NICOSIA — He’s already rejected the idea of reunification, but Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar helped launch an initiative to give women an equal say in any talks – none are scheduled – to solve the dilemma of the divided island.
He jointed Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, whose government is a member of the European Union, in kicking off the plan at a United Nations compound off the abandoned Nicosia airport.
That’s inside a 180-kilometer-long (112-mile) buffer zone that cuts across the island where Turkish-Cypriots have occupied the northern third since two unlawful 1974 Turkish invasions seized the territory.
The hardline nationalist Tatar, who took office in October, 2020 elections that ousted moderate Mustafa Akinci – who sought reunification but failed – has rejected bringing the two sides together.
Tatar wants the United Nations and world to accept the isolated side that’s a self-declared republic, but which no other country in the world apart from Turkey recognizes, and where it keeps a 35,000-strong standing army.
Efforts to reunify Cyprus and potentially unlock the speedy exploitation of natural gas deposits off the island’s southern coastline to European markets have remained stalled over a number of issues.
The last round of negotiations collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish army would never leave and as they demanded the right to further invade the Greek-Cypriot side.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots accuse the Greek-Cypriots of being unwilling to share power in an envisioned federation.’
Anastasiades offered to share 30 percent of potentially lucrative energy revenues with foreign companies licensed to drill offshore, but Turkey sent its own drilling vessels and warships there for a competing hunt and rejected his offer.
Greek-Cypriots fear a bid by Turkey to place the entire island under its control through demands for a permanent troop presence, military intervention rights and a Turkish-Cypriot veto at all decision-making levels even though they make up less than 20 percent of the population.
Despite the deadlock, the initiative is seen as a small, but notable step forward in helping revive peace talks although foreign female diplomats and envoys have been involved in trying to solve the intractable problem but also failed.
The initiative was set in motion following a UN Security Council resolution in 2021 calling for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in the peace process that hasn’t happened and no explanation why.
A UN statement said a committee made up of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish- Cypriots was given the job of bolstering gender equality will reach out to women’s organizations, youth groups and others for their views on including gender perspectives in an unlikely renewed peace drive.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was at the Crans-Montana debacle and became the latest in a long line of its leaders to fail to make any real progress in bringing the island together and issued a report blaming nobody for anything.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)