Turkish Cypriots protest against Turkish Austerity Steps
Thousands of Turkish Cypriots marched on Wednesday against Ankara-inspired spending cuts as mounting dissent strained ties with Turkey and threatened to hit reunification talks with Greek Cypriots.
More than 40,000 protesters, angry about what they believe are efforts by Turkey to exert more control over the isolated statelet, gathered at Inonu Square inside ancient Venetian walls in the city’s northern Turkish section in what is believed to be one of the largest demonstrations ever in North Cyprus.
Many waved banners reading, ‘This is our country, let’s run it ourselves’ and ‘Take your hands off Turkish Cypriots’.
Others waved flags of the Republic of Cyprus, something that sparked the ire of Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan when it happened in a previous demonstration in January
They said an economic austerity package blamed on Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan erodes their ability to govern themselves effectively.
The $4 billion economy of Turkish-held north Cyprus, under a trade embargo since it broke from the internationally recognised Greek-dominated Cypriot republic, relies on some $600 million worth of financial aid Ankara provides annually.
Ankara wants the Turkish Cypriot administration, recognised only by Turkey, to cut its budget deficit and rein in public finances, reducing the vast public sector, slashing salaries and selling loss-making state companies.
‘We want to rule ourselves. We don’t have what counts as real sovereignty over this land, even though this is our country,’ said Salih Pilli, 64, who is retired.
Turkey is under pressure to open trade links and normalise relations with European Union member Cyprus, if it is to advance its own faltering bid to join the bloc.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots are now engaged in the latest round of long-running, United Nations-backed reunification talks that have defied a solution for decades.
Tensions with Turkey grew with a first rally on Jan 28 in Nicosia, at which thousands protested against public spending cuts, prompting Erdogan to accuse the community of double standards for accepting Turkey’s financial assistance.
Some Turkish Cypriots believe the cuts are an effort by Ankara to exert more direct rule over the administration.
Turkish forces invaded Cyprus in 1974 after a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup aimed at union with Greece. It keeps some 30,000 troops in the northern third of the Mediterranean island and refuses to recognise the Cypriot government in the south.