The president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on Monday highlighted the necessity of having an internationally recognized state for Turkish Cypriots and ensuring a lasting solution to the island’s decadeslong problems.
Speaking via video link with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President Ersin Tatar said late Monday that a possible solution on Cyprus must be established “on the basis of the existing two states and sovereign equality,” according to TRNC spokesperson Berna Çelik Doğruyol.
Noting that the conversation between Guterres and Tatar was constructive and sincere, Doğruyol said the Turkish Cypriot president stressed the equal status of the two sides on Cyprus as an accepted historical fact.
“Our president stated that in the face of today’s realities and the unchanging dominant mentality of the Greek side, a new negotiation ground is needed in Cyprus, and that a just, realistic and sustainable consensus must be established based on the cooperation of two states with equal sovereignty and equal international status,” she said.
The statement said Guterres would “prefer” a 5+U.N. informal meeting on Cyprus – including both sides of the island and the guarantor countries – to be held in New York, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the date and time of such a meeting have yet to be decided.
Meanwhile, in a recorded message broadcast at a joint online webinar by the Circle Foundation, the Council of Turkish Cypriots Association and the British Turkish Cypriots Association, President Tatar said Turkish Cypriots were equal to their Greek counterparts in 1960 as one of the two founding people groups of the Republic of Cyprus.
But “unfortunately, in 1964, after the Turkish Cypriots were kicked out by the EOKA movement and Makarios forces, the Republic of Cyprus continued to be recognized as the only recognized state, which was obviously occupied by the Greek Cypriots.”
“Since then, the Turkish Cypriots have been running their own state,” Tatar said, adding that “we have been separated” from the Greek Cypriots since 1960.
The EOKA was a pan-Hellenic armed movement aiming to unify Cyprus with mainland Greece, and Archbishop Makarios was the former president of the Republic of Cyprus.
Tatar noted that the TRNC was founded in 1983.
“Therefore, we say to the international community that we deserve our own state to be recognized, because throughout history, in a way, we have enjoyed our sovereignty,” Tatar said.
“My policy now, as the newly elected president of the Turkish Cypriots, is that we have two equal, sovereign states on the island because we have been sovereign anyway," he said.
Tatar said many attempts to solve the Cyprus issue have now been “exhausted” because the Greek Cypriots have enjoyed the international recognition of the Republic of Cyprus as the only state on the island and they did not give the needed response to those attempts at reaching a solution based on a federated structure.
“We should have two equal and sovereign states in Cyprus: in the north, the Turkish Cypriot state; in the south, the Greek Cypriot state," he said.
Tatar added that for a lasting solution there should be two states on the island that would recognize each other.
Also sending a message to the same online event, British Foreign Office’s Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas Wendy Morton said Britain supports a solution based on a “bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.”
“As you all be aware, the U.K. continues to support comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue, based on the internationally accepted model of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation as set out in relevant security council resolutions,” Morton said.
“The eventual planning and the topics covered come at a time of increased focus on the U.N. process on a Cyprus settlement, which the U.K. continues to support," she said.
The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turks and Turkey’s intervention as a guarantor power.
Turkey used its guarantor rights to intervene on the island after a far-right military coup sponsored by the military junta, then in power in Athens, sought to unite the island with Greece and toppled President Archbishop Makarios III.
After decades of interethnic violence and terror, mainly targeting the island’s British colonial rulers until independence in 1960, Turkish Cypriots were forced to live in enclaves after Greek Cypriots unilaterally changed the constitution in 1963. The Turkish Cypriot community was stripped of its political rights in violation of the constitution and founding agreements signed in 1959 between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot community leaders and guarantor powers the U.K., Greece and Turkey.
After 1974, the island was divided by a 180-kilometer (120-mile) buffer zone patrolled by the U.N., and crossings apart from those for diplomatic purposes were rare. The TRNC, established in 1983, is only recognized by Turkey and faces a long-standing embargo in commerce, transportation and culture. Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriot administration enjoys recognition by the international community as the Republic of Cyprus was established in 1960, which is a member of the European Union.
In 2003, the TRNC government eased the crossing restrictions for Turkish Cypriot citizens and allowed crossings to be made with identity cards and passports without prior notice, while also easing restrictions for those traveling from Greek Cyprus to Turkish Cyprus. The move was a gesture of normalization and goodwill.
The island has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K.
In 2004, the plan of then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a solution was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots but rejected by the Greek Cypriots in twin referendums.
The 2017 Crans-Montana Conference in Switzerland, held with the participation of the guarantor countries, ended in failure.