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Austerity protests turn into anti-Turkey campaign in KKTC

Is it a scenario for Armenia-Karabakh relations in future?…..

<<Another rally in Turkish Cyprus on Wednesday has added fuel to a squabble between Ankara and Turkish Cypriots who claim to be the victims of an austerity package, which includes salary cuts of up to 40 percent.
Anti-Turkey slogans and placards have become conspicuous above all else during the protests, irking Ankara, but experts claim the growing dissent in Turkish Cyprus is only about the economic package, not Turkey’s ties with the country.Turkey’s chief EU negotiator Egemen Bağış said Turkey has always worked to maintain the prosperity and security of Turkish Cypriots and that the country would never abandon Turkish Cyprus, describing Wednesday’s protests as the “game of several minority circles.” Bağış told reporters in Lisbon that Turkey is saddened by the anti-Turkey slogans used during the protests and noted that Turkey would never abandon Turkish Cyprus, adding that relations between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus are distinct from other relationships.

Some 30,000 Turkish Cypriots participated in a peaceful protest on Wednesday in Turkish Cyprus against an austerity package they say Turkey has forced their government to accept. Most opposition parties and labor unions have supported the demonstration, protesting private and state sector salary cuts.

Turkish Cypriot trade unions have vowed to fight the austerity package, which includes rolling back entry level salaries by 40 percent, taxing pensions and cutting the taxable income threshold from 17 percent to 10 percent. Union leaders said the package also foresees selling off state enterprises to private Turkish business interests. Protesters held placards that read “This country is ours, we will govern,” and “Take your package back, get packing,” demanding Turkey avoid imposing its package on Turkish Cypriots.

Özer Kanlı, Turkish Cypriot Bayrak Radio Television (BRT) director, described protests in an interview with Today’s Zaman as a discontent purely directed against austerity measures imposed by Turkey. He said it is gravely mistaken to interpret the rallies as anti-Turkey protests. Kanlı said if economic measures were not on the table he would “definitely stress that these protests would not be held. And a group of people label these incidents as anti-Turkey protests.”

He stated that he had data and that most surveys in Turkish Cyprus showed the Turkish Cypriots felt positively about Turkey. He further said, “I can assuredly say that 99.9 percent of Turkish Cypriots are strongly bound to Turkey.” Turkish Cypriots have always wanted the continuation of Turkey’s influence on the island to protect their rights.

Wednesday’s rally comes in the wake of another protest on Jan. 28 that badly strained relations between Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish government, after some present held banners telling Turkey to “go to hell.” Although the offensive banners were condemned as the work of a small, leftist fringe group, Turkish Cypriots were infuriated at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s suggestion that they were overpaid ingrates weaned on Turkish taxpayers’ money.

Assessing Erdoğan’s strong reaction after the Jan. 28 rally, Kanlı said these words were used at certain circumstances and that “Mr. Erdoğan then almost took back his remarks and said he had targeted a group of people.”

Başaran Düzgün, editor-in-chief of the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Havadis, noted that these protests were initially orchestrated to protest economic measures, but later transformed into a political show. According to Düzgün, mutual strong statements and Erdoğan’s abusive remarks have greatly fuelled anger.

Düzgün also ruled out anti-Turkey sentiment in Turkish Cyprus and said people are protesting the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and, in particular, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek. “He [Çiçek] is the one who wants this austerity package to be implemented and he is insisting on this. He is insisting very much and making unrestrained remarks,” Düzgün said.

He added that Turkey must intervene and withdraw this package and propose more “acceptable economic measures.” Turkish Cypriot and Turkish officials have said Turkish Cyprus spends 84 percent of its budget on government payrolls and pensions and warned it could go bankrupt by the end of the year if austerity measures aren’t implemented.

The $4 billion economy of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), under a trade embargo since a Turkish military intervention in 1974, relies on some $600 million of financial aid Ankara provides annually. The rally is supported by the main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP), the Communal Democracy Party (TDP) and the Democratic Party (DP). Turkey’s Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) is also backing the demonstrations. The Freedom and Reform Party (ÖRP), represented in the Turkish Cypriot parliament, is not participating in the rally.

Kanlı said those parties that expressed solidarity with the demonstrations on Wednesday have formed governments in Turkish Cyprus several times and that they all had excellent relations with Turkey. None of these parties, Kanlı said, have any negative positions regarding Turkey.

Turkey accused organizers of the protest of having links with Greek Cyprus. Kanlı acknowledged that there are some provocateurs and accused Greek Cypriots of trying to alienate Turkey and Turkish Cypriot and said both Turkey and the KKTC should be cautious and sensitive in handling these events.

Düzgün said, contrary to reports of Greek Cypriot involvement during the protests, there was only one Greek Cypriot flag, but it was later put away. He also dismissed claims that there were many Greek Cypriots participating in the event. “There were many Turkish flags and most placards praised Turkey,” Düzgün stressed.

The island’s Greek Cypriot leader, Dimitris Christofias, has also denied accusations by Turkey that Greek Cypriots are fomenting dissent in Turkish Cyprus. “Turkish Cypriots are indignant about the oppression they are under,” Christofias told The Associated Press. “Turkish Cypriots feel like the rug is being pulled from under them.” Both Düzgün and Başaran agreed that these incidents have made the Greek Cypriots’ hand more powerful in peace talks aimed at reunifying the divided island.

Turkish Cypriots also fear that they are being squeezed economically as a wave of Turkish immigrants, unable to make enough money in Turkey, pour into the tiny country. Başaran spoke about Turkish immigrants working in the country for lower wages and said there has always been a salary gap between Turks and Turkish Cypriots and that the latter fears that their salaries will also be cut.

Kanlı acknowledged that Turkish Cypriots are trying to protect their own identity, and said, “As a man from İstanbul is bound to his home city, the same could be said for Turkish Cypriots, too.” >>

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-237240-austerity-protests-turn-into-anti-turkey-campaign-in-kktc.html

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This entry was posted on Մարտի 4, 2011 by in in English, Արցախ, Թուրքիա - ներքին կյանք and tagged , , , , , , .

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