Wednesday

16th Jun 2021

Turkish Cypriots seek EU help on peace process

  • Varosha: The golden strip is now a ghost town (Photo: michael kirian)

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu is urging the EU to give his people a greater role in upcoming talks on the 45-year-old Cypriot conflict.

Eroglu met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele and a handful of ambassadors from some of the larger EU member states in Brussels on Thursday (25 July).

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His spokesman, and the Turkish Cypriots' head negotiator in the talks, Osman Ertug, told EUobserver that Greek Cypriots are using EU structures to pass on their own solutions on the conflict directly to Ankara.

“They are trying to use the European Union as a vehicle to send some proposals to Turkey, not to us … It is the Turkish Cypriots that they should address," he said.

“It is condescending - that is the wrong message,” he added.

The island has been divided between the Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded amid a Greek coup, in events with roots in 19th century British colonialism.

Both sides suffered heavy death tolls at the time.

Some 180,000 Cypriots, or a third of the Greek population, were also expelled from their homes and driven across the line to the south.

With the UN-mediated talks due to restart later this year, possibly in October, Ertug voiced frustration with lack of progress over the past four and a half decades.

He said the status quo has forced the north into isolation, due to trade embargoes and lack of access to an international airport.

But he has little faith the Greek Cypriots are willing to share wealth or power with his side.

“That is based not just on historic reasons but also on the present approach of the current leadership, which has so far been proven to be no different from the previous,” he said.

He accused the Greek Cypriots of raising tensions in the run-up to October by using US and Italian firms to drill for gas in disputed maritime territory.

He said they plan to buy two Israeli warships to guard the operations.

He noted that recent Greek Cypriot legislation which bans the use of Turkish names in official documents has not helped.

Amid the mistrust, he also floated the idea of a two-state solution instead of the EU-and-UN-backed idea of reunification.

“We are at a point where the Greek Cypriot side has to decide whether they will start the negotiations with us in a result-oriented manner as soon as possible with the intention to resolve the Cyprus issue once and for all,” he said.

"It is time to bury the hatchet,” he added.

Turkey calls the shots

A Cypriot source close to the issue, who did not want to be named, told this website that the Greek side wants dialogue with Ankara because Turkey makes all the decisions.

“Sixty percent of the budget of the Cypriot Turkish is covered directly by Ankara,” he noted.

With 40,000 Turkish troops and a large Turkish minority in the territory, the contact said establishing a foothold with Ankara via the EU is part of a broader effort to help broker a practical solution.

“We have no problems with the Turkish Cypriots, we have the same way of living, of thinking, we have only problems with Turkey’s policy,” he said.

The contact denied that Nicosia is planning to buy Israeli warships.

But he said any future gas platforms, which are to be shared with Israel, off the Cypriot coast may need military protection.

“We are working very closely with Israel. Our co-operation is based on common interest in hydrocarbons, of course the Turkish Cypriots have a right to these hydrocarbons and they can exercise that right after a solution has been found,” he noted.

Meanwhile, another bone of contention is Varosha.

Part of the divided city of Famagusta, the Varosha strip was once a favoured party spot for the rich and famous.

It is now part of Turkish Cyprus, but it is also a ghost town, with crumbling beachside hotels.

Ertug says Varosha can only be part of a comprehensive settlement, and that its fate cannot be decided in separate negotiations.

“Varosha is a very valuable piece of territory, it’s like our trump card, in a way,” he told this website.

The Nicosia gambit

For his part, the Cypriot contact says Greek Cypriots plan to put forward a "win-win" proposal in the new peace talks.

They want Varosha to be run by the UN in order to expedite its reconstruction.

In return, they will open trade with the port in Famagusta and allow the Cypriot Turkish side to export directly to the EU market.

The port is currently under Turkish military guard and is being used by the Turkish Cypriots, but it is not internationally recognised.

They also want Turkey itself to open its airports and ports to Greek Cypriots - if Ankara agrees, then Cyprus will lift its 2009 veto against Turkey’s accession to the EU.

“We want a reunified Cyprus and we need a game changer and a step towards a solution,” the contact said.

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