What did Turkish Cyprus’ new leaders talk about in Ankara
New Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Tufan Erhürman and Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay were in Ankara on March 7, amid a rather heavy agenda topped by the need to fine tune positions on the next step to be taken for a resolution on the island.
It is no secret that although they are in full agreement on general objectives, there are a number of minor but serious differences between the Turkish government and the Turkish Cypriot Presidency. Ankara is of the opinion that because repeated attempts to provide a federal resolution to the Cyprus problem have all ended in failure, insisting on that target would be waste of time, energy and resources. It has not yet officially offered this possibility so far, but for some time it is believed that Ankara has been pondering the possibility of a “two states in the EU” formula.
Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı has also occasionally been visiting that idea. Foreign Minister Özersay was among the first to suggest this formula but Prime Minister Erhürman and his socialist Republican Turks Party (CTP) have long been staunch supporters of a federal resolution.
The talks in Ankara were held behind closed doors. It will take some days before details about what was discussed and what policies were laid out become clear. However, sources close to developments told me recently details of the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Akıncı in Istanbul in July 2017 before the Crans Montana round of settlement talks. At that meeting, Erdoğan reportedly underlined the readiness of Turkey to walk the extra mile, undertaking serious compromises regarding both the Treaty of Guarantees as well as the number of Turkish troops on the island provided that the Greek Cypriot side demonstrates serious political will and agrees to a power sharing deal with a rotating presidency and effective Turkish Cypriot participation in governance.
Erdoğan reportedly provided Akıncı with full support, while warning that if the Greek Cypriot side balked or shied from sharing power with the Turkish Cypriots on the basis of political equality “it would be the end of this fruitless federation exercise.”
Sources say a similar talk between Erdoğan and Akıncı also took place a few months earlier, with the Turkish Cypriot president convincing the Turkish leader to support a last exercise. Sources now stress that Ankara remains committed to the statement made by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu after the July 6 collapse of the Crans Montana talks. “The minister said the idea of federation died in Cyprus. It is dead and buried and cannot be reincarnated. The Greek Cypriots don’t want a power sharing deal in earnest and in line with political equality. Since 1977 so many efforts have ended in failure. Insisting on federation will be just waste of time,” they said.
The naïve approach of Akıncı over the past three years and his general inactivity – apart from issuing statements about Greek Cypriot unilateral actions in exploring and drilling for hydrocarbon resources off the island – have only served to feed Greek Cypriot intransigence. The firm position that Turkey took regarding the recent Eni gas exploration affair has demonstrated Ankara’s determination to take required steps to make the Greek Cypriots realize the Turkish Cypriots’ partnership status, as well as Turkish interests in the region. But why are the Greek Cypriots continuing provocations with Exxon-Mobil operations in the region? Do they think Turkey would not take action against Qataris or Americans, or would be dismayed at the possibility of an encounter with the U.S. Sixth Fleet?
There is still a need for Cyprus peace talks as the problem is still there. There is a need to end uncertainty about the future of the process. But why continue talks just for the sake of it if there is no political will on the Greek Cypriot side for a compromise power sharing deal? There is clearly a need for a new basis for talks and a new target for a resolution.