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Is Erdogan playing Lucifer?

Philosophers and Theologians aside, ordinary students of Bible literature will most probably remember a narrative about an encounter between Jesus Christ and Satan after the former went through a fast for forty days and nights. Briefly, it was a duel between the kingdoms of Hell and Heaven, with King Lucifer coming out himself to undertake the mission impossible assignment of tricking/trapping Jesus into submission, but ending up being trimmed down to size and told off “… don’t try your… God”.

As an enthusiast of centuries’ old Turkey history dating back to the Mesopotamia era, my memory clicked back the Jesus-Lucifer  lively and imagination-catching story after tracing developments surrounding the latest visit of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to Ankara. This was a follow up on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trip to Athens, five months ago, in December, 2023.

In the first place, I wondered, what should the world take from the message Erdogan delivered at a press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis by confirming the reopening for Muslim worship of a mosque in Istanbul converted from an ancient Byzantine Orthodox church? What an odd timing. AFP quoted Erdogan as saying “the Kariye mosque in its new form will remain open to everyone.” Everyone, who?

Where did Erdogan pluck the courage from to make such a statement in the presence of his distinguished guest, Mitsotakis? Or was he an ‘extinguished’ one?  Mitsotakis was later quoted as saying:  “I discussed with Mr. Erdogan the conversion… I expressed my dissatisfaction to him.” So, how did he become part of what Erdogan delivered to the world at the joint press conference? Was he tricked or trapped into a circumstance he knew perfectly the Greek government and the people back home took as “an act of provocation”? What overwhelmed him?

How did he forget the promise he had made to the Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou that he would raise the issue during his meeting with Erdoğan and voice his “strong dissatisfaction, reflecting the sentiments of all Greeks, regarding the entirely unnecessary conversion of a historic temple, the Monastery of Chora, into a mosque”?

 He definitely knew that Turkey’s move contradicted the all-time glory of Constantinople, present Istanbul, in the history of world civilizations. Could his mind have been derailed by Erdogan’s underground satanic expression of seeing ‘no unsolvable problems’ between Greece and Turkey ties? In the Bible narrative, Lucifer is quoted as having asked Jesus to jump off the Temple tower “because … angels would … immediately rescue him.”

 What is on the screen of Greek-Turkey relations reads the opposite. These NATO allies and members of the European countries’ groupings, have had none of their differences (re)solved. On the contrary, conflicts have been on the rise. These range from disagreements over the delimitation of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), oil drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, to flight violations over the Aegian Sea sky.

To cap it all is the Cyprus split into two states along Greek and Turkish ethnical lines. No BC (Before Christ ) Greek or post-Ottoman moral/political philosophers – the likes of Socrates, Plato and Said Nursi — could be happy with what is taking place in terms of relations between their homeland neighboring countries. Likewise, even the contemporary ones, like self-exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, would do the same. Who is (ir)responsible for the creation of  separate Greek and Turkish Cypriot states,  if it’s not Erdogan in the lead?  Turkish Cyprus is recognized by only one government in the world – the government of Erdogan in Turkey. Now, in the Lucifer tricky trap format, the same Erdogan dares send a message, through the visiting Greek PM for that matter, that the differences between Turkey and Greece are flimsy.  If they are, why did both countries almost come to a point of war in 2020?  

“Despite disagreements, we focus on a positive agenda by keeping our dialogue channels open,” Erdogan is on record for having told a joint press conference with Mitsotakis, who responded: … leaders’ frequent meetings in recent months had “proven that we neighbors can establish an approach of mutual understanding, not as an exception but as a productive normality… We showed today that alongside our proven disagreements, we can chart a parallel page of agreements.”

Wow! What a satanic leadership equation hidden behind long established truths. “Charting a parallel page of agreements” that ignores basic and clear conflict areas is a non-starter. To borrow from elementary geometry, respective principles (otherwise known as theorems) are non-negotiable.  They are simply there to be applied, not amended. And, like numbers, they don’t cheat.  

This is why, even before Erdogan and Mitsotakis left Ankara after the conference, Greece and Turkey had already parted on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the two countries’ Declaration of Athens signed during Erdogan’s visit in December 2023 to set the base for a relations roadmap rebooting, notwithstanding.

Could it then have been an accident that within the same circumstances, Mitsotakis talked to Turkish daily Milliyet, while Erdogan gave an interview to Greek daily Kathimerini? Or was that calculated to have a mathematics cross-multiplication effect? Mitsotakis said that his visit to Ankara – the first in five years – was an opportunity to evaluate progress and to reiterate Athens’ commitment to improving ties. Erdogan said the main goal was to “raise the level of our bilateral relations to unprecedented heights”, adding the neighbours had many issues they could agree on while seeking solutions to their problems.

Principles bear more weight than laws.  This is why Mahatma Gandhi classified the practice of politics without principles as one among his set of Eight Blunders of the World.  When transgressed, principles lead to non-negotiable results. As a live example, how can the planned Greek-Turkey “parallel arrangement” deliver globally in the circumstances of Turkey taking Hamas as a Palestinian liberation/resistance movement when Turkey’s fellow allies in NATO and Western European countries agree with Israel and categorize it as terrorist? Worse still, how about when Turkey, in the process, identifies the Gaza conflict as an opportunity to intensify trade with Israel and is actually being seen as grabbing it? What impression does this make on the Muslim world?  

 Still on the international scene, what picture is created when Turkey is caught in the act sending arms to anti- Assad rebels in Syria, bombing targets in Iraq and north Syria on the pretext of harbouring terrorists, sending mercenaries to Libya, besides supplying drones to Ukraine and offering to mediate in the conflict? Erdogan has a sweet (satanic) tongue but intriguing behavior. The same happened during the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

While Erdogan tries his level best to carefully sit on the fence when assessing international conflicts, stepping in when he sees an opportunity for improved relations, bigger power, better name or economic gains.

At home, his clampdown on personal freedoms continues unabated. The latest is the arrest of 544 people on charges of being linked to the Gullen Movement. Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya posted on his X account that detentions were carried out in 62 of the country’s 81 provinces, targeting “individuals intended to enter various levels of the civil service”.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in September 2023 made a landmark ruling   against such procedures. It is eight years since the 2016 coup that the world now knows was planned to fail. What is still special about it today? Hasn’t the world been tricked or trapped into believing in it?

The EU emphasizes the need for Turkey to demonstrate a commitment to good neighborly relations, international agreements and the peaceful settlement of disputes. But the Erdogan administration option has been to enter into non-binding arrangements, which since the latest meeting of Greek PM Mitsotakis and Turkish President Erdogan in Ankara, have emerged with two extra brand name tags of there is “no unsolvable problem” and the possibility of charting a “parallel page of agreements.”

How genuine could the combination of the two proposals be for a serious conflict resolution process? How much effort for failure would be needed? From whom could such ideas originate, short of someone playing Lucifer? Could the Erdogan- Mitsotakis meeting in Ankara turn out to be the world’s second 2024 quarter biggest joke for peace? Those are the questions.

All said, who will tell Erdogan: “Don’t trick/try/trap the world”?

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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