I was trying to find a paper that I wrote about THY (Turkish Airlines) and while googling THY and Efe Sevin, I ran into Yelena’s post about (Armenian) Diasporan public diplomacy. The comments section was maybe even more intriguing than the post itself. The discussion between Yelena and anonymous Turkish guy over the importance of rhetoric, the question of truth, and the political nature of the Armenian-Turkish-Azeri conflict(s) reminded me of a post that I was supposed to write – well – three months ago. My topic is how public diplomacy could and should be used to support the conflict resolution attempts in Cyprus.
I presented a paper entitled “Altering the Discourse of Conflict in Cyprus: Recognition and Resolution through Public Diplomacy” at the 9th METU Conference on International Relations in TRNC. Basically, I examine the dominant rhetorical strategies employed by official Greek, Turkish, Greek Cypriot, and Turkish Cypriot sources. I discuss the outcomes of negative discourses – with an aim to prove that the Cyprus conflict cannot be resolved as long as the competing narratives of different nations continue their existence. I argue that public diplomacy can be used “as a feasible political communication tool to alter the negativity of the discourses with the ultimate aim of resolving the conflict.”
Rhetorical strategies: All parties involved in the conflict have some common rhetorical strategies. In other words, when parties want to ‘encode’ certain kind of messages, they usually employ one of the two following strategies.
Parties try to show themselves as the victims and the other party/parties as aggressors. This strategy is mainly used when parties ‘frame’ the conflict.
When there is a need to justify a certain action, parties usually claim that the other party/parties’ ‘former act caused the subsequent act’*.
Negative discourses: These rhetorical strategies support the growth of negative discourses within the conflict. There are four important (meaning constructing an obstacle in the conflict resolution process) outcomes:
Multiple mediated realities:
There is no one truth or history. There are several different accounts of what has happened in Cyprus, and what constitutes the Cyprus Conflict. Parties believe their account is the ‘right’ one, while other accounts are pure propaganda products.
Constructed national identities:
Negative discourse is part of the national identity. Cyprus conflict has a fundamental place in Turkish/Greek Cypriot, Turkish and Greek national identities. The memories of the conflict are still being reproduced to support the national identities.
Rigid negotiation positions:
Given the multiple mediated realities, and the essential part of the conflict in national identities, it is not surprising to find out that parties have very rigid negotiation positions which leaves little or no space for bargaining.
As we don’t know what the conflict is, cannot clearly name ‘victims’ or ‘aggressors’, and cannot foresee a resolution; the role of the IOs in the island is not clear.
What can public diplomacy do?
Practically, public diplomacy is not a magical wand (- even though sometimes it is mistaken for one). Public diplomacy, and grassroots movements on the island and among the involved parties will put an end to the reproduction of negative discourses. The dialogue between parties might consolidate the competitive conflict narratives. PD might help the parties to re-write the history of the island based on facts rather than on victimization and provocation.
In short, let’s know the limits of public diplomacy – let’s not expect to reach perpetual peace just by executing pd projects. But, when there are multiple accounts of reality in a conflict, any resolution attempt without PD is very unlikely to succeed.
*In my paper, I used Benoit’s Image Restoration theory. Please see Benoit, W. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies : a theory of image restoration strategies. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.