ANKARA — Turkey said it won’t pay $123 million in damages to Cyprus that was ordered by Europe’s top human rights court, and denounced the ruling as the biggest blow yet to peace talks for the divided island.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey must pay the damages to Cyprus for its 1974 invasion and the island’s subsequent division.
The ruling came as the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities are making a new effort to reunite the island.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the ruling unfair and said it put all the blame for Cyprus’ division on Turkey. He said the ruling was not binding because Turkey does not legally recognize Cyprus’ government.
“We believe that (the ruling) has dealt the biggest blow to the process for a comprehensive solution,” Davutoglu said. “We don’t consider the decision to be binding because of the grounds it is based on, its method and the fact that it takes into consideration a country that Turkey does not recognize. We don’t consider it necessary to make this payment.”
Turkey invaded Cyprus after a coup by supporters of union with Greece, and the island has been divided since. Only Turkey recognizes the breakaway Turkish Cypriotstate proclaimed in northern Cyprus.
The court said the passage of time did not erase Turkey’s responsibility. It said Turkey must pay damages to relatives of those missing in the operations and forGreek Cypriots “enclaved” in the Karpas peninsula in the north.
Cyprus’ government has welcomed the court’s decision and called on Turkey to comply immediately.
The decision from the European Court of Human Rights said the passage of time did not erase Turkey’s responsibility in the case, ruling that Turkey must pay 30 million euros in damages to relatives of those missing in the operations and 60 million euros for “the enclaved Greek-Cypriot residents of the Karpas peninsula.”
Hundreds of Greek Cypriots still live in the Karpas peninsula in the northernmost tip of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot part of the island.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974 after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state that was proclaimed in the north of the island.
The judgment comes as the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities are making a new effort to reunite the island.
Speaking ahead of the ruling, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that a judgment against Turkey would come at a delicate time and said that he viewed it as “neither binding nor of any value.”
“Not only is it legally problematic, its timing is wrong,” Davutoglu said. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the decision would not detract from Turkey’s “determination” to reach a settlement.
Cyprus’ government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides hailed the court’s decision and called on Turkey to comply immediately.
“Despite the fact that the persecution and hardship that they have endured cannot be measured in money, the Cyprus government welcomes the fact that the court again condemns in this way Turkey’s policy of violating the human rights of the enclaved,” he said.
The court said it would be up to the government of Cyprus to determine how to award the damages. Turkey has not always complied with the court’s rulings.
In a 1998 ruling, the Strasbourg court ordered Turkey to pay Titina Loizidou compensation for depriving her of property in the seaside city of Kyrenia. It was the first case in which a Greek Cypriot successfully sued Turkey over the invasion and earned the right to compensation.
Turkey paid the money in 2003, but has yet to comply with an earlier European Court decision ordering Ankara to allow Loizidou to reclaim her property.
Analysts noted that the current case was notable not only because of its size, but also because it took Turkey to task for the invasion and awarded the money toCyprus on behalf of individuals, a sensitive point that could affect current reunification talks.
“The big question is how the decision will affect the negotiations that are the most promising ever,” said Cengiz Aktar, an analyst on Turkey-EU affairs at the Istanbul Policy Center. “It could put the talks into difficulty.”
Achilleas Demetriades, a prominent human rights lawyer in Cyprus, who has won several cases in the European Court involving Turkey, said that the judgment also pertains to Turkey’s failure to carry out an effective investigation of the whereabouts of Greek Cypriots who disappeared during and after the invasion of the island, and to provide that information to relatives of the missing.
Nicos Sergides, president of the Greek Cypriot organization of relatives of missing persons, said the ruling could offer fresh hope for relatives to find out what happened to their loved ones.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)