It is a tradition for Turkish presidents and prime ministers to pay their first overseas visits to Northern Cyprus and then to Turkic Republics, especially Azerbaijan, once they take the office. Although not very often, the list of visits may include countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan instead of Azerbaijan.These visits, which show Turkey's foreign policy priorities to the public and diplomatic circles, may change with the diversification of Turkey's strategic priorities in the upcoming period. It will not be surprising if the Balkan countries are included in the list of "first countries to be visited."
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not break this tradition after he was sworn in as president.Before attending the NATO Summit in Wales, he paid visits to Northern Cyprus and Azerbaijan. Erdoğan's visit to Northern Cyprus carries a lot of weight, as a new era begins in Cyprus, where Turkish and Greek Cypriots resume peace negotiations.The most important reason why I call it a new era is because Turkish Cypriots and Turkey are going through a serious emotional break with the EU. In 2004, Turkish Cypriots, who consented to the Annan plan that suggested a two-state federal structure, were disappointed when Greeks, who objected to this plan, were accepted to the EU.It is possible to say that this disappointment deepened further due to unfair practices and international segregation against Northern Cyprus and Turkey. Worse still, the EU has lost credibility in the eyes of Turkish Cypriots and emotional bridges have been broken down.
This emotional breakaway from the EU can be associated with the economic crisis that the EU undergoes and Southern Cyprus's failure to make the expected move.This, of course, does not prevent Turkish Cypriots from coming to the table with Greeks to initiate negotiations. However, it should be underlined that Greek Cypriots' attempts to postpone the reconciliation are not regarded as a major problem like it was before. This emotional break is also reflected in Turkey's Cyprus policy. Turkey pursues a longer-term investment strategy which will boost mutual interdependence and improve Cyprus's economic and social infrastructure. For example, in the upcoming months, Turkey will start to supply potable water from southern Turkey to Northern Cyprus via a pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea. I do not need to elaborate on the significance of potable water for an island which is surrounded by salt water and is devoid of sufficient potable water resources.The next step to be taken is about electricity.Once the water supply project is completed, Turkey will start to transfer electricity to Cyprus in a similar way through the Mediterranean Sea. These two vital projects which will connect Turkey and Cyprus more, will be in favor of Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish government suggested that if Greeks Cypriots want it, they can benefit from Northern Cyprus's water and electricity. Turkey wants them to acknowledge that this is a well-intentioned step for peace, although it finds southern Cyprus's unilateral steps taken in oil and natural gas ill-intentioned.
Ankara is in favor of the continuation of peace talks and the idea of a two-state federal structure. However, it thinks that Southern Cyprus procrastinates peace talks to gain time. Everyone should realize that Erdoğan cannot offer such opportunities forever. Nobody has the right to jerk around Turkey and the international community by extending the U.N. process over a period of time. Ankara says they are running out of patiance and toleration. This indicates that Turkey has come to a new threshold on the Cyprus issue and is seeking a different formula. Turkey has never argued for a de facto application in Cyprus like Russia's annexation of Crimea, but this does not mean that Ankara will not seek other ways of finding a solution.