Almost 40 years after Turkey unlawfully invaded Cyprus – and still occupies the northern third of the country with a standing army – European Union leaders have urged the two sides to set aside differences and find a way to reunify the island even though talks have broken off.
The call came after a meeting in Brussels with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just ahead of a United Nations Security Council briefing by UN envoy Alexander Downer who has thrown up his hands in frustration and is leaving his post as the middleman in failed negotiations.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the need to find an answer has become urgent even though the two sides have intermittently been talking for decades.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has already walked away from the bargaining table after his Turkish counterpart, Dervis Eroglu said he wouldn’t even sit down unless Anastasiades agreed to all his demands before they started talking.
Compounding the problem is Turkey’s hope to join the European Union although it doesn’t recognize Cyprus, which is a member, and bars Cypriot ships and planes from entering its country.
Both EU leaders said a Cyprus solution would have a positive outcome on Turkey’s EU course, which was one of the issues discussed in Brussels along with trade, energy, counter-terrorism, the crisis in Syria, and the political situation in Turkey where critics say Erdogan has become a quasi-dictator.
“We also agreed on the urgent need to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus issue,” said Barroso of his meeting with Erdogan, the Cyprus Mail reported.
“This is surely in our common interest, and a decisive move in this field would no doubt also be conducive to progress in Turkey`s wider relations with the European Union. Progress in this matter is of fundamental importance. This is a message that we have been conveying also to the parties in Cyprus,” he said.
Van Rompuy urged all parties to resume negotiations as soon as possible.
Erdogan said Turkey was committed to progress on Cyprus. “We will continue in this direction with Mr. (Anastasiades) hoping that there will be a positive approach on behalf of southern Cyprus, because this would be beneficial for all, for Cyprus, and for Turkey as an EU candidate country,” Erdogan said, the paper reported.
Anastasiades, pre-empting Erdogan’s visit to the Belgian capital, had spoken by phone with Van Rompuy and Barroso earlier, as well as European Parliament President Martin Schulz to brief them on efforts to reach a deal on a joint statement the Cypriot leader said is a necessity before resuming talks.
Joining a long list of international leaders who made no progress in getting even a hint of a suggestion of a glimpse of a hope of a promise of reunification, Downer left Cyprus earlier this month, giving up.
The UN envoy has also found himself increasingly at odds with the Greek Cypriot side after Anastasiades recently suggested in an interview that he was not objective and favored Turkey, as critics said does the United States and England.
Speaking in Brussels, Erdogan said that Turkey’s government has supported only his country in finding a peaceful solution in the ongoing conflict.
Criticizing Greece for not playing a role in the negotiations, Erdogan said, “Greece, as a guarantor country, should support this process with the same attitude. Our basic principle is a federal structure that is based on two founder states. We cannot accept anything apart from that,” World Bulletin reported.
“The South side cannot represent Northern Cyprus,” Erdogan said, adding: “If they had this kind of authority, then why are these negotiations being held? Since these negotiations are being held, neglecting the Turks of Northern Cyprus and portraying the South as the representatives of the whole island is contrary to international standards of justice.”
Referring to calls to withdraw Turkish troops from the island, Erdogan said “When we accepted the Annan Plan the Greek Cypriots rejected it. Now they tell us with withdraw our troops.”
He was referring to the 2004 plan proposed by former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan that was resoundingly rejected by Cypriots although Turkish Cypriots approved it.
“The Greek Cypriots should not abandon the negotiations. The Turkish Cypriots are not the ones abandoning the talks,” Erdogan said in regards to renewed efforts to restart the peace process.
Turkey insists it’s not an occupying force but a calming influence protecting the rights of Turkish citizens although it’s the only country in the world that recognizes what it calls an independent Republic but which even the UN has rejected as legitimate. There are no signs talks will begin again.