NICOSIA -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to the resort of Varosha on the occupied side of Cyprus could end hopes for reunification the island, more than 46 years after Turkey seized the northern third in an unlawful invasion.
A long line of diplomats, envoys, representatives, politicians and United Nations leaders have failed to bring the two sides together, the prospects already dim after the last round of talks collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
Those fell apart after Erdogan and the-then leader of the Turkish-Cypriot side, Mustafa Akinci, said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side and wanted the right of military intervention.
When Erdogan sent energy drill ships and warships off the island to hunt for oil and gas, ignoring soft European Union sanctions, hopes fell even further and now his visit to Varosha, where he said two separate states is the only solution could be the killer.
A New York Times piece on his visit to a spot where he opened a beach front ahead of October elections for a new Turkish-Cypriot leader – which led to his pick of hardline nationalist Ersin Tatar, ousting Akinci – said he stoked worries.
That could lead to permanent partition after he rejected the long-discussed idea of a federation of two sides with a central government after the Turkish side had rejected concessions offered by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
The capital of Nicosia is separated by a buffer zone known as the Green Line and Erdogan said there were “two different peoples” on the island with “two different democratic orders,” adding to the frustration.
Erdogan’s visit came on the 37th anniversary of what Turkey has called the territory’s “independence,” and where he was accompanied by Tatar, who openly said he would follow the Turkish leader's bidding.
The United Nations Security Council called for a reversal of the Varosha beach reopening, saying it was concerned the area’s reopening would raise tensions, with the Cypriot government anxious Turkey could then open the resort and try to rebuild it, violating UN resolutions that only the original occupants could return again.
Cyprus’s government said that Mr. Erdogan’s decision to make the trip on the “dark anniversary” of “the declaration of the illegal regime” showed Turkey’s lack of respect for international law and European values. It said the visit would “torpedo” efforts by the United Nations to negotiate a solution to the dispute.
Erdogan said that, “No equation in the Eastern Mediterranean in which Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are not fairly included can produce peace and stability,” he said, referring to the name Turkey uses for an area only it recognizes.