NICOSIA — Undercutting upcoming talks before they begin, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said reunification of Cyprus divided by a 1974 Turkish invasion is off the table, demanding two states.
That would bring recognition for the self-declared republic on the occupied northern third where Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong standing army in a European Union country, only the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government accepted.
Talks for the first time since the last round collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana were set to gingerly begin, involving Cyprus, the United Nations and the three guarantors of security: Greece, Turkey and the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which has military bases on the island.
But Cavusoglu indicated they are futile from the get-go because Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots no longer want to talk about reunification, a stance backed by hardline Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.
Any deal should be negotiated between two equal sovereign states, said Cavusoglu, throwing a monkey wrench into the works ahead of a meeting that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres planned in March.
That wouldn’t be a negotiation, only feeling out both sides to see if there’s any chance of resuming reunification talks that Turkey now said it doesn’t want, essentially making the meeting moot.
Greek-Cypriots strongly reject any deal that would legitimize the occupied side as Turkey now wants a permanent partition, but also acceptance for the declared republic no other country in the world recognizes.
Cavusoglu said it would be pointless to keep rehashing the idea of a federated Cyprus made up of two separate zones, which has failed to produce any results over five decades of negotiations.
He said Greek-Cypriots must come to terms with the “de facto situation” on the island and negotiate based on “sovereign equality” that would lead to a two-state deal.
“There are already two communities on the island of Cyprus, two peoples, two states. So there is a de facto situation whether they recognize it or not. This needs to be formalized,” Cavusoglu said.
Tatar, elected last October on pledges of a two-state deal and even closer ties with Turkey and would do whatever Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants, any talks already undermined by Turkey drilling for energy in Cypriot waters.
Guterres, who was at the Swiss debacle and has become the latest in a line of UN leaders who couldn’t broker a deal, said his mandate in bringing reunification talks is based on a federation as both sides agreed decades ago.
But he said he’s open to other ideas after generations of failures from diplomats, envoys, representative, politicians and negotiators who haven’t come close to finding an answer.
“The fact that I stick to the mandate I received doesn’t mean that I’m not open to listen to everybody and to take the conclusions of that discussion, based on whatever the parties can come to a common view about the future," Guterres said.
Cavusoglu again blamed Greek-Cypriots of being unwilling to share with Turkish Cypriots the potential wealth from the island's offshore hydrocarbon reserves although Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades offered them 30 percent.
That was rejected by Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots who said they also want a hand in policy decision and taking part in licensing foreign companies also drilling offshore near where Turkish vessels are doing so unlawfully, ignoring EU sanctions.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)