President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared that any agreement aimed at resolving Cyprus’ nearly half-century ethnic division must be based on recognition of a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state.
Making Northern Cyprus his first place of visit since his re-election, Erdogan met the north’s Leader Ersin Tatar, whose rule is recognized only by Turkey.
Erdogan’s remarks, though not new, infer that his country’s policy line on Cyprus remains unwavering, despite international condemnation of the two-state deal proposal that runs contrary to U.N. resolutions which call for a single, federated Cyprus.
During a joint news conference with Turkish Cypriot leader, Ersin Tatar, Erdogan said, “No one can bear to waste another 50 years of time.”
“If there is to be a return to the negotiating table, the only way to do this is to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” he stressed.
Hopes harbored by Cyprus’ internationally-recognized government of a speedy return to negotiations were also dashed by Erdogan’s statement.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared independence nearly a decade later, but that is recognized by only Turkey, which maintains more than 35,000 troops and an array of armaments in the north.
United Nations peacekeepers patrol a buffer zone separating the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) from the internationally recognised south.
U.N.-led peace talks have not resolved the dispute. The most recent round in July 2017 broke down over a Turkish insistence on maintaining military intervention rights and a permanent troop presence under any new arrangement.
Another stumbling block was a Greek Cypriot rejection of a Turkish Cypriot demand for the right to veto all government decisions on a federal level. Turkish Cypriots number approximately about a quarter of Greek Cypriots.
Pointless To Engage In Negotiations Based On A Federated Cyprus
Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots assert that it would be pointless to carry on negotiations based on a federated Cyprus and have instead pushed a two-state deal as a new starting point. Greek Cypriots say they cannot agree to a deal that would formalize the country’s division.
The Republic of Cyprus and the international community want a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in line with a UN framework.
“The just demands of the Turkish Cypriots are clear and unequivocal. Turkish Cypriots have never been a minority and never will be,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish President averred that Ankara would also push ahead with plans to supply Turkish Cypriots with electricity through an undersea cable. The north has for years experienced chronic power supply issues.
The electricity cable would complement 66.5-mile (107-kilometer) undersea pipelines Turkey constructed in 2015 to supply fresh water to the arid north. The Cyprus government condemned the pipeline project as a means for Ankara to “augment Turkey’s influence and control over Cyprus.”
The island’s status is one of the world’s longest-running disputes. It has been a source of tension across the Mediterranean region for decades, heating up in more recent years because of the discovery of large energy deposits in the region.
It has also contributed to Turkey’s uneasy relations with Greece and the rest of the European Union. Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Christodoulides, who won his own runoff election in February, wants a greater EU role on the Cyprus issue.