I would like to provide you with information regarding the ongoing negotiation process in Cyprus between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides and also provide general information about our country.
In order to fully comprehend the reasons behind the Cyprus problem and the negotiation process to find a lasting settlement, it is necessary to have an understanding about the genesis of the problem. The Republic of Cyprus was founded in 1960 in accordance with international treaties. The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot peoples, in their respective capacities as two political equals, entered into a partnership, setting up a joint state. The legitimacy of the 1960 republic lay in the joint presence and effective participation of both peoples in all organs of the state. Neither of the parties had the right to rule the other or assume the right to be the government of the other or the island as a whole in the absence of the other in all organs of the state and its government.
The partnership Republic of Cyprus was destroyed by the Greek Cypriot partner’s onslaught on the Turkish Cypriot partner in December 1963, when all Turkish Cypriot members in all the state organs were forcibly ejected from their positions. Turkish Cypriots did not accept this attempted takeover of the partnership state by the Greek Cypriot side and, through their decisive resistance, prevented the Greek Cypriot side from extending its authority over the Turkish Cypriot people. In consequence, since December 1963, there has not been a joint central administration in the island capable of representing the whole of Cyprus, either legally or factually. Each side has since ruled itself, while the Greek Cypriot side has continued to claim that it is the “Government of Cyprus.”
Separate, simultaneous referenda were held on April 24, 2004 in the TRNC and South Cyprus on the comprehensive settlement plan of the U.N. secretary-general that was finalized and submitted to the two sides on March 31, 2004. The plan was approved in the Turkish Cypriot referendum by 65 percent, clearly demonstrating that the expressed will of the Turkish Cypriot people is in favor of a comprehensive settlement in the form of a new partnership based on the principles of equal status, bizonality and political equality of the two peoples. On the other hand, 76 percent of the Greek Cypriot people rejected the plan, proving beyond doubt that, in overwhelming majority, the Greek Cypriot side is not ready to enter into a power-sharing arrangement with Turkish Cypriots but, instead, opts to continue to enjoy the benefits of the title of the “Republic of Cyprus,” which was usurped through force of arms in December 1963.
Even though the Turkish Cypriot people have clearly done their part and utilized their right to self-determination toward the establishment of a new partnership in the island, the international community did not live up to its promises to lift the unnecessary restrictions and obstacles on the social, economic and political development of the Turkish Cypriot people. It must be remembered that in his report to the Security Council dated May 28, 2004 (S/2004/437), the U.N. secretary-general called upon the international community to “cooperate both bilaterally and in international bodies to eliminate the unnecessary restrictions and barriers that have the effect of isolating the Turkish Cypriots and impeding their development (para. 93).”
The separate simultaneous referenda also confirmed the fact that there exist two equal peoples on the island, neither of which represents the other. Consequently, it would be untenable to claim that there is a single authority to represent the whole island, disregarding the reality that any solution in Cyprus requires the consent of both sides and both peoples. Moreover, the absence of a political settlement in Cyprus cannot justify the illegal Greek Cypriot claim to be the government of the “Republic of Cyprus” when it is, in fact, the Greek Cypriot side itself that has dismantled the Constitution, violated international agreements and wrecked the partnership set up as a result of which an exclusively Greek Cypriot administration came into being.
After a standstill period in the aftermath of the Annan Plan, on March 21, 2008 the Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat and the Greek Cypriot Leader Demetris Christofias agreed to establish working groups and technical committees and the commencement in due course of full-fledged negotiations based on the results of these working groups and technical committees. In the course of this process, the two leaders managed to reach on their own convergences on various issues, which was later compiled by the two sides and emerged as a “convergence paper.” Although Dr. Eroglu stated his commitment following his election on April 2010 as the new Turkish Cypriot president that he is willing to continue the negotiations from where they were left off, Mr. Nikos Anastasiades, who was elected as the Greek Cypriot leader in February 2013, refrained from making any commitments regarding the previously reached convergences and insisted that the two sides should agree on a joint statement before resumption of the negotiations.
After a period marked by intense discussions and diplomatic exercise, a joint statement was finally concluded by the two leaders on February 11, 2014, following the bold and constructive steps taken by the Turkish Cypriot side, which created an opportunity for the two sides to reach a solution for the first time since the referenda on the Annan Plan. With their joint statement, the two leaders agreed that their goal is to achieve a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality and that this federation will have a single sovereignty as defined and enjoyed by all U.N. member states under the U.N. Charter and which emanates equally from Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The federation will be composed of two constituent states of equal status, and neither side will claim authority or jurisdiction over the other.
It has been seven months since the resumption of negotiations upon the announcement of the joint statement. Thus far, the two sides have been able to complete only the preparatory phase of the negotiations, namely the screening and discussion of substantive core issues and tabling of proposals. In order to expedite the process, what should have been done from the very beginning was to confirm the past convergences, but the Greek Cypriot side announced that it would not accept the previously reached convergences in order to move forward. In order to step up the momentum of the process, the leaders announced on September 17, 2014, in the presence of Mr. Espen Barth Eide, the new U.N. special adviser on Cyprus, that agreement was reached to move to the next phase of structured negotiations with a view to bridging the gaps through real negotiations on unresolved core issues and to increase the pace of their meetings.
The Turkish Cypriot side remains fully committed to a mutually acceptable settlement on the basis of the established U.N. parameters and expects the Greek Cypriot side to reciprocate in the same constructive manner so as to facilitate the reaching of a settlement as soon as possible and the holding of separate simultaneous referenda thereafter.
I also would like to provide some general information about our country, which is a peaceful, welcoming and safe destination attracting tourists from all over the world. The island of Cyprus is at a historically and strategically significant location, situated at the crossroads between East and West. For this reason, many civilizations have ruled the island and left their mark on its cultural heritage. The untouched beaches and natural beauty of the island have also earned it the title “a corner of earth touched by heaven.”
All the hotels and other tourist facilities situated within the boundaries of the TRNC are functioning according to international standards. The legislation in force regarding the permits, licenses and functioning regulations are on par with that of the European Union. Moreover, the crime rate in North Cyprus, which is being internationally monitored, is well below that of South Cyprus and the European average. Furthermore, the TRNC enjoys a year-round moderate climate, which is ideal for various sporting and cultural activities, such as mountain climbing, scuba diving and paragliding, and offers a fusion of Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine. Moreover, our country is also considered “an oasis of higher education” with its 11 universities and 63,765 students from 116 countries and teaching staff from 65 countries.
The TRNC has a modern and well-equipped airport (Ercan airport) and two seaports (Famagusta and Kyrenia), which are fully operational. In this connection, data show that Ercan has become a steadily growing airport that serves over 2 million passengers every year. Thousands of tourists mainly arrive each year in North Cyprus via Ercan. There are thousands more who arrive from the Larnaca airport in South Cyprus and cross over to the North to spend their holidays. Many Greek Cypriot citizens also use Ercan airport for travel purposes.
I would like to underline that all United States citizens are most welcomed in our country, and I have no doubt that they will enjoy their stay in Northern Cyprus and leave our island with good memories.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
• This article was produced in conjunction with The Washington Times Advocacy Department.
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