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New Turkish-Cypriot Leader Won't Budge from Two-State Demand

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)

NICOSIA -- While agreeing to talk about Cyprus' reunification, the new leader of the occupied Turkish-Cypriot side, Ersin Tatar, again rejected a Federal scheme combining governments and said he wants the sides to stay separated.

That would effectively mean permanent partition, ending long-stalled hopes of bringing both sides together, a solution evading a long line of diplomats, envoys and negotiators after an unlawful 1974 invasion saw Turkey seize the northern third of the island. 

Federalism is a mixed or compound mode of government that combines a general government, a central government with regional governments, which Tatar said he won't accept. 

Tatar said he would take part in a five-party meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the three guarantors of security: Turkey, Greece, and the former Colonial ruler The United Kingdom, which still has military bases there.

In an interview with Turkish newspaper Sozcu, Tatar didn't say why he would take part in talks on an issue he won't accept, sticking to his hard line in supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He said his approach, however, in any potential negotiations would be to also take about two states on the island where the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government is a member of the European Union that Turkey has been trying to join in vain since 2005.

“There will be realism on the issues of territory, property, nationality, and Turkey’s bonds with the Turkish-Cypriots,” he said, indicating he would defer to Erdogan, who doesn't recognize the Cypriot government and bars its ships and planes.

Tatar said a map designating territories submitted by former leader Mustafa Akinci during negotiations in Switzerland damaged their rights and interests, the talks collapsing in July, 2017.

“We reject this map, we don’t accept it, but it is clear the Greek-Cypriots think they have it in their pocket,” he said, with Turkish-Cypriots making up only about 18 percent of the population of 875,899 people as of 2019.

“If Cyprus falls into the hands of unfriendly countries it would be a serious weakness for Turkey’s security,” he said, an apparent reference to the legitimate government licensing foreign energy companies to drill for oil and gas offshore.

Turkey is also drilling in Cypriot sovereign waters, defying soft EU sanctions, which has ratcheted up tension and Anastasiades had said he wouldn't negotiate while that was going on but is set to to it.

He'll face a hard line against Tatar, who said that, “As soon as I sit at the negotiating table or when I talk to foreign diplomats, I must protect the rights and interests not only of Turkish -Cypriots but Turkey too,” undermining any negotiations even before they begin.

He said – following Erdogan's stance – that Turkish-Cypriots must take part in the licensing of energy companies although Akinci had rejected Anastasiades' offer to share 30 percent of potentially lucrative revenues with them.