NICOSIA – Turkish-Cypriots are demanding that they be recognized if the collapsed Cyprus unity talks don’t pick up again and leave them on the northern third of the island occupied unlawfully since a 1974 Turkish invasion.
Negotiations between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci fell apart in July at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana over Turkey’s demand to keep an army on the island and the right to militarily intervene when it wanted.
Only Turkey recognizes the territory it seized, leaving Turkish-Cypriots in international isolation. Ozdil Nami, the chief Turkish-Cypriot negotiator in the talks said they needed assurance over what their political status would be if the island isn’t reunified.
“We as the Turkish Cypriot side would insist that the new process, whatever it is going to be, would have to bring clarity to the status of the Turkish Cypriots in international fora,” Nami told Reuters in an interview.
Asked to clarify, Nami said: “It would have to spell out what our political status be, should the Greek Cypriot side once again say ‘no’. Either ‘no’ to taking a deal to referendum, or going to a referendum and saying ‘no’.”
Pressed further on whether that meant Turkish Cypriots should be accorded some form of recognition if a new initiative sank, he said: “Exactly.”
Each side blamed the other for failing to come to terms over what would have been a two-zone federal system keeping them separated but technically unified as a single country.
The legitimate Cypriot government is a member of the European Union that Turkey wants to join while at the same time refusing to recognize Cyprus and barring its ships and planes.
With a slight shift of present boundaries, northern Cyprus would have become a “constituent state” of the new federal system.
“This political ambiguity hovering about our heads for almost 50 years must end,” said Nami whose office is near the so-called Green Line separating Nicosia into two sides.
Thousands of people cross daily from one side to the other. Largely peaceful – apart from serious incidents in 1996 in which several people died – both sides say the status quo is not acceptable.
“We need to change the status quo, it is mutually agreed,” Nami said. “We either change it by finalizing a federal settlement, or we change it some other way. In both scenarios, in a mutually agreed way.”
“No one can convince the Turkish Cypriots to once again engage in negotiations that will be hostage of a Greek Cypriot ‘no’,” Nami said.
Nami said he sensed “huge fatigue” in his community and that he believed the same applied on the Greek Cypriot side.
“I think in order for us to have a credible process we must be able to tell our people this process will have a specific end period, at the end of which, a decision will be taken,” he said. “Otherwise it will be extremely difficult to have the public support necessary behind the process.”