Erhürman gets Ankara’s full support
Some commentators think Turkish Cyprus’s new four-way coalition government will be short-lived. Once the required legislative changes have been made, they said, together with probes into alleged misuses of power and corruption during the previous National Unity Party (UBP) governments, the four-party coalition would steer the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to an early election late in 2018. Ankara has also voiced skepticism, signaling a preference for a strong three-way coalition of conservative parties.
But the Republican Turks Party (CTP) and the three prospective members of the coalition said they would establish a very strong government with wide appeal to deal with the small state’s growing problems.
In the short period since the government has come to office, the coalition has proved itself capable of dealing with challenging domestic problems while resolutely defending Turkish Cypriot rights. The biggest doubt centered on whether a four-party government led by a socialist could get on with Turkey. There have been reports that Prime Minister Tufan Erhürman could not get an appointment with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yıldırım and that Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay cancelled his fixed appointment with his counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Özersay immediately denied the speculations, though doubts persisted until Erhürman and Özersay travelled to Ankara together for a “fine tuning” series of talks with Turkish leaders and officials.
Perhaps speculations of a cold wind blowing between Turkey and the new Turkish Cypriot government served to achieve just the opposite. Erhürman and Özersay were not only able to have talks at every level, but they also found their hosts receptive in all the issues raised. It was apparent that the energy and determination of the Turkish Cypriot premier and his foreign minister to deal with the problems rather than walking around them made Turkish officials happy. Thus Turkish officials have reaffirmed their readiness to make every contribution to the social and economic advancement of the Turkish Cypriot state. Resuming talks on a new protocol to supplement the deficiencies of the previous one, and maintaining dialogue at the highest possible level and to refrain from talking through the media, were two areas on which the two sides have established a full consensus.
Ankara would continue supporting infrastructure investments, including improving road standards. The emphasis on Turkish assistance in the period ahead will concentrate on three pressing areas: Youth, the drug problem and health. Turkey also made it clear that projects were adequately prepared for financial assistance and others would be given their due importance. Ankara has told Turkish Cypriots they should not expect Turkey to solve their problems but to come up with ideas on how to resolve problems.
On the Cyprus issue, Erhürman returned seeing the firm position of Ankara, with or without a settlement on the island. Ankara would continue to advocate achieving full and effective political equality of Turkish Cypriots in sovereignty, territory and resources. Any unilateral action by the Greek Cypriot side would encounter a retaliation, Erhürman was assured. If, for example, Greek Cypriots continued drilling in the economic zone of the island, as partners in that economic zone, Turkish Cypriots together with Turkey would promptly and adequately retaliate.
Could we say the visit of the Turkish Cypriot president opened a new era in bilateral relations? No… Ankara assured the new premier that he has Turkey’s full support as long as he and his government remained loyal to their word of working to solve the economic and social problems of Turkish Cypriots.