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Politics

At UN, Tatar Will Demand World Recognize Occupied Side of Cyprus

While the world's attention is occupied by the Taliban's lightning-quick takeover of Afghanistan, Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said he will use his time at the United Nations General Assembly annual opening in September to insist the occupied northern third of the island be recognized.

The territory is isolated, accepted only by Turkey – which unlawfully invaded in 1974 and seized the land – but Tatar said that must end, reversing decades of failed diplomacy that tried to bring reunification.

With the collapse of the last round of talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was unable to bring a resolution, Tatar said that showed unity ideas are off the table.

Since being elected in October, 2020 – ousting moderate leader Mustafa Akinci – Tatar said he will follow the line of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped him win and wants two states and permanent partition of Cyprus.

The legitimate Greek-Cypriot government is a member of the European Union that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005, chances slipping away under Erdogan's autocratic rule, although Cyprus and Greece still support the bid.

In a feature on the dilemma, The Financial Times said that Tatar wants the UN to take a “reality check” over the failed reunification efforts as he and Erdogan have moved to further reopen the abandoned resort of Varosha, defying long-standing UN resolutions the properties be returned to their original owners, mostly Greek-Cypriots.

Apparently emboldened by the EU's timidity and fear that Erdogan will unleash more refugees and migrants on the bloc, largely through Greek islands – with the prospect of a tidal wave of more fleeing the Taliban giving him a bargaining chip, the Turkish side has ignored denunciations and forged ahead.

Coinciding with that is the demand for recognition although that would mean the EU accepting a foreign army in the bloc as Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong 

The two sides of the island, segregated along ethnic lines since the mid-1960s, are now too estranged to reunify and future negotiations require recognition of his side as “equal and sovereign,” Tatar told the news magazine and site.

“It is time for the world to recognise the reality that we have two different states, (and) any effort to push us into a mixed marriage is doomed to fail,” Tatar said. “They are Greeks, they are Christians. We are a different race. We speak Turkish, our religion is Islam, our motherland is Turkey.”

There's a catalyst in play too: energy. Turkey has been unlawfully drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, undeterred by soft EU sanctions that haven't deterred Erdogan, who was exempted and who said the work will go on.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, whose government licensed foreign companies to hunt for energy in the waters off the island, offered the Turkish-Cypriot side 30 percent of potentially lucrative revenues but was rejected.

The idea of two states ran into a stone wall in UN-backed exploratory talks in Geneva, Switzerland in April that went no where fast, mimicking decades of debacles by diplomats. 

At the UN, Tatar is expected to meet with Anastasiades again although the Cypriot President said he wouldn't talk about two states but has changed his mind repeatedly about the terms for negotiations.

“I’m not saying that we will shut the door,” Tatar said. “I am here to negotiate for a fair settlement based on two sovereign states,” which Anastasiades said he wouldn't accept and after the UN has routinely ignored his pleas about constant Turkish provocations. 

Tatar said he “does not trust” Anastasiades' pledge to share energy revenues, undercutting common ground for talking from the get-go and putting the Cypriot leader in an uncomfortable position if he does talk about it.

Tatar rejected an offer he said Anastasiades floated in April to agree to the opening of an airport and seaport on the occupied side – under the control of the EU and UN – if Varosha was returned

Tatar said relinquishing control of transportation hubs would be tantamount to “losing a war when foreigners take away your assets”.

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