Erdogan, New Turkish Cypriot Leader Want Divided Two-State Island

Αssociated Press

Turkey s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Ersin Tatar, newly elected president of Turkish Cypriot state recognized only by Turkey, speak to the media at a joint press conference after their talks, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

ANKARA -- Giving up on reunification hopes, the newly-elected Turkish leader of the occupied side of Cyprus joined with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to say the only solution is two separate states.

Only Turkey recognizes the self-declared republic on the northern third of the divided island where it keeps a 35,000-strong army that Erdogan said will be there forever.

He had backed the new leader of the occupied side, Ersin Tatar, a hardline nationalist who narrowly ousted incumbent moderate Mustafa Akinci who had failed to broker a deal with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades envisioning a federation for the island.

Akinci's defeat sounded the likely death knell for any chance of bringing the island back together again but also any hopes that Erdogan and Tatar have for the world to recognize the occupied territory.

The legitimate government of Anastasiades is a member of the European Union that Turkey has been trying fruitlessly to join since 2005, prospects further dwindling when Erdogan sent drill ships into Cypriot waters to hunt for oil and gas.

Anastasiades had said he was willing to talk to Tatar after saying there wouldn't be any negotiations as long as Turkish ships were in Cypriot waters. The last round of talks collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.

Those fell apart when Erdogan and Akinci said the Turkish army was there to stay and that they wanted the right of further military intervention but Akinci lost the Turkish President's support in challenging his hard line policies.

Tatar, essentially a straw man for Erdogan whom he said he supports fully, and the Turkish President nevertheless want talks to resume but without any discussion of reunification.

Speaking alongside Tatar, Erdogan said peace efforts seeking a federal solution to divided Cyprus had been tried before and wouldn't work without explaining why he hoped his idea of permanent partition would be accepted.

“At the point we have reached, we believe with certainty that to start negotiations based exclusively on the option of a federation is a waste of time,” Erdogan said. “We believe that now, a two-state solution needs to be brought to the negotiating table with a realistic approach.”

It is unclear how such a proposal could succeed. The Greek Cypriot side said the only way forward is a federation-based reunification accord, as agreed in talks starting in 1977 and outlined in United Nations resolutions, and any deviation from this would be a non-starter.

Tatar said that a meeting which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to call could test the ground for a two-state deal although he failed to broker a deal at the Swiss debacle.  The meeting would bring together the two sides and Cyprus' guarantors of security, Greece, Turkey and the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which has military bases there.

“The 5-party conference ... is in our opinion the last chance for the settlement of the Cyprus issue,” Tatar said. “We are of the opinion that this meeting will determine whether a two-state solution based on sovereign equality can be brought to the table and whether an agreement can be possible.”

Tatar, a 60-year-old scion of Turkish-Cypriot political leaders, beat Akinci, who complained Erdogan meddled in the election by opening a beach at the abandoned resort of Varosha to appeal to nationalists.

Erdogan said he would visit the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state on Nov. 15 but it wasn't said what the agenda would be. He refuses to recognize Cyprus and Turkey bars its ships and planes and won't talk to Anastasiades.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)