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The partition of Cyprus has led to more and more problems



           


Recep Tayyip Erdogan travelled to the TRNC where he paraded with the new pro-Turkish president (photo: Turkish Presidency).
Recep Tayyip Erdogan travelled to the TRNC where he paraded with the new pro-Turkish president (photo: Turkish Presidency).
CYPRUS / TURKEY. "There are two peoples and two separate states in Cyprus. There must be talks for a solution on the basis of two separate states". The Cyprus issue has a new twist with this statement by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sunday 15 November 2020 at Lefkoşa (North Nicosia). According to him, "it is impossible to establish a partnership with the Greek Cypriots ... Our priority is to ensure a lasting solution to the Cypriot cause, which guarantees the legitimate rights and security of the Turkish people of Northern Cyprus". Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated in his speech that he would no longer accept "diplomatic games" in the Eastern Mediterranean.

A visit to the northern Mediterranean island was described as "an unprecedented provocation" by Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union. All the more so as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, much to the chagrin of Greek Cypriots, wanted to "go picnicking at Maraş " (Turkish name for Varosha, the southern district of the city of Famagusta), after attending a military parade in Nicosia celebrating the 37th anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Heavy rains prevented him from going to the beach.

This seaside town has been a ghost town sacrificed on the altar of partition between the two parts of Cyprus for forty-six years. Abandoned, the Turkish army forbade access to it. Before, during the presidential campaign of October 2020, the nationalist Ersin Tatar unilaterally decided to reopen it to the public under military protection.

"If the rightful owners appeal to the real estate commission, compensation will be paid in exchange for their properties," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday 15 November 2020, addressing Greek Cypriots who have lost everything in the city. This statement underlines his will to make Varosha live again without them, therefore under Turkish control. "This place has remained closed for years, but it is time to take initiatives. It is a fair sharing of the island's resources that has never been granted to Turkish Cypriots," he continued.

Umbrellas deployed on Varosha's beaches will certainly provide shade at the nearby seaside resort of Ayía Nápa, located in the Greek part of the island, which was in full operation before the coronavirus. "We cannot accept the injustice suffered by the Turkish Cypriots during the negotiations that took place in the past to resolve the crisis. From this day on, we are obliged to act on our own, and this step we took in Varosha is the beginning of a new stage," the Turkish president said.

Cyprus has for decades been a dividing point between the EU (the Republic of Cyprus has been a member state since May 2004) and Turkey. History is struggling to heal the wound caused by the attempted annexation of Cyprus in 1974 by the generals' regime in Greece, followed by Turkey's invasion of its northern part (see box below). It was rekindled with the discovery of gas deposits off the Cypriot coast in disputed maritime areas between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.

Since 2017, and talks organised under the aegis of the UN, the two sides are no longer talking. The international community proposed then, and this is still its position, a reunification of the island with the adoption of a federalist system to spare each of the populations: Greek Cypriots in the south (1.26 million inhabitants) and Turkish Cypriots in the north (315 000). The affair could have been sealed a few weeks ago with the results of a presidential election in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), self-proclaimed on 15 November 1983 and only recognised by Turkey. But on 18 October 2020, the pro-Turkish candidate Ersin Tatar obtained, against all odds, victory at the ballot box (51.74% of the vote) beating his opponent, Mustafa Akinci, outgoing president and favorable, since 2015, to a federal state. A position shared by his "counterpart" of the South Nicos Anastasiades.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan categorically rejects this federalist solution with a colourful phrase: "you can't dry today's laundry with yesterday's sun".

The TRNC under infusion from Ankara

UN peacekeepers keep the peace in Cyprus (photo UNFICYP)
UN peacekeepers keep the peace in Cyprus (photo UNFICYP)
30,000 Turkish troops are deployed in northern Cyprus. This part of the Mediterranean island, considered by the European Union as occupied territory, lives under an infusion from Ankara. Recep Tayyip Erdogan reminded the now former president of the TRNC in 2015. "Mr. President does not realize well what he says," he said, calling him to order after his desire for independence from Ankara. "Every year we contribute one billion dollars" to the budget of the TRNC," he continued before concluding "we have paid a heavy price and that's precisely why we are the mother country. Turkey finances most of the investments (roads, hospitals...). It has also granted 19.5 M$ to the TRNC to fight against Covid-19, even building an emergency hospital at Lefkoşa (Nicosia North) in forty-five days.

The new president of the north of the island, Ersin Tatar, was not mistaken in his speech of 15 November 2020: "we know how we got here. Turkey was the only support for our fathers and grandfathers when they fought bravely for freedom and against Greek expansion".
 
Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls for "an equitable sharing of the island's resources (which) has never been granted to the Turkish Cypriots". Hence his insistence on continuing hydrocarbon explorations.

On 2 November 2020, Ersin Tatar and Nicos Anastasiades met for the first time in Nicosia, under the auspices of Elizabeth Spehar, UN Special Representative in Cyprus. A simple contact according to the UN communiqué. The text nevertheless states that the two leaders "expressed their determination to respond positively to the commitment of the UN Secretary-General to explore the possibility of holding a 5+UN meeting, in a conducive atmosphere, at an appropriate time". The very recent statements by the Turkish President may well put an end to this hope.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded, at the end of September 2020, when the European Union threatened him with sanctions for his drilling activities, the holding of a regional conference to settle territorial disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus should feature prominently in this conference. Meanwhile, it is advancing its pawns.

Four years between the independence of Cyprus and its division

Only four years after gaining independence from the United Kingdom in August 1960, history is already beginning to take off in Cyprus. This Mediterranean island, with secularly antagonistic neighbours (it belonged to the Ottoman Empire until the end of the First World War), saw its first fracture in 1964 with violent tensions between its Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking citizens.

The United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey, guarantors of its independence by treaty in 1960, were then pressing for its independence. The last two were a little too violent to the point of causing a split between the South and the North in 1974. On the maps it then materialised in the form of a green line (the Atilla line for the Turks, named after their commander of the occupation forces Attila Sav). This dematerialised zone is controlled by the Blue Helmets of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP - 904 men) created in 1964.
 
In February 1975 the "Turkish Federated State of Cyprus" was created. In 1983, it will become the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), self-proclaimed and recognised only by Turkey.
 
At the origin of this separatist upsurge and of the 180 km long ceasefire line disguised as a "pseudo" border, there was friction throughout the 1960s between the two communities, which created sparks. Until the embers of the still glowing embers were set ablaze on 15 July 1974 by the authoritarian regime in Athens with a coup d'état, via the National Guard, to replace Cypriot President Makàrios III (Mikhaíl Khristodoúlou Moúskos, Archbishop and Primate of the Church of Cyprus) with another more favourable to the annexation of Cyprus by Greece.
 
Doctrine emanating from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Enosis (from the Greek "Union") was born in 1878 during the English colonisation of Cyprus, and aimed to reunite with Greece all the islands and regions where the Greeks were in the majority.

The counterfire was ignited by Turkey five days later. Adorning itself with the terms of the treaty of guarantee and thus its will to protect the interests of the Turkish minority, Ankara sent its army to invade the north of the island. It was the swan song of the dictatorship of the colonels, because this crisis sealed its end and the arrival of a democratic regime.

But in Cyprus, the shock wave continued with, between 1974 and 1975, a crossfire between the Greek Cypriots residing (some 200,000) in the 37% of Cyprus now controlled by the Turks and the Turkish Cypriots living in the other part. Not to mention those who went into exile in Great Britain and the arrival of Turkish settlers (93,000 recorded in 2003) from Anatolia in the North. These internal and external exoduses still weigh heavily in the negotiations with the problem of reparations and return.
 
Since then, and despite the condemnation by a UN resolution in November 1983, the north of the island has been governed by the RCTN secured by the presence of 30,000 Turkish soldiers on its soil.

In 1977, the UN had tried to start a political process that has since failed. 2017 will have marked the last hope to date with unsuccessful talks (the sixth round).

F.D.

 



Frédéric Dubessy


Tuesday, November 17th 2020


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