ATHENS: Turkey insists that α “two-state solution” is now the only way to solve the Cyprus problem, even if it contradicts UN resolutions for a federation model with political equality between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
The Mediterranean island has remained divided since 1974, when Turkish troops took advantage of a coup orchestrated by the military government of Athens against then-Cyprus President Archbishop Makarios and invaded the island.
Turkey has occupied almost 40 percent of Cyprus territory since then, while Turkish Cypriots have declared the independence of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” a state recognized only by Turkey.
Turkey wants to keep Cyprus as a “geopolitical hostage” as this serves President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to revive the Ottoman empire and exert maritime dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Its position has hardened since the beginning of 2020, following the leadership election in the Turkish Cypriot community of Ersin Tatar, who is seen as entirely dependent on Erdogan.
The UN secretary-general is expected to convene, possibly near the end of March, an informal meeting with the participation of Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and the three guarantor powers - Greece, Turkey and the UK - who are responsible for guaranteeing the security of the island under the agreements that led to the independence of Cyprus from the British Empire.
The EU will be present as an observer, and the aim of this meeting will be to clarify whether there are enough grounds for holding an international conference to resolve the problem.
Tatar has maintained, even during his meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, that at the March meeting he will present his vision for “a fair, realistic and viable solution” attained through a two-state partnership where the “constituent states” of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are equally sovereign and enjoy equal international status. However, such a proposal contravenes UN parameters for a solution as it is closer to a confederation that a federation.
Erdogan also recently attacked Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for talking about the Turkish occupation when he visited Nicosia.
The last international conference aiming to solve the Cyprus problem was held in 2017 in Crans Montana, Switzerland. It failed to bridge differences and achieve a positive result. Turkey insists that the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation model championed by the UN has died and that other solutions should be explored.
The Turkish side believes that it offered critical concessions in Crans Montana but in 2004, when the UN proposed the Annan Plan to resolve the Cyprus problem, the Greek Cypriot side backed down and voted against it in a referendum.
At the same time, Turkey has pursued aggressive tactics in the Eastern Mediterranean, both against Cyprus and Greece, challenging the right of Cyprus to research and exploit hydrocarbons within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Turkey does not consider Cyprus to be a state entity and believes instead that it possesses exclusive rights to a continental shelf and an EEZ in the biggest part of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Apart from the two-state solution, which the EU does not accept as both the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the High Representative on Foreign Policy Josep Borrell have made clear in official letters to Cypriot government officials, the Turkish government has decided to open the closed area of the city of Varosha in order to exploit it economically and send a clear political message.
This is prohibited under UN resolutions, but Turkey is not intimidated. There are also many analysts who believe that it will engage in a cynical trade-off of its extreme positions with the other parties involved in the negotiations to extract benefits on issues of interest.
But Turkey’s plans do not stop there. It considers Northern Cyprus as part of a string of forward military bases it has established from Libya to the Gulf. This is why it has upgraded the parking capabilities of troops and drones in the occupied northern part of the island.
Turkey is trying to secure military bases for both air and naval forces in Libya. It has established a training military base in Somalia, is present in northern Syria and also has a military base in Qatar. This is the main reason for its intransigence on Cyprus.