GR US

Anastasiades Set for Sit-Down With Turkish-Cypriot Hardline New Leader

Αssociated Press

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades listends during a press conference with Greece s Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Egypt s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi after their meeting at the presidential palace in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou Pool via AP)

NICOSIA -- It wasn't said what was expected but Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades agreed to meet on Nov. 3 with Ersin Tatar, the newly-elected ultra-nationalist Turkish-Cypriot leader who said he will follow the hard line of Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan, likely undercutting any hopes for reunification.

Tatar narrowly beat moderate incumbent Mustafa Akinci, who had been targeted by Erdogan for standing up to him, the Turkish leader helping Tatar by opening a beach in front of the abandoned resort of Varosha to satisfy nationalists.

Anastasiades and Tatar, who had been the self-declared prime minister of the occupied northern third of the island seized by Turkey in an unlawful 1974 invasion will meet with United Nations Special Representative and Deputy Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar.

That will take place in her residence in the UN's Protected Area in the divided capital of Nicosia, which was split 46 years ago. She had gotten nowhere previously with Anastasiades and Akinci in getting the two sides together.

Tatar has already said he agrees with Erdogan that unity isn't likely and they want permanent partition in a two-state island although no country other than Turkey recognizes the occupied area.

The legitimate Greek-Cypriot government is a member of the European Union Turkey has been trying to join since 2005 while refusing to recognize Cyprus and barring its ships and planes.

In an interview with Turkey's state-run Anadolu News Agency, as Erdogan has jailed dozens of independent journalists with the EU doing nothing about it, Tatar reiterated his red lines even before meeting Anastasiades.

The Cypriot President had said he wouldn't talk as long as Turkey keeps drill ships hunting for oil and gas in Cypriot waters with both Tatar and Erdogan insisting the Turkish-Cypriots take a role in the licensing of foreign companies there.

While Anastasiades and Akinci were talking about a federalist solution – Anastasiades had even offered to let a Turkish-Cypriot be President on a rotating basis – Tatar said he's attaching himself to Erdogan and will go to Turkey to see him.

"I attach great importance to it. I believe this meeting will give the world the message, 'We know and give importance to the TRNC and its newly-elected president,'" Tatar said, calling the occupied territory by the name only Turkey  accepts.

"We should always move together with the Republic of Turkey, especially after the recent discovery of the hydrocarbon wealth (in the Eastern Mediterranean), on sharing it with the awareness of its importance for this country's future,” he said.

He said only the Turkish-Cypriots have shown good will without noting that the last round of negotiations collapsed at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in July, 2017 when Erdogan and Akinci said a 35,000-strong army on the occupied side would never leave and wanted the right of further military intervention.

"Now, alternative solutions should be laid on the table. On the basis of sovereign equality, I'll work to bring the two states living side-by-side and those states' cooperation on the negotiation table more,” he said.

But at the same time he said he would talk only about a two-state solution that Anastasiades said was a non-starter which could make their first talk a photo opportunity. 

“The Greeks never saw the Turks as equal. They said, 'we are more crowded, stronger; so we'll be everywhere, the whole of Cyprus will be ours,'" he recalled, setting boundaries before meeting Anastasiades.