NICOSIA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's provocative visit to the abandoned resort of Varosha on Cyprus, where he opened a beach front and said there should be two states on the island, could close the door on reunification talks.
Varosha is on the occupied northern third of the island seized in an unlawful 1974 invasion, Turkey still keeping a 35,000-strong standing army while also drilling for oil and gas off the island, another obstacle to negotiations.
While there, with the newly-elected Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, a nationalist hardliner who said he would follow Erdogan's policies, the Turkish President rejected discussing a bizonal communal federation that had been the basis of all negotiations since 1977 under a United Nations framework.
A federation, or federal state, is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government.
The two-state plan would have two independent governments on the island, where the legitimate Cypriot government is a member of the European Union that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005 while not recognizing Cyprus and barring its ships and planes.
Only Turkey recognizes the self-declared republic on the occupied side, which remains isolated from the world, all diplomatic efforts failing for decades, the last round of talks collapsing in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
Those fell apart when Erdogan and the former Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, a moderate whom Erdogan helped lose the election by opening the Varosha beach, said the Turkish army would stay and as they demanded the right of further military intervention.
Opening the beach on Varosha defied UN resolutions but Erdogan has shown he doesn't care what the international community thinks and has continued drilling off the island despite soft EU sanctions exempting him.
Erdogan said Turkey would continue “resolutely exploring and drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean until a fair solution is found within the framework we set,” after he said Turkey wouldn't make concessions.
“Today in Cyprus there are two different peoples, two democratic regimes and two different states. As Tatar has stated, a solution with two states on the basis of sovereign equality must now be negotiated,” he added.
That led to disapproval from the governments on Cyprus, Greece, Germany and with the EU's foreign chief Josep Borrell also critical, but carefully so with the bloc fearful of provoking Erdogan in fear he will unleash more refugees and migrants through Greece.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy rejected criticism from the EU and said the UN resolutions mean nothing to Turkey, suggesting others could be defied that required only the original inhabits of Varosha be allowed to return.
“In the last elections, the Turkish-Cypriot people clearly expressed their will to negotiate the solution model of the two states. Everyone, including the EU, must respect this will,” he also said.
He said Borrell’s views had “once again revealed how disconnected the EU is from the realities on the island and exposed the fact that it ignores the free will” of Turkish-Cypriots, said Kathimerini.
“A fair, lasting and sustainable settlement is only possible if it is based on the will of the two peoples who are the co-owners of the island,” Aksoy said, accusing the EU of ignoring the existence and rights of Turkish-Cypriots.
“The bi-communal, bi-zonal federal settlement model has been tried for more than 50 years in Cyprus, and it has not yielded any results because the Greek Cypriot side does not consider the Turkish-Cypriot people as an equal partner and does not want to share the power and the wealth,” he also said.