Shunning Reunification, Turkey Proposes Two-State Solution for Cyprus

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

More than three years after talks to reunify the divided island of Cyprus collapsed, Turkey has turned to suggesting the solution lies in a two-state plan, a notion immediately rejected by the Cypriot government, a member of the European Union.

Turkey has occupied the northern third since an unlawful 1974 invasion and the last round of talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in July, 2017 fell apart after the Turkish side it would never removed a 35,000-strong standing army and wanted the right of military intervention again when it wanted.

Defying soft EU sanctions, Turkey has also been drilling for oil and gas in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) parts of which it doesn't recognize, further undercutting hopes of bringing the island together again.

The legitimate government is a member of the EU that Turkey has been trying to join since 2005, prospects almost all but closed off after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to recognize Cyprus, and bars its ships and planes.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was at the Swiss debacle and later issued a report blaming neither side for anything, said he wanted to try again after the Oct. 11 Presidential elections on the occupied side that's an outlaw state recognized only by Turkey.

In a statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Turkey sees no common ground or vision for a solution in Cyprus, the financial news agency Bloomberg reported.

 If talks aren’t based on equal power-sharing between Greek and Turkish-Cypriots in the island’s governing institutions, “Then there is need for a new negotiation process based on sovereign equality of the two sides,” Aksoy said. “Otherwise, Turkey will not go into a new negotiation process based on methods that proved to be unsuccessful in the past,” he added.

Turkey has previously floated the idea of a two-state solution and now has re-emphasized the idea to get around reunification and try to get on an equal footing with the Greek-Cypriot side.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said “we believe that only an overall solution and a reunification will ensure peace once and for good,” and his government nixed the two-state proposal. 

“Turkey is trying to torpedo, before it even starts, a new effort” by the UN, government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios said in an emailed statement to the news agency.

He said that also ignores the agreement to restart dialogue from where it stopped dead in its tracks with a long line of diplomats, envoys, politicians and peace brokers failing over the decades.

Turkey has changed its tone since the United States partially lifted an arms embargo to let the Cypriots buy non-lethal weapons and planned an American training center on the island that's in a key geo-political position.

Turkey could increase its military presence there, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN-Turk TV as Erdogan has taken a harder line to appease his hard-core nationalist base.

An early September poll of almost 5,000 people showed 81% supported the creation of two equal states, with the rest backing a federation with the Greek Cypriot side, said Murat Gezici, head of the Gezici polling company.

Some of the presidential candidates, including leading contender and self-declared Prime Minister Ersin Tatar, are challenging incumbent President Mustafa Akinci with campaigns focusing on an independent Turkish-Cypriot state.

“Right after the elections, I will bring alternative suggestions for a solution other than a federation,” Tatar told the news agency. “There will be a new era during which our relations will be strengthened with Turkey,” he said, which would likely end reunification hopes and bring permanent partition.