya, and Syria. (13)

There is non-coercive intervention conflict resolution such as the ideas of William Zartman which allows the conflict parties to reach a mutually hurting stalemate. This method at the end of the day creates a time ripeness for negotiation in which both sides reach a level of damage in terms of the utility of war.Ripeness moment has been used as a strategy to convince and force the conflicting sides to apply to the negotiation and come into a sustainable agreement which results in peacebuilding.(14)

Resolving the conflict through international and external mediation results in a temporary solution that potentially re-emerges after the international system and shifting of their interests. Thus, the conflict can be sustainable only in the case of internal solutions based on individual rights and finding common interests among the population regardless of religion, language, and cultures.

Promoting common interest within the conflicting sides can result in sustainable peacebuilding. to achieve this goal enhancing the principles of democracy such as human rights, freedom, and supporting civil society which finally binds the individuals together based on citizenship than ethnicities allegiance. Through the principles of democracy, primordial nationalism is replaced by civic nationalism. This strategy has been used in Canada which resulted in positive consequences in terms of coexistence between Quebec and the rest of the populations. The people of Quebec find their interests with the English people than with the French people in the other land.(15)

 “There are four main factors which tend to create internal conflict: discriminatory political institutions; exclusionary national ideologies; intergroup politics; and elite politics”. (Michael E. Brown 1997).These factors apply to the conflict on the island, due to the longevity of the conflict common national identity has been weakening year after year. And there are four main schools to settle ethnic disputes that can be used to mitigate the hostility between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The first school concentrate on coercive intervention to create a balance of power(Fen Osler Hampson1997),the second school concentrate on non-coercive intervention through confidence building or ripe moment and power-sharing(Fen Osler Hampson1997),and the third schools argue that just political order is important and supporting civil society(Fen Osler Hampston1997),and the fourth school includes the use of the conflict resolution workshops which seek to reduce stereotyping in the citizen level(Jhon Burton1972)(16)

Creating a national identity in Cyprus is of paramount importance to mitigate the hostilities between the two ethnic groups, in away the people of Cyprus should promote their Cypriots attachment instead of external attachment towards Greece by Cypriot Greek and attachment to Turkey by Turkish Cypriots. Finding commonality between these two ethnicities inside Cyprus in away way both ethnicities feel secure toward each other is a path for a solution. Geopolitically a powerful Cyprus is not in the interest of external stakeholders such as Turkey and Greece therefore they always are seeking to hold the republic of Cyprus divided and weak. In such a way they would be able to intervene and make benefit from its geopolitical importance in the region which has its importance by locating among three continents. Creating a sense of Cypriot’s identity facilitates establishing a civic nationalism which paves the way to coexistence and cooperation toward a common goal. Democratic principles that give citizenship, equal economic and social rights, and free political participation are elements that can be achieved under civic nationalism, in such a way materializing a Cyprus nationalism based on duty and rights, not ethnic belongings.(17)

Through civil society promoting and confidence-building measures, the relationship between communities is possible to yield positive results.  As Christopher Michell says, “Local peacebuilding and national peace” In a way Channels of communication can be promoted through grassroots communication. Building multiple organizations would lead to building more trust among the ordinary people in such a way mutual interest facilitates the foundation of peace. Through civil society promoting the relationship between local and national level which ultimately peacebuilding is achieved.(18)

 Enhancing the role of civil society based on track two diplomacy, the two communities can open multiple channels of communication which at the end of the day the fear of insecurity is dissipated for those who voted no in the referendum in 2004. As these two ethnicities have different backgrounds in terms of language and religion and both of them have a connection to the different motherlands, they are seeking security from their respective motherlands. But in the case of building internal security through low politics strategy and micro-level communication, this fear is covered as Oliver Richmond says “NGOs fulfill vital roles that states and their agencies cannot take on”. (19)

Another alternative to promote peace and finding a resolution for the Cyprus conflict is economic factors through gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean which gives benefits for economic prosper for the people of Cyprus. In 2014 enormous gas discovery in the region has given the prospect of the reunification of Cyprus and ending the long conflict. As multiple actors have been involved in the Cyprus conflict, its resolution should be internationally in a way all actors experience security towards each other.(20)

After Cyprus accession to the European Union, there was more possibility of finding a mutual solution thatyields joint interest for both communities in Cyprus. The people of Cyprus have lived peacefully through history the conflict flared up in 1950 during the independence war against the United Kingdom, therefore, the application of the methods of Roger and Fisher (2011) can result in positive consequences. There are some of the methods that underpin the process of negotiation of the resolution of the conflicts. These methods are” 1)Don’t bargain over position 2) separate the people of the problem 3) focus on interests, not positions 4) invent options for mutual gains 5) insist of objective criteria”.(9) In the case of Cyprus, joint gains can be achieved through gas exploration and redistribute the resources’ revenue equally over the Cyprus population.(21)

Based on the oven mentioned points Greek and Turkish Cyprus can find commonality and mutual interests which leads to coexistence and cooperation instead of fighting each other and experiencing insecurity.

Conclusion

Cyprus has been a pivotal case for most empires in the old and new history. All empires had sought to keep control over the island, which they were using as a corridor between East and West. As it connects Asia, Africa, and Europe, the major powers were interested to keep control over it. The Island was occupied by the Greek, Roman, and Ottoman empires until 1870 was deliver to the British empire. These external powers made the way for inter-communal groups to fight each other. Its significance urged these external powers to sow the soul of dissension between the two main ethnic groups as a divide and rule strategy. There are primary and secondary actors in the Cyprus conflict, the primary are the two ethnic groups such as Turkish and Greeks who are living on the Island. Finding the solution for this conflict can start from the primary actors such as Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Through the transformation approach, the relationship between these two ethnic groups is promoting and based on low-level interaction peacebuilding starts to flourish. Moreover, there are secondary actors are playing an expansive role within the Cyprus conflict. The fatherlands of Greece and Turkey are involved by supporting their ethnic groups on the Island. Through establishing the bases of security for both ethnic groups is the foundation of the conflict resolution for the intractable conflict of Cyprus.

Getting to Yes which is concentrating on interests than position is helpful to resolve disputes between conflicting sides. In the case of Cyprus looking forward than looking back is facilitating the process of negotiation. Some points can be used in the process of negotiation in the Cyprus conflict. Most important points er 1) bargaining over interests than position 2)separating the people from the problem 3)mutual gain  4) insisting on objective criteria.(22)

Based on the conflict transformation strategies and win-win negotiations, citizens can be drawn into the negotiations. These measures within conflict resolution by engaging civil society the fear of insecurity can be dissipated. In that case, the conflicting parties within Cyprus society could be reunified and the main causes of their internal conflicts are transformed and resolved.

References:

  • 12) Efrain Inbar &Shmuel  Sandler,”The Importance of Cyprus” Middle  East Quarterly,spring2001,pp.51-58.Accessed Januar132021, https://www.meforum.org/29/the-importance-of-cyprus
  • 13)David Lewis,”Russia as Peacebuilder?Russia’s coercive mediation strategy,”George CMarshall European Center for Security Studies,June 2020,Nr.061.Accessed Januar142021,
  • 16) Oliver P. Richmond , “Ethno‐nationalism, sovereignty and negotiating positions in the Cyprus conflict: obstacles to a settlement”, (1999),Middle Eastern Studies, 35:3, 42-63, DOI: 10.1080/00263209908701278
  • 17) Christopher Mitchel, “ Beyond Resolution: what does Conflict Transformation Actually transform?”, Peace and Conflict Studies, 5,1,2001,Vol.9,Nr 1.Accessed 13Januar 2021.https://nsuworks.nova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1020&context=pcs/
  • 18)  Landon E. Hancock & Christopher Mitchell, “Local Peacebuilding and Legitimacy: Interactions between National and Local Levels”, Routledge,2018.
  • 19) Henry Carey &Oliver Richmond, “Mitigating Conflict: The Role of NGOs” 2003 Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.
  • 20) Ayla Gürel& Laura Le Cornu, “Can Gas Catalyse Peace in the Eastern Mediterranean?”, The International Spectator, (2014) 49:2, 11-33, DOI: 10.1080/03932729.2014.906799
  • 21) Roger Fisher & William Ury,“ getting to yes: Negotiation an Agreement without Giving in”,2011, penguin books, New York.
  • 22) Roger Fisher & William Ury,“ getting to yes: Negotiation an Agreement without Giving in”,2011, penguin books, New York.

Bayes Rascheed Amin is a freelance journalist. He is now a higher education student in the field of International Relations at the University of Essex in England. He is a political analyst and a contributor writer for multiple online websites in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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Europe

The Leaders of the Western World Meet

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The annual meeting of the G7 comprising the largest western economies plus Japan is being hosted this year by the United Kingdom.  Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister has also invited Australia, South Korea, South Africa and India.  There has been talk of including Russia again but Britain threatened a veto.  Russia, which had been a member from 1997, was suspended in 2014 following the Crimea annexation.  

Cornwall in the extreme southwest of England has a rugged beauty enjoyed by tourists, and is a contrast to the green undulating softness of its neighbor Devon.  St. Ives is on Cornwall’s sheltered northern coast and it is the venue for the G7 meeting (August 11-13) this year.  It offers beautiful beaches and ice-cold seas.

France, Germany. Italy, UK, US, Japan and Canada.  What do the rich talk about?  Items on the agenda this year including pandemics (fear thereof) and in particular zoonotic diseases where infection spreads from non-human animals to humans.  Johnson has proposed a network of research labs to deal with the problem.  As a worldwide network it will include the design of a global early-warning system and will also establish protocols to deal with future health emergencies.

The important topic of climate change is of particular interest to Boris Johnson because Britain is hosting COP26  in Glasgow later this year in November.  Coal, one of the worst pollutants, has to be phased out and poorer countries will need help to step up and tackle not just the use of cheap coal but climate change and pollution in general.  The G7 countries’ GDP taken together comprises about half of total world output, and climate change has the potential of becoming an existential problem for all on earth.  And help from them to poorer countries is essential for these to be able to increase climate action efforts.

The G7 members are also concerned about large multinationals taking advantage of differing tax laws in the member countries.  Thus the proposal for a uniform 15 percent minimum tax.  There is some dispute as to whether the rate is too low.

America is back according to Joe Biden signalling a shift away from Donald Trump’s unilateralism.  But America is also not the sole driver of the world economy:  China is a real competitor and the European Union in toto is larger.  In a multilateral world, Trump charging ahead on his own made the US risible.  He also got nowhere as the world’s powers one by one distanced themselves.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen is also endorsing close coordination in economic policies plus continued support as the world struggles to recover after the corona epidemic.  India for example, has over 27 million confirmed cases, the largest number in Asia.  A dying first wave shattered hopes when a second much larger one hit — its devastation worsened by a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and other medicines in the severely hit regions.  On April 30, 2021, India became the first country to report over 400,000 new cases in a single 24 hour period.

It is an interdependent world where atavistic self-interest is no longer a solution to its problems.

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Revisiting the Bosnian War

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Genocide is not an alien concept to the world nowadays. However, while the reality (and the culprit) is not hard to profile today, history is ridden with massacres that were draped and concealed from the world beyond. Genocides that rivaled the great warfares and were so gruesome that the ring of brutality still pulsates in the historical narrative of humanity. We journey back to one such genocide that was named the most brutish mass slaughter after World War II. We revisit the Bosnian War (1992-95) which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 100,000 innocent Bosnian citizens and displaced millions. The savage nature of the war was such that the war crimes committed constituted a whole new definition to how we describe genocide.

The historical backdrop helps us gauge the complex relations and motivations which resulted in such chaotic warfare to follow suit. Post World War II, the then People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the then Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Bosnia-Herzegovina became one of the constituent republics of Yugoslavia in 1946 along with other Balkan states including Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. As communism pervaded all over Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina began losing its religion-cultural identity. Since Bosnia-Herzegovina mainly comprised of a Muslim population, later known as the Bosniaks, the spread of socialism resulted in the abolition of many Muslim institutions and traditions. And while the transition to the reformed Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963 did ease the ethnic pressure, the underlying radical ideology and sentiments never fully subsided.

The Bosniaks started to emerge as the majority demographic of Bosnia and by 1971, the Bosniaks constituted as the single largest component of the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina population. However, the trend of emigration picked up later in the decades; the Serbs and the Croats adding up to their tally throughout most of the 70s and mid-80s. The Bosnian population was characterized as a tripartite society, that is, comprised of three core ethnicities: Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. Till  1991, the ethnic majority of the Bosniaks was heavily diluted down to just 44% while the Serbian emigrants concentrated the Serbian influence; making up 31% of the total Bosnian population.

While on one side of the coin, Bosnia-Herzegovina was being flooded with Serbs inching a way to gain dominance, the Yugoslavian economy was consistently perishing on the other side. While the signs of instability were apparent in the early 80s, the decade was not enough for the economy to revive. In the late 80s, therefore, political dissatisfaction started to take over and multiple nationalist parties began setting camps. The sentiments diffused throughout the expanse of Yugoslavia and nationalists sensed an imminent partition. Bosnia-Herzegovina, like Croatia, followed through with an election in 1990 which resulted in an expected tripartite poll roughly similar to the demographic of Bosnia. The representatives resorted to form a coalition government comprising of Bosniak-Serb-Craot regime sharing turns at the premiership. While the ethnic majority Bosniaks enjoyed the first go at the office, the tensions soon erupted around Bosnia-Herzegovina as Serbs turned increasingly hostile.

The lava erupted in 1991 as the coalition government of Bosnia withered and the Serbian Democratic Party established its separate assembly in Bosnia known as ‘Serbian National Assembly’.  The move was in line with a growing sentiment of independence that was paving the dismantling of Yugoslavia. The Serbian Democratic Party long envisioned a dominant Serbian state in the Balkans and was not ready to participate in a rotational government when fighting was erupting in the neighboring states. When Croatia started witnessing violence and the rise of rebels in 1992, the separatist vision of the Serbs was further nourished as the Serbian Democratic Party, under the leadership of Serb Leader Radovan Karadžić, established an autonomous government in the Serb Majority areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The vision and the actions remained docile until the ring of independence was echoed throughout the region. When the European Commission (EC), now known as the European Union (EU), and the United States recognized the independence of both Croatia and Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina found itself in a precarious position. While a safe bet would have been to undergo talks and diplomatic routes to engage the Serbian Democratic Party, the Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović failed to realize the early warnings of an uprising. Instead of forging negotiations with the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosniak President resorted to mirror Croatia by organizing a referendum of independence bolstered by both the EC and the US. Even as the referendum was blocked in the Serb autonomous regions of Bosnia, Izetbegović chose to pass through and announced the results. As soon as the Bosnian Independence from Yugoslavia was announced and recognized, fighting erupted throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Bosnian Serbs feared that their long-envisioned plan of establishing the ‘Great Serbia’ in the Balkans was interred which resulted in chaos overtaking most of Bosnia. The blame of the decision, however, was placed largely on the Bosniak president and, by extension, the entire ethnic majority of the Bosniaks. The Bosnian Serbs started to launch attacks in the east of Bosnia; majorly targeting the Bosniak-dominated towns like Foča, Višegrad, and Zvornik. Soon the Bosnian Serb forces were joined by the local paramilitary rebels as well as the Yugoslavian army as the attacks ravaged the towns with large Bosniak populations; swathing the land in the process. The towns were pillaged and pressed into control whilst the local Bosniaks and their Croat counterparts were either displaced, incarcerated, or massacred.

While the frail Bosnian government managed to join hands with the Croatian forces across the border, the resulting offense was not nearly enough as the combination of Serb forces, rebel groups, and the Yugoslavian army took control of almost two-thirds of the Bosnian territory. The Karadžić regime refused to hand over the captured land in the rounds of negotiations. And while the war stagnated, the Bosniak locals left behind in small pockets of war-ravaged areas faced the brunt in the name of revenge and ethnic cleansing.

As Bosniaks and Croats formed a joint federation as the last resort, the Serbian Democratic Party established the Republic Srpska in the captured East, and the military units were given under the command of the Bosnian-Serb General, Ratko Mladic. The notorious general, known as the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’, committed horrifying war crimes including slaughtering the Bosniak locals captured in violence, raping the Bosniak women, and violating the minors in the name of ethnic cleansing exercises. While the United Nations refused to intervene in the war, the plea of the helpless Bosniaks forced the UN to at least deliver humanitarian aid to the oppressed. The most gruesome of all incidents were marked in July 1995, when an UN-declared safe zone, known as Srebrenica, was penetrated by the forces led by Mladic whilst some innocent Bosniaks took refuge. The forces brutally slaughtered the men while raped the women and children. An estimated 7000-8000 Bosniak men were slaughtered in the most grotesque campaign of ethnic cleansing intended to wipe off any trace of Bosniaks from the Serb-controlled territory.

In the aftermath of the barbaric war crimes, NATO undertook airstrikes to target the Bosnian-Serb targets while the Bosniak-Croat offense was launched from the ground. In late 1995, the Bosnian-Serb forces conceded defeat and accepted US-brokered talks. The accords, also known as the ‘Dayton Accords’, resulted in a conclusion to the Bosnian War as international forces were established in the region to enforce compliance. The newly negotiated federalized Bosnia and Herzegovina constituted 51% of the Croat-Bosniak Federation and 49% of the Serb Republic.

The accord, however, was not the end of the unfortunate tale as the trials and international action were soon followed to investigate the crimes against humanity committed during the three-year warfare. While many Serb leaders either died in imprisonment or committed suicide, the malefactor of the Srebrenica Massacre, Ratko Mladic, went into hiding in 2001. However, Mladic was arrested after a decade in 2011 by the Serbian authorities and was tried in the UN-established International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY). The investigation revisited the malicious actions of the former general and in 2017, the ICTY found Ratko Mladic guilty of genocide and war crimes and sentenced him to life in prison. While Mladic appealed for acquittal on the inane grounds of innocence since not he but his subordinates committed the crimes, the UN court recently upheld the decision in finality; closing doors on any further appeals. After 26-years, the world saw despair in the eyes of the 78-year-old Mladic as he joined the fate of his bedfellows while the progeny of the victims gained some closure as the last Bosnian trail was cased on a note of justice.

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Greece And Yugoslavia: A Brief History Of Lasting Partitions

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Prior to the 1992-1995 Balkan war, the European Community delegated the British and Portugese diplomats, Lord Carrington and Jose Cutileiro, to design a suitable scheme for ethno-religious partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in February 1992 they launched the Lisbon Conference, with the aim of separating Bosnian ethno-religious communities and isolating them into distinct territories. This was the initiation of the process of partition, adopted in all subsequent plans to end the war in Bosnia. However, such a concept was stipulated by Carrington and Cutileiro as the only available when there was no war to end, indeed, no war in sight; and, curiously, it has remained the only concept that the European Community, and then the European Union, has ever tried to apply to Bosnia.

Contrary to the foundations of political theory, sovereignty of the Bosnian state was thus divided, and its parts were transferred to the three ethno-religious communities. The Carrington-Cutileiro maps were tailored to determine the territorial reach of each of these communities. What remained to be done afterwards was their actual physical separation, and that could only be performed by ethnic cleansing, that is, by war and genocide. For, ethno-religiously homogenous territories, as envisaged by Carrington and Cutileiro, could only be created by a mass slaughter and mass expulsion of those who did not fit the prescribed model of ethno-religious homogeneity. The European Community thus created a recipe for the war in Bosnia and for the perpetual post-war instability in the Balkans. Yet, ever since the war broke out, the European diplomatic circles have never ceased claiming that this ‘chaos’ was created by ‘the wild Balkan tribes’, who ‘had always slaughtered each other’. There was also an alternative narrative, disseminated from the same sources, that Russia promoted the programme of ‘Greater Serbia’, which eventually produced the bloodshed in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Facts on the ground, however, do not support either of these narratives. All these ‘tribes’ had peacefully lived for centuries under the Ottoman and Habsburg empires, until nationalist ideas were imported into Serbia and Greece at the beginning of the 19th century. On the other hand, Russia’s influence in the Balkans could never compete with the influence of the Anglo-French axis. The latter’s influence was originally implemented through the channels of Serbian and Greek nationalisms, constructed on the anti-Ottoman/anti-Islamic and anti-Habsburg/anti-Catholic grounds, in accordance with strategic interests of the two West European powers to dismantle the declining empires and transform them into a number of puppet nation-states. In these geopolitical shifts, nationalist ideologies in the Balkans utilized religious identities as the most efficient tool for mobilization of the targeted populations and creation of mutually exclusive and implacable national identities.

The pivotal among these nationalist ideologies has been the Serb one,  built on the grounds of Orthodox Christianity, with its permanent anti-Islamic and anti-Catholic agenda. The existence and expansion of Serbia was always explicitly backed by London and Paris – from a semi-autonomous principality within the Ottoman territory in the 1830s and the creation of the Kingdom of Serbia in 1882, through the 1912-13 Balkan wars and World War I, to its expansion into other South Slavic territories in the form of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), promoted at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919.

Eventually, the Serbian elites – supported by the Anglo-French axis, again – used the dissolution of the communist Yugoslavia as an opportunity for implementation of the 19th-century ‘Greater Serbia’ programme, that is, Serbia’s expansion in all the Yugoslav territories populated by the Orthodox Christians. However, this time ‘Greater Serbia’ was used as a catalyst in a bigger geopolicial reshuffling advocated by the UK and France – the simultaneous implementation of four ethnnically homogenous greater-state projects, including ‘Greater Serbia’ (transferring the Orthodox-populated parts of Bosnia, plus Montenegro and the northern part of Kosovo, to Serbia), ‘Greater Croatia’ (transferring the Catholic-populated parts of Bosnia to Croatia), ‘Greater Albania’ (transferring the Albanian-populated parts of Kosovo and Macedonia to Albania) and ‘Greater Bulgaria’ (transferring the Slavic parts of Macedonia to Bulgaria).

Since 1990s, ethno-religious nationalisms in the Balkans have served only  this geopolitical purpose – creation of ethno-religiously homogenous ‘greater’ states, including the disappearance of Bosnia and Macedonia, whose multi-religious and multi-ethnic structure has been labelled by the British foreign policy elites as “the last remnant of the Ottoman Empire“ that needs to be eliminated for good. The only major foreign power that has opposed these geopolitical redesigns is the US, which has advocated the policy of inviolability of the former Yugoslav republics’ borders. Yet, the US has never adopted a consistent policy of nation-building for Bosnia and Macedonia, which would be the only one that could efficiently counter the doctrine of ethno-religious homogeneity promoted by the UK and France and supported by most EU countries.   

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