How Erdogan’s ‘good news’ fell flat
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last week that he had “good news” to share in Cyprus, where he was going to participate in celebrations of the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s military operation to stop the Greek annexation of the island.
Turkish media speculated that the “good news” could be one or more of the following:
- Azerbaijan (and probably Pakistan) might consider extending diplomatic recognition to northern Cyprus. Turkey had arranged for this purpose the visit of an Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation to the island.
- Part of Varosha, the restricted military area on the outskirts of Famagusta that was one of the most popular celebrity tourist destinations in the 1970s, could be returned to its original owners.
- A military base for drones could be established on the island.
- A naval base could be established in the north of Famagusta.
- The discovery of natural gas in the maritime jurisdiction area claimed by northern Cyprus.
In fact, the “good news” was none of the above. Instead, Erdogan announced that a new presidential palace was going to be built in Cyprus. Few Turkish Cypriots would regard this as an urgent requirement while they suffer serious economic hardship and international recognition of their state has not been forthcoming for more than 35 years.
The international community has to explain why Turks and Greek Cypriots cannot set up two different states in Cyprus, when the Dominican Republic and Haiti — despite their religious and linguistic affinity — were able to do it on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.
Pro-government media in Turkey presented the construction of this building as an important step toward the two-state solution that both Turkey and the northern Cyprus government are trying to promote.
Further important news announced by Erdogan was his intention to demilitarize 3.5 percent of Varosha, to allow Greek owners to return and reopen their hotels. “The door of a new era will open with Varosha for the benefit of all, with work done with respect for property rights. Now, a process will begin in the interest of all,” Erdogan said. He did not specify whose sovereignty the area would be under, a lack of precision that alarmed the Greek Cypriots, who mobilized the international community to stop the move. The US State Department said: “We urge Turkish Cypriots and Turkey to reverse their decision and all steps taken since October 2020.” The UK, Russia and France followed suit. The Greek Cypriots’ main argument is that, according to UN Security Council resolutions 550 and 789, this area should be under UN administration.
A plan for the solution of the Cyprus issue drafted in 2004 by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan did exactly that, but the plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriots in a referendum in 2005.
A more important item on Erdogan’s agenda was his strong emphasis on a two-state solution for Cyprus. “A permanent and sustainable solution to the country’s division can only be possible by taking into account that there are two separate states and two separate peoples in Cyprus. The international community will sooner or later accept this reality,” he has said.
For decades, Turkey has done everything to create on the island a politically equal “bi-communal, bi-zonal federation,” but the Greek Cypriots insisted on making the Turkish Cypriot side subordinate to the Greek side. The Turkish side is therefore led to the conclusion that the only realistic solution would be the two-state one.
Turkey has faced too many setbacks in its relations with the EU, and the latter has lost its leverage over the Cyprus issue. It will not therefore be easy to force Turkey to re-negotiate “the bi-communal, bi-zonal federation.”
The international community has to explain why Turks and Greek Cypriots cannot set up two different states in Cyprus, when the Dominican Republic and Haiti — despite their religious and linguistic affinity — were able to do it on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Turkey believes there is every justification for two independent states in Cyprus, because Turks and Greeks are two different peoples, they speak different languages, they adhere to different religions, and they would live together more happily as two friendly neighbors.
- Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling AK Party. Twitter: @yakis_yasar