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Turkish-Cypriots Urged to Rebuff Ankara, Push Unity Hopes

NICOSIA – Cyprus’ legitimate government wants Turkish-Cypriots to turn against their homeland and urge resumption of unity talks that collapsed when Turkey insisted on keeping an army on the island.

The call came from Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides who told journalists he was delivering a message in a bid to convince Turkish-Cypriots the only solution is for them to get behind unity and push for new talks.’

The negotiations at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in Switzerland in July between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci fell apart and there has been bad blood between them after hopes soared when they started talking two years ago.

Turkey, which unlawfully invaded the island in 1974 and occupied the northern third only it recognizes, is now resorting to plans to try to end the international isolation of Turkish-Cypriots at the same time Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who wants to join the European Union, to which Cyprus belongs – won’t recognize the government and bars Cypriot ships and planes.

Said to be on the agenda of Erdogan, who has near-dictatorial powers, are unilateral measures to allow the return of Maronites to villages – under Turkish rule – and open the abandoned area of Varosha in the once-famed resort town of Famagusta, locked away for 43 years.

Turkish-Cypriot teachers recently complained about the creeping religious influences coming from Turkey, saying there were more mosques than schools in the north and more young people were being influenced into religious schools, the Cyprus Mail said.

After the talks failure, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country would look at options other than unity and outside the United Nations involvement. A number of UN envoys have failed to make any progress. The UN keeps a peacekeeping force on the island between the two sides.

“We were led to the result in Crans-Montana because of the Turkish side’s position at the negotiating table. So the continuation of negotiations depends on Turkey’s approach only,” Cavusoglu, essentially declaring Turkey would rule any negotiations and only its side should be taken, a likely death knell for negotiations.

Christodoulides though said there’s a better option. “The message to the Turkish Cypriot forces seeking the reunification of our country is that it is time to react to all of these actions such as the prohibition of the operation in Ayios Mamas, a move designed to distance Greek and Turkish Cypriots,” referring to the cancellation of services at the Morphou church because it clashed with the Islamic holiday of Kurban Bayram.

“We are not a pseudo-government. We are Cyprus, an EU Member State and move within the framework of EU principles and values and will not pursue tactics aimed at any prohibitions on Turkish Cypriots, he said.

“I am convinced that the majority of Turkish Cypriots want a future in a reunified country, in an EU member state, and not a future with Turkey,” Christodoulides concluded.

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