The baby and the mother
On the telephone, the voice of new Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı was rather energetic, determined and to the point: “Enough my friend… Few things were said; it is over. No merit in continuing discussion.”
He was obviously referring to the nasty start he had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan immediately after he was elected as the fourth president of Turkish Cyprus. Akıncı, in his election victory address and later in TV interviews, placed stress on the need to bring an end to the “motherland and its baby land relationship” between Turkey and Turkish Cypriots. Indeed, Akıncı was rather diplomatic in his statements, as, particularly among those segments of Turkish Cypriot society who believe they are first Cypriot then Turkish, have been frustrated, particularly in the past decade, with Ankara’s patriarchal and dominating political jargon.
Naturally, Akıncı’s remarks were not big news for anyone who knew Akıncı or was aware of the sentiments on Nicosia street. Did everyone forget the 2011 rallies that brought together Turkish Cypriots throughout the entire political spectrum to condemn a remark by then-prime minister Erdoğan ridiculing Turkish Cypriots as “handmaids” of Ankara?
Over the past many years - partly because of the frustration over the stagnation in Cyprus talk processes and the hypocritical undertakings of the international community regarding Cyprus - the perception of Cyprus has become one of a handicap for Turkey, as compared to a “national cause” of the past decades. Seeing Cyprus as a headache, on the other hand, indirectly resulted in the creation of yet another perception: Turkish Cypriots are lazy, don’t do anything, survive on money from Turkey, and live like parasites. Similarly, partly because of how an officious “ambassador” acting like a colonial governor and his nasty remarks bordering on insolence produced an anti-Turkish sentiment in northern Cyprus, which indeed was instrumental in Akıncı being elected as president.
Obviously, Turkish Cypriots don’t want tensions with Turkey but they cannot accept humiliation either. Akıncı was clear that he did not want tensions with Ankara. He said U.N. Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide would be on the island next week. He will have a “social get together” with Greek Cypriot counterpart Nikos Anastasiades and in the week of May 11, he will make his maiden trip abroad as president to Turkey. “No hard feelings,” he said. Really? “Enough, no merit in continuing this tension,” he said.
Well, there is no place for such antagonistic feelings in the state administration, as former Turkish president Süleyman Demirel stressed. Yet, a dominating leadership style, with obsessive, repulsive and antagonizing behavior may sometimes make it extremely difficult to avoid such frictions. One time is now just being “left behind” but many are in the pipeline, as there is no longer a Turkish Cypriot leader that Erdoğan may, in a ridiculing manner, ask what his salary is in front of news people.
“We will talk in Ankara… Obviously our gratitude for Turkey is like the sea. We owe our existence to Turkey. Yet, we have grown up and the mother must see that we have grown up and are no longer a baby.”
Indeed there are lots of things on the agenda. Eide will come soon. International pressure and expectations are building up for a quick fix on the Cyprus issue. Greek Cypriots have already started talking about confidence building measures, like the handing back of the fenced city of Varosha (as if the new Turkish Cypriot president would be that naïve to not see that Greek Cypriots would vanish from the table the moment Varosha is given back). This is not the best time for a fight between “motherland” Turkey and the “kinderland” Turkish Cyprus, whatever its grown-up age is. If Turkey insists on treating Turkish Cyprus as a baby in diapers, one that cannot walk on his own, will that serve Ankara any good? If it is a baby, why would Greek Cypriots talk with Turkish Cypriots? Will it be wrong if they want to talk with the “mother” of the “nasty kid?”
This way or the other, with Akıncı’s inauguration as president of Turkish Cyprus, a new era has officially started in mother and child ties.