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New Turkish-Cypriot Leader Won't Budge From Two-State Ultimatum

Αssociated Press

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 3, 2020 file photo, Ersin Tatar, prime minister of a self-declared Turkish Cypriot state recognized only by Turkey sits at his office as a wall decorated with a picture of modern Turkey s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in the Turkish occupied area in north part of divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, File)

NICOSIA -- The newly-elected leader of the occupied Turkish-Cypriot side of the divided island, Ersin Tatar, has repeated that he wants only two states and will reject any idea of a bizonal, bicommuncal federal solution to reunify the island.

Tatar, a hardline nationalist, had said he would follow the direction of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Turkey doesn't recognize the legitimate Cypriot government that's a member of the European Union that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005.

In a Kathimerini interview, Tatar also called for “a border adjustment” between the two sides without explaining what he meant or if he wanted a territorial grab although the dividing lines have been in place since an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion.

The bizonal federation basis for a deal was agreed in 1977 between Cyprus’ internationally recognized government and the Turkish-Cypriot side that's a self-declared republic unrecognized by any other country in the world.

Tatar declared that talks for a federation that began 43 years ago were dead in the water and had  “completely collapsed” during negotiations at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in July 2017 “due to the attitude of the Greek-Cypriot side.” 

He didn't mention that Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades walked away from the table at talks brokered by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres because Erdogan and then Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never removed a 35,000-strong army on the occupied territory and wanted the right of further military intervention.

Tatar narrowly beat Akinci after Erdogan – backing the hardliner – opened part of a beachfront at the abandoned resort of Varosha on the occupied side to give his apparent straw man what turned out to be the winning difference.

That violated UN resolutions that stipulate only the original residents of Varosha, mostly Greek-Cypriots who fled the advancing Turkish army, had the right to return there, Erdogan indicating the whole town might be fixed and reopened.

Tatar said if Greek-Cypriots don't like it they can appeal to the Immovable Property Commission set up by the Turkish-Cypriots that would essentially exclude them from any rights to their own properties.

While Anastasiades said he's open to resuming talks although he said he wouldn't negotiate as long as Turkey has ships continuing to drill for oil and gas in the island's waters, Tatar's stance is seen as making discussions moot.

The UN's Special Envoy, American diplomat Jane Holl Lute, who has failed to bring the two sides together, said she wants to try again despite decades of talks going nowhere fast.

She was also to meet with Tatar and Anastasiades separately to feel them out and then with the UN's Special Representative, Canadian diplomat Elizabeth Spehar and the rest of the UN's team on an island that's been stagnant for decades.

Lute also was to go to Greece to meet with unspecified officials there as Greece, along with Turkey and the United Kingdom, is a guarantor of security on Cyprus. The Cyprus News Agency said she would talk via video with UK officials too, Cyprus having long been a British colony.