Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s barnstorming style might go down well with his Turkish supporters but in international affairs he behaves more like a bull in a china shop. While Turkey is exerting every effort to revive accession talks with the EU,
Erdoğan recently called on Vladimir Putin to allow Turkey into the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and save it from the trouble of EU talks.
Despite the fact that Turkey in July 2005 signed the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, extending the customs union to 10 new member states (including Cyprus), Prime Minister Erdoğan has declared “There is no country called Cyprus. There is the local administration of south Cyprus.” Obviously, there is something Mr Erdoğan has misunderstood.
Since the Turkish invasion in 1974, the northern part of the island has been occupied by Turkish forces and according to the 1960 Treaty of Establishment the United Kingdom occupies two Sovereign Base Areas, Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
In other words, 40 percent of the Republic of Cyprus is under foreign occupation. Nevertheless, when Cyprus became a member of the EU in 2004, it was the whole island that became a member, as northern Cyprus was considered to be “those areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control”.
Notwithstanding the Turkish Prime Minister’s objections, according to international law the government of the ROC is still considered the sole legal representative of the island, although the Turkish-controlled north declared the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” in 1983. Turkey is still the only state that recognizes the TRNC, which has observer status in the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation).
Furthermore, in 1984 the UN Security Council in Resolution 550 called on all states “not to recognise the purported state of the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ set up by secessionist acts and calls upon them not to facilitate or in any way assist the aforesaid secessionist entity”.
In 2009 the British High Court confirmed that according to the Chicago Convention the Republic of Cyprus enjoys exclusive sovereignty over its entire territory as well as its airspace and adjacent territorial waters, which explains why it is imperative for Turkey to secure recognition for the TRNC and open the north to international flights. To add to the confusion, the TRNC operates its own air traffic control, which poses a clear threat to air safety.
Getting it wrong
The main obstacle to Cyprus’ reunification is Turkey’s refusal to relinquish control of the island, which has been a constant aim of Turkish foreign policy since the Nihat Erim report in 1956. This has later been confirmed by other Turkish leaders since Adnan Menderes, not least by the present architect of Turkish foreign policy, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who stated in his key work “Strategic Depth” in 2001: “Even if there was not one single Muslim Turk over there, Turkey would have to maintain a Cyprus question. No country could possibly be indifferent to an island like this, placed in the heart of its vital space.”
Cyprus’ power-sharing constitution collapsed in 1963 only three years after independence and the subsequent intercommunal fighting led to the withdrawal of the Turkish Cypriots to enclaves, where they suffered considerable hardship in the following years. A heroic effort by British naval officer Martin Packard, who in a tripartite team tried to reconcile the two sides, was met with the following remark by US Under Secretary George Ball: “Very impressive, but you’ve got it all wrong, son. Hasn’t anyone told you our objective here is partition, not reintegration?”
Intercommunal talks began in 1968 with the focus on local autonomy for the Turkish Cypriots but after the Turkish invasion in 1974 - in response to the coup instigated by the Greek junta – the search for a federal solution began. At the ensuing conference in Geneva the Turkish proposal to establish a federal state, where the two communities could live in an independent, sovereign and territorially integral island, was rejected by the Greek Cypriots. It was not until the high-level agreements of 1977 and 1979 that agreement was reached between the two parties on the establishment of a bi-communal and bi-zonal federation to end the division of the island.
For the last 34 years often fruitless negotiations have billowed to and fro under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General on the implementation of these agreements.
In 1990 the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş torpedoed the conceptual basis for negotiations when he replaced the term “communities” with “peoples” and talked of “constituent republics”.
When the present Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu took over in 2010, he wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, underlining “the principle of equal sovereignty of the two peoples”, which caused Ban Ki-moon to question whether Eroğlu retracted from the agreed issues of single sovereignty and citizenship. However, Eroğlu’s position is entirely synonymous with Turkey’s. Former Turkish Minister for Cyprus Cemil Çiçek has stated that two separate states, two separate republics and two equal peoples are the parameters for Turkey’s solution of the Cyprus problem.
Despite the battered state of the Cypriot economy, the new government under the hands-on leadership of Nicos Anastasiades is now making a determined effort to put the antagonisms of the past behind them and create a sound basis for the reunification of both communities under a federal umbrella. Unfortunately, the first step, a joint statement of the aims and principles underlying what should be the final round of talks, has been stymied by the continued Turkish Cypriot insistence on founding states, separate sovereignty and “residual powers” to decide on matters like citizenship.
In his eulogy at the funeral of former president Glafcos Clerides, Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades said it is time for Cypriots to move beyond the passions and hatreds of the past “because we deserve a better future”. This can only be achieved if Turkey allows them to.
Cyprus: Getting it right