NEW YORK — Using the United Nations General Assembly opening as a platform to reach other world leaders, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan buried hopes of reunifying Cyprus, insisting on two separate states and political acceptance of the occupied northern third of the island.
Cyprus has been divided since two unlawful 1974 invasions by Turkey, which keeps a 35,000-strong standing army on the side that is isolated from the rest of the world, recognized only by Turkey.
Decades of diplomatic failures, including the July, 2017 collapse of talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana led Erdogan to give up any pursuit of reunification and tilt toward demanding recognition for Turkish-Cypriots.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, whose legitimate government is a member of the European Union that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005, prospects dimming under Erdogan's authoritarian rule, rejected any notion of even talking about two states.
With a captive audience in New York, Erdogan said that, “a fair, lasting and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue is possible only through a result-oriented, realistic approach. While the leader of one of the two peoples on the Island, which the United Nations considers as equal, can address you, it is not fair that the other leader cannot make his voice heard on this platform.”
That was in reference to Ersin Tatar, the hard line nationalist leader of the Turkish-Cypriot side who was elected in October, 2020 with the help of Erdogan, to replace the moderate Mustafa Akinci, who wanted reconciliation on Cyprus.
While Turkey does not recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes, Erdogan said that Turkish-Cypriots should have equal rights, although that would mean accepting an occupying army in a EU country if so.
“For a solution, it is necessary to reaffirm the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish-Cypriot people,” said Erdogan, wanting the UN's acquiescence at the same time he's ignored UN resolutions in reopening parts of the abandoned resort of Varosha on the occupied side.
Turkey has also been unlawfully drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters in defiance of soft EU sanctions exempting him, and hinted that he would get more provocative if pushed too far over disputes concerning the seas.
“The continuation of the calm environment in Eastern Mediterranean is in our common interest. We hope that the problems regarding maritime boundary delimitation will be resolved within the framework of international law and good neighborly relations,” he said.
He didn't mention that Turkey doesn't recognize the UN Law of the Sea unless invoking to its advantage and said it is “necessary, first of all, to abandon the understanding whereby Turkey, which has the longest coast in Eastern Mediterranean, is ignored in the region. Our proposal to organize an Eastern Mediterranean conference, in which all actors in the region will take part for dialogue and cooperation, is still on the table.”
While he has no standing in the UN and can't officially participate as leader of a self-declared rogue state, Tatar was at the opening to meet unofficially on the sidelines with officials to support Erdogan's demand.
Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu, the self-declared foreign minister of the Turkish-Cypriot side before the UN opening told Turkey's Anadolu Agency that, “We will not take a step back from our position put forth in Geneva,” in reference to failed, informal talks in April in Switzerland which went nowhere.
He said the problem is the “Greek-Cypriot administration being recognized as the Republic of Cyprus on their own,” although it's in the EU and the UN and his side isn't.
“You have to accept that there are two separate people, democracies, states and sovereignties on the island. There is no meaning in running after consensus formulas on the Cyprus issue as long as the reality of one island and two peoples is not accepted,” he said.