NICOSIA – Turkey’s right to intervene militarily in Cyprus is still necessary given recent actions that have fanned insecurity among Turkish Cypriots, the country’s foreign minister said Tuesday.
Mevlut Cavusoglu cited unspecified “attacks” against Turkish Cypriots as an example of why Turkey needs to keep military intervention rights on the ethnically divided island.
Cyprus’ 1960 Constitution gives Turkey, Greece and Britain the right to “take action” to restore constitutional order.
Turkey invoked that right when it invaded in 1974 following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The island has since then been split into breakaway Turkish-speaking north and an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south.
A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.
“Turkish Cypriots want guarantees and when we see these things, I think they’re right,” Cavusoglu said after talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
Fearing Turkish might, Greek Cypriots strongly oppose Turkish troops and intervention rights staying in place as part of a peace deal and propose an international police force instead.
Cavusoglu also mentioned controversial legislation that would make commemorating a 1950 vote to unite Cyprus with Greece mandatory in Greek Cypriot schools.
The legislation, which passed earlier this month, rankled with Turkish Cypriots and caused ongoing reunification talks to break off, with Akinci and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades trading accusations about who walked out on whom.
Akinci again urged Anastasiades to get the legislation rescinded so peace talks can move forward.
“This mistake has to be fixed,” said Akinci. He said Turkish Cypriots were united in their condemnation of the legislation because they see the pre-indendence drive by the majority Greek Cypriots for union with Greece — for which they waged a four-year guerrilla campaign against British colonial rule — as the root of Cyprus’ current woes.
The two leaders are scheduled to meet on Thursday as part of peace talks, but it’s unclear if that meeting will happen.
“If he means what he says about wishing for a Cyprus settlement, then he should drop the pretexts,” Anastasiades said, referring to Akinci. He added that it’s the first time that talks have been halted because of a “minor, insignificant issue.”