Nicosia, Cyprus – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared to throw into concrete solution a new bid to restart dormant Cyprus reunification talks, saying Sunday that a two-state deal rather than the long-established federal formula is the way forward.
Speaking at commemorations for the 37th anniversary of a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence on war-divided Cyprus, President Erdogan said that a two-state solution must be negotiated given that there are “two separate peoples and states” on the island.
“A two-state solution must be discussed and negotiated on the bases of sovereign equality,” said Erdogan, who accused Greek Cypriots of sabotaging and dynamiting progress.
He also said Turkey’s hydrocarbons prospecting in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights would continue “until a fair settlement is reached.”
Erdogan affirmed repeated calls from his subordinates as well as the new elected leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Ersin Tatar, to pursue a two-state accord with rival Greek Cypriots.
That approach breaks with a 1977 agreement that an envisioned deal would reunify two separately administered zones under an overarching federal government. Despite agreeing on that basis, the two sides have failed to reach an overall peace deal despite numerous rounds of UN-brokered talks.
Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union (ENOSIS) with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes Turkish Cypriot state in the north where it maintains more than 35,000 troops.
The Greek Cypriot Administration in Southern Cyprus accused Turkey of affecting UN-led attempts for a return to peace talks.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that he would explore the possibility of resuming talks he called a halt to in July 2017 when negotiations between the two sides as well as Cyprus’ “guarantors” – Greece, Turkey and Britain – led to an impasse.
Guterres’ envoy Jane Holl Lute is due in Cyprus later this month to test the waters for a return to talks.
Despite strong winds and rain putting a damper on celebrations, Erdogan also visited a mile-long stretch of beachfront in the ghost city of Marash (Varosha) that stirred up controversy on both sides of the divide when Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities opened it last month.
Marash (Varosha)’s Greek Cypriot inhabitants fled as Turkish troops advanced during the 1974 invasion. Since then, the area remained under Turkish military control, cordoned off and left to the ravages of time.
UN Security Council resolutions consider attempts to settle any part of Varosha – Maras in Turkish – by anyone other than its inhabitants as “inadmissible.” They also call for the area to be transferred to UN administration.
The Greek Cypriot Administration said in a statement that Turkey’s actions demonstrate Turkey “does not respect at all international legality, European principles and values, and its obligations toward the European Union” while “showing contempt” for UN resolutions.
But President Erdogan’s Marash (Varosha) visit was perceived as a show of strength to serve notice that no one can dictate terms to the Turkish side in any peace negotiation in Cyprus, Mediterranean, Blue Homeland.
Meanwhile, the beachfront’s opening angered many leftist Turkish Cypriots who saw it as a blow to peace efforts as well as an overt attempt to meddle in their own affairs.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Turkish Cypriots took to the streets to protest President Erdogan’s Marash (Varosha) visit as well as what they say are Turkey’s attempts to subvert their secular way of life. The peace group Unite Cyprus Now said both Greek and Turkish Cypriots are united in their protest of President Erdogan’s “brotherly love, peace and solidarity” visit to Marash (Varosha).