What good news will Erdoğan disclose in Northern Cyprus?
Almost all the diplomatic missions in Turkey have been curious for weeks about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s planned trip to Turkish Cyprus on July 19 and 20. What worries them is not Erdoğan’s visit but what he will say during the trip and whether his messages might ratchet up the tension on the island and between Turkey and the European Union.
Speaking to reporters on July 16, Erdoğan gave two hints about the trip. First, he said he would announce good news during his address to the Turkish Cypriot Parliament on an issue whose preliminary works have been recently concluded. He did not give any clue as to what that might be.
Second, he said he would give messages that could have an impact on the world’s peace. His meetings with Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar will be devoted to these messages, he stressed, noting that Tatar would also issue his own statements to this end.
It’s expected that Erdoğan’s messages will focus on four main issues. First, he is expected to strongly reiterate the need for a two-state solution to the decades-old Cyprus problem. This approach was formally put on the table during the 5+1 Geneva meeting in late April, and Erdoğan will likely repeat why the federation model outlined in some U.N. Security Council resolutions is no longer possible.
Second, he will touch on the efforts of Greece and Greek Cyprus to deprive Turkey and Turkish Cyprus of the hydrocarbon reserves of the eastern Mediterranean through the East-Med Forum. Turkey insists that an international conference with the participation of littoral countries, as well as the countries that have energy companies in the region, should be organized to resolve the standoff. As Turkish Cyprus wouldn’t be able to attend due to the almost certain Greek Cypriot veto, the EU leadership isn’t able to take a forward step to this end, although the EU Council did issue a resolution a couple of months ago floating the idea of such a conference.
In addition, Turkey has criticized the Greek Cypriot administration for not sharing the revenues it has from the island’s gas reserves even though they theoretically belong to both communities. In the event that Greek Cyprus rejects sharing these revenues and conducts new exploration and other activities in the region, Turkey will inevitably retaliate.
Another message Erdoğan will likely convey is on the continued opening of the closed Varosha district, which is under the control of the military. In his last visit to the island in November 2020, Erdoğan paid a visit to Varosha and announced that the strip would be opened to public use and that Greek Cypriots that own property there could apply to the Immovable Property Commission to claim their rights. He may announce new steps to this end.
Finally, there are suggestions in Ankara that Erdoğan will also touch on the new security measures to be taken in northern Cyprus. In one of his interviews, he mentioned that Turkey has already deployed armed and unarmed drones to the Geçitkale Airport, stressing that they were necessary against a potential attack on Turkey and Turkish Cyprus.
“Why are we mobilizing them so much? We need to be strong against any attack that may occur in the region. In order to be strong, you will exist with everything in the air, on the land, in the sea,” he stated.
Erdoğan’s visit to the island comes at a time when Turkey’s relationship with the EU and the United States is in a process of reconciliation. Diplomats familiar with the evolving reconciliation suggest that the good news to be announced by Erdoğan will not hinder this process.