NICOSIA – With Cyprus’ unity talks collapsed again, Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said he doesn’t believe Cypriots wanted a deal giving Turks equal rights.
Speaking to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet on his return from a visit to the northern third of the island unlawfully occupied since a 1974 invasion, he said, “The Greek Cypriots were never sincere from the beginning. They regard the Turkish Cypriots as a minority. How will you establish a bi-communal, equal and fair government if you regard one part as a minority?”
Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci walked away from the talks over Turkey’s demands to keep a standing army and the right to militarily intervene when it wants and after Cyprus’ Parliament – with President Nicos Anastasiades’ majority party abstaining – approved a measure to allow an annual teaching of the 1950 referendum seeking unity, or Enosis, with Greece.
Yildirim said he believes that from the beginning of negotiations that the Cypriot side never really was willing to secure a genuine peace between two equal partners, stressing the need to provide security and guarantees for both communities on the island.
It’s not possible to have an improvement in talks between the two communities if there is no serious prospect for a lasting peace, he said, emphasizing that any agreement should be “fair, equal and bring about a federal government” that would provide guarantees to both people.
He called on Greek Cypriots to fix their “‘mistake” of legislating the schoolroom commemoration of a 1950 referendum that called for Cyprus’ union with Greece if stalled talks to reunify the ethnically split island are going to move forward.
Yildirim said Greek Cypriots believe they’re “the sole owners” of the island and should accept breakaway Turkish Cypriots as equal partners in an aimed-for federation.
“This attitude that aims to skew the truth clearly cannot move the negotiations forward,” Yildirim said after talks with Akinci.
The 1950 vote in which more than 95 percent of the majority Greek Cypriots had voted in favor of union with Greece preceded a four-year armed guerrilla campaign against British colonial rule before Cyprus was granted independence in 1960.
Greek Cypriot officials said the commemoration would involve the brief reference and discussion of the vote that is seen as a significant milestone in the island’s history.
They added that the commemoration is not intended to be an indication of a policy shift away from the stated aim of a federated Cyprus.
But the legislation rankled with Turkish Cypriots because they consider the Greek Cypriot drive for union with Greece to be the root cause of the island’s post-independence woes. The fact that the legislation was proposed by the far right ELAM party stoked Turkish Cypriot anger further.
Anastasiades and Akinci have been negotiating for more than 22 months to find a solution to the dilemma that has been a diplomatic graveyard for two dozen envoys over the decades and seems deadlocked yet again.
Yildirim blamed the Enosis vote without mentioning that Turkey wants to keep its 30,000-strong standing army on the island even if there is a federation, and also wants the right to militarily intervene when it wants, as it did in 1974, causing the split.
“You hold talks about everything but right after that they legislate for the commemoration of Enosis every year on Feb. 10. That destroys everything that has been said (during the talks.) That is why we say there cannot be an improvement in talks if there is no more serious perspective to make a new beginning,” Yıldırım said.
He also argued against “agreement at all costs,” stressing that the failure of talks “will not be the end of the world” for either Turkey or the Turkish Cypriots although that would lead to a permanent partition.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)