Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is marking the 47th anniversary of his country’s invasion of Cyprus with provocations for a new age: a new town on land the international community says is not his, a new government complex and a proposal the international community rejects.
Erdoğan trumpeted many of these offerings on Tuesday as he made a high-profile visit to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island.
Erdoğan was there to mark Turkey’s military move into Cyprus on July 20, 1974, a step taken to counter a Greek-backed coup on the island. The invasion split the island along ethnic lines, creating a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south. Turkey became the only country to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
On Tuesday, Erdoğan reiterated that support. He insisted on a two-state solution, touted fresh construction — and generally diminished hope for the island’s reunification.
“A new negotiation process on Cyprus can only be carried out between the two states,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the divided Cypriot capital of Nicosia.
Turkey doesn’t have “another 50 years to waste,” he added.
Peace talks regarding Cyprus have made little progress in recent years.
Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state that is otherwise recognized internationally as the sole sovereign authority over the whole island. Last year, Turkish Cypriots elected Ersin Tatar as their leader, a candidacy favored by Erdoğan, who insists on a two-state outcome.
During his trip to Cyprus, Erdoğan pledged to reopen a small part of the ghost town of Varosha, which the Greek Cypriots fled during the Turkish invasion. Local officials then fenced off, abandoned and left the town to fall into disrepair after a U.N. resolution barred settlement in the area by anyone other than its original inhabitants.
The move comes on the heels of a Turkish Cypriot decision last November to open up part of the sealed-off area to the public.
Tatar said authorities plan to lift the military status for a small part of the ghost town and allow former residents to apply for compensation or restitution for their properties. If actually utilized, the proposal could create a legal precedent for the area.
“Ankara essentially wants to break the stalemate on Cyprus, and force negotiating partners to a compromise that would involve recognition of the two-state solution as a possible option,” said Emre Peker, a Turkey and EU expert at risk analysis firm Eurasia Group.
“This will not work,” Peker added. “Moreover, it will further diminish the prospect for yet another round of reunification talks, which Turkey sees as a waste of time.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Nicosia earlier this month that the EU would “never, ever” accept a two-state arrangement.
Erdoğan on Tuesday slammed the EU for rejecting the two-state approach.
“We will not take their advice,” he said. “We will do what we need to do.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on Twitter that Erdoğan’s latest move “risks raising tensions on the island and comprising [a] return to talks.”
In another move to expand Turkey’s presence in northern Cyprus, Erdoğan announced plans to build a new government complex that would include a presidential residence and parliament building.
Turkey is separately establishing a new military airbase for attack drones in an abandoned northern Cyprus airport. Erdoğan has said he sees the base as a means to project Turkish power throughout the Eastern Mediterannean. However, he refrained from inaugurating the base on Tuesday, as many expected.
“The Turkish president was mainly trying to score some points at home,” said Wolfango Piccoli, co-founder of risk analysis company Teneo. “The chances of talks to restart were close to zero before and remain zero after the visit.”
Cypriot authorities said they would be briefing the EU and the United Nations Security Council on the matter.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by WCT staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)