Already undermining resumed exploratory talks with Greece, Turkey is making a stronger move to end any hopes of reunifying Cyprus in favour of two states, which would recognize the occupied northern third seized in an unlawful 1974 invasion.
“We will enter into a deal as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and not as the Turkish Cypriot community,” Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertugruloglu told the news site Al-Monitor. “The road to a settlement passes through the recognition that there are two separate states on the island of Cyprus,” he added.
That call came ahead of uncertain United Nations sponsored talks that would bring together the two sides along with the guarantors of security for the island, Turkey, Greece and the former Colonial ruler The United Kingdom.
The change in tactics, some 3 ½ years after the last round of unity negotiations collapsed at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, came after hardliner Ersin Tatar ousted moderate Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in October, 2020 elections.
Tatar was boosted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who insisted on two states, the new leader of the occupied side saying he was in lockstep with the Turkish President’s stance.
Dimitris Katsoudas, a former Greek Secretary-General for European affairs who held a number of government positions under the ruling New Democracy, told Al-Monitor Turkey is likely posturing with its demands for a separate state on Cyprus.
“Turkey will defend the idea of a two-state solution in Cyprus not in order to achieve fully separate states but to achieve a northern Turkish state with a lot of ownership of its own that would be almost independent,” he said.
All previous talks have centered on a federation but while the Turkish-Cypriot side accepted a plan from former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2004 the Greek-Cypriot side defeated it with 76 percent against.
“The Annan plan was really a chance to end the issue and that was rejected by the Greek-Cypriots. Now there is no trust towards the UN-led initiative,” said Murat Aslan, a former Turkish military intelligence professional.
Marios Evriviades, a Professor of International Relations and history at Neapolis University in Pafos, Cyprus, said the Annan plan failed because it didn’t call for Turkey to remove a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side.
That also led to the Swiss debacle, along with Turkey’s demand for the right of further military intervention – another invasion – when it wanted, leading Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to walk away from the table.
“The Turks want the military presence not for protection but so they can continue plundering the wealth of Cyprus. They won’t allow normality to function,” said Evriviades of what he suggested was a ruse.
Katsoudas said time is slipping away for any solution, which could lead to permanent partition, the issue leading Cyprus to be called the “graveyard of diplomats,” none of whom have come close to getting the two sides together.
“Realities on the island have drastically changed. At the beginning, Turkish-Cypriots were the majority and they had a Cypriot identity. Now the vast majority of the inhabitants are from the hinterland of Anatolia,” he said.
“When the Turks talk about two states they talk about a state in the north which they control and a state in the south that is their satrapy,” he said, a de facto Turkish province although Turkish-Cypriots make up less than 20 percent of the population.
“If you’re not going to give me security I’m not signing any piece of paperwork that gives up the legitimacy of the Cypriot state. The legitimacy of Cyprus is the only real power the Cypriots have,” Evrividades added of the dilemma.