Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu: Cyprus issue must be solved based on good neighborly relations of two states

The Cyprus issue is one of the few unresolved conflicts in Europe. At the moment, there are two states on the island: the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. At the beginning of this month, another round of negotiations on Cyprus failed in Switzerland. We interviewed the Foreign Minister of the TRNC, Mr. Tahsin Ertugruloglu. We offer to your attention the interview with him.

After the talks in Switzerland did not yield any results some politicians and experts have been expressing that the current basis cannot continue. What is your opinion? Is a settlement in Cyprus put aside? 

Regretfully, as far as the solution of the Cyprus problem is considered we are still at the same point we were back in 1963. The partnership Republic of Cyprus which was established in 1960 survived only 3 years as the Greek Cypriots never accepted the Turkish Cypriot people as their equal partners. Greek Cypriot side forcibly expelled the Turkish Cypriot partner from all the state organs, exposing them to inhuman isolations, sieging them into enclaves and eventually forcing them to leave their home country. After 11 years, in 1974, Greek Cypriots tried to get rid of the Turkish Cypriots remaining on the island through a massacre. Turkey intervened based on its rights and obligations deriving from the Treaty of Guarantee and Alliance liberating the Turkish Cypriot people. De facto peace was brought to the island on this date.

Negotiations with the aim of reaching a sustainable settlement respecting the interests of the both sides have continued since 1968. The negotiations which have lasted almost 50 years has come to an end following the latest series of conferences, namely the first conference on Cyprus which took place on 12 January 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland and the second Conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana between 28 June and 7 July 2017. As is the common practice, Conferences on Cyprus failed due to the reluctance of the Greek Cypriot side to get into a new partnership with the Turkish Cypriot side based on power-sharing and political equality. In fact, this was no surprise.

Today, we are observing that the Greek Cypriot side has maintained its stance since 1963. Unfortunately the Greek Cypriot side maintain its intention to extend its authority over the whole island and maintain the sole control over the partnership Republic it had unilaterally usurped in 1963 to this date and regretfully does not give up its intentions to extend its authority over the whole island.

The current process under the auspices of the Mission of Good Offices with the aim of reaching a settlement based on the UN parameters of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality has collapsed. All the efforts towards this end did not yield any results. As the recent process has proven to be a failure, it needs to be acknowledged that a settlement on this basis is not possible. Expecting to reach different result following the same path is far from reality. Hence, it is not meaningful to insist on the Mission of Good Offices of the UN and the UN parameters.  Turkish Cypriot People does not have 50 more years to loose. I believe that this period needs to be utilized to put the Cyprus problem on a realistic ground based on good neighborly relations of two states.

Does the TRNC have any alternative plans in the case of the Greek Cypriot side’s insistence on their demands?  

50 year-long negotiation process has shown that the respective positions and the visions of the two sides on the resolution of the Cyprus issue are diametrically opposed. Despite the sincere efforts of the Turkish Cypriots, as one of the co-owners of the Island, to reach a sustainable settlement based on equal partnership, the Greek Cypriot side, claiming that Cyprus is an Helenic land, followed an hegemonicapproach which strongly opposed a settlement that puts the Turkish Cypriots on an equal basis with them. It is clear that the Greek Cypriot approach is legally, politically and historically unacceptable and baseless. A change in the Greek Cypriot position is not expected in the aftermath of Crans-Montana.

Geography compels the two politically equal peoples of Cyprus to be in a good neighborly relations and find mutual accommodation to their problems. Having failed all efforts to do this through a federal partnership, we must now direct our efforts to finding new and realistic ways to promote mutual respect and peaceful co-existence as good neighbors. This is both our vision and responsibility to future generations.

During the talks in Switzerland, the Greek Cypriot side has leaked information to the media. In fact this is part of the information propaganda of the Greek Cypriot Administration and the Greek Lobby against Turkey and TRNC. Is there any initiative against this on the side of Turkey and TRNC? 

Turkish Cypriots are not out of options. TRNC is continuing its consultations/evaluations with Motherland Turkey. Respecting the interests of both Turkish Cypriots, as an inseparable part of Turkish nation, and Motherland Turkey, we will continue to follow our common path.

The Greek Cypriot side does not refrain from utilizing every possible step in order to strengthen its own position and impose its own parameters upon Turkish Cypriots. We call the international community to acknowledge this insincere approach of the Greek Cypriot side which have dominated the 50-year long negotiation process.  ​

A new phase is being entered with the end of the current process. We have to build the future of Cyprus taking into account the realities, which are acknowledged by all concerned, of the island. Peace and tranquility is prevailing in Cyprus since 1974. This stability has contributed to the development of both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots as well as helping to create an environment where both peoples live in prosperity. There are two separate democracies, two separate States on the island. The only way to continue this stability and continue the development of both Peoples goes through finding ways to enable the two States to live side by side in peace. We sincerely believe that, there exists many possible areas of cooperation within the spirit of good neighborly relations.

As you would remember, during the Annan Plan referendum, Mr. Günther Verheugen, the Enlargement Commissioner of that time, promised to lift the isolations on the Turkish Cypriots. Nevertheless, this promise has quickly been forgotten. Do you think that this promise needs to be reminded to European Union especially after the Greek Cypriot’s sabotage of the negotiations? 

A reflection of the Greek Cypriot side’s insincerity at the negotiation table is their efforts to isolate the Turkish Cypriot people while the negotiation process continue.  The Turkish Cypriot people have faced unjust and inhuman isolations. These isolations, which are against all international norms and rights, are not only hampering normalization of the relations but also served to expand the gap of confidence between two peoples of the Island. There is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of the international community to urgently remove these unwarranted and undeserved restrictions. We call on the international community in general and European Union, to immediately take this long-standing humanitarian and ethical responsibility.


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