The international community disappoints Erdogan on the Cyprus issue
After the Crans-Montana conference's failure and the subsequent presidential elections in the "TRNC," which only Turkey recognizes, Ankara started to advocate a two-state solution for the Cyprus issue. However, this policy has had little effect in the international arena. Five years after the failure of the previous attempt to resolve the Cyprus dispute, the international community is unconvinced by Ankara's rhetoric.
The idea of a bizonal, bi-communal, united, federal Cyprus is one to which the European Union is still firmly committed. The members of the Union are adamant that the idea of a resolution of the two supposedly distinct states of Cyprus will not gain ground internationally.
Despite the fact that it maintains dialogue and collaboration with Turkey on several issues, London has a similar stance. Recently, British politicians and diplomats have signaled that the parties should concentrate on the federal formula with fresh ideas such as a loose federation.
Moscow, a regional power with which Turkey has established a multifaceted partnership since the failed coup attempt in 2016, is also disappointing Ankara with its recent messages. Rumors that Moscow is starting direct flights to the "TRNC" and running a "consulate" in the northern portion of Cyprus have been debunked by Russia in response to reports in the Turkish media.
European veto against the "two states solution"
Turkish diplomacy brought back to the fore the idea of a Cyprus solution based on the formula of two separate states shortly after the collapse of the Cyprus negotiation process and when the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan got closer to the circles inside his country that propose militaristic and nationalist "solutions" to Turkey's problems. This formula was formally presented to the informal Cyprus Conference in 2021. The Turkish proposal, which has historical roots in the second half of the 20th century, states that after the Republic of Cyprus and the international community acknowledge the existence of two distinct states on the island, these two entities will begin talks to resolve several issues pertaining to the final separation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
The two Cyprus states will pursue their different paths in the international world while maintaining limited collaboration on some matters of mutual interest. According to the leaders of the European Union, this idea is not only objectionable but also risky, as the Union already deals with secessionist movements (such as those in Belgium and Spain) on the continent. The EU insists that the federal approach is the only way to resolve the Cyprus issue in order to avoid a precedent for sensitive regions of the continent. The President of the European Parliament's stance on the Cyprus issue is typical.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, emphasized in a recent letter to President Nicos Anastasiades that "Confidence-Building Measures will not only benefit Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but will also pave the way for a solution to the Cyprus problem based on relevant Security Council resolutions and the principles and values on which the European Union is based." The solution model referred to by Metsola is none other than a bizonal, bi-communal, federal Cyprus. The proposals Metsola was referring to are ones that the Greek Cypriot leadership has placed on the table but that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership have recently rejected. In exchange for the UN-controlled reopening of the Varosha/Maraş town of Famagusta, which has been closed since 1974, the Greek Cypriot side suggests opening Famagusta Port and Ercan Airport on a global scale.
Metsola criticized Turkey for disregarding Varosha-related UN Security Council resolutions that were adopted by the European Parliament. According to a related statement from the Cypriot administration, Metsola "reiterates the European Parliament's condemnation of Turkey's persistent infringement of Security Council resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992) on Varosha."
Turkish provocations in segregated Varosha, in Metsola's words, "undermine confidence-building efforts and the chances for the resumption of talks on a resolution to the Cyprus crisis."
Metsola's views are shared by the EU political leadership. Rumors in Ankara about the possibility of future ruptures within the union over the Cyprus problem are denied in Brussels. "We have no time to waste on fantasies such as, for example, Hungary will change its stance. For the EU the reality is one and only one and it goes by the name of a united, federal Cyprus", a Brussels source stressed on Friday night.
London also disappoints Ankara
London agrees with Brussels' stance on the "two-state solution" issue. Britain, one of Cyprus's guarantor nations, is still committed to seeing the island nation united under a federal system.
The UK is in favor of a "bizonal bi-communal federation with civil equality," according to a recent Athens-Macedonian News Agency report. Recently, Wendy Morton, a British politician with an active role in Britain's Europe policies, brought this up among other things. A confederal solution to the Cyprus crisis is not supported by the United Kingdom, as Morton emphasized. Yet Morton clarified the UK considering "a decentralized federation that can allow both groups sovereignty over as much of their own affairs within but one state" to be potentially the best option. Morton also emphasized that the UK has made it clear to both sides of the Varosha that they should refrain from taking any steps that jeopardize the chances of a resolution.
Irfan Siddiq, the new British High Commissioner in Cyprus, is also against the idea of finding alternatives to the Cyprus issue, according to the Turkish Cypriot press. Recently, the British diplomat "unambiguously rejected" the common policy of Ankara and the Turkish Cypriot leadership. In keeping with UN guidelines, he emphasized that "Britain supports a bizonal, bi-communal federation in Cyprus."
"Russia's position on the Cyprus settlement is unchanged"
Russia could soon develop new channels of contact and collaboration with the "TRNC" according to recent reports in the Turkish press. To support this assertion, Turkish media mentions the beginning of direct flights between the Russian Federation and Northern Cyprus and the establishment of a Russian "consulate" in the "TRNC".
Moscow vehemently refutes these reports by the Turkish media. To Ankara's dismay, Moscow continues to stress the significance of the federal formula, which is the officially recognized, internationally endorsed solution to the Cyprus crisis. According to Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russia is maintaining its well-known stance on the Cyprus issue, far from "fantasies". Russia, "unlike the West", does not consider concepts like "revenge" or "retribution." Zakharova was responding to a recent query from the Cypriot News Agency.
"You are aware of the fact that Russia's position on the Cyprus settlement is unchanged" stated Zakharova who added: "The needs of Russian citizens living on the territory of Cyprus are met by the consular section of the embassy in collaboration with the official Cypriot authorities. We are committed to the UNSC resolutions, including 541 of 1983 and 550 of 1984, which stipulates to all members of the international community not to recognize any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus. Work is ongoing to strengthen the ability of Russian citizens living in the island's north to access consular services and to protect their legal rights and interests within the context of our principled methods."
It should be noted that another UN Security Council permanent member, the People's Republic of China recently has reiterated its support to the federal formula. The ambassador of China to Cyprus clarified that according to his country "the international community should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, try to encourage relevant parties to narrow differences through dialogue and consultation under the framework of Security Council resolutions for a "bi-communal and bi-zonal federation", and continue to create conditions and build momentum for the resumption of negotiations".
Even if the Turkish government hasn't given the Cyprus issue much attention lately, the international community's latest signals are undoubtedly alarming for President Erdogan and his government. These signals conflict with Ankara's stated position on the Cyprus issue when the "TRNC" is attempting to open the way for a reassessment of the presence of the Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, and thus the existing status quo on the island since 1974, with the help of Ankara. The disagreement of Turkey with the international public opinion on the Cyprus issue, that Ankara struggles to find allies who are open to discussing its alternate viewpoints, results in the perpetuation of the Turkish Cypriot's international isolation.
The isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community perpetuates while the Turkish sources are spreading the rumor that nations with cordial relations with Ankara are going to improve their relations with the "TRNC" soon. "There won't be a delay in this progress. It will happen right before the Turkish elections, strengthening Erdogan's hand in the confrontation with the Turkish opposition", underlines a Turkish source in Northern Cyprus. The same source claims that Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and other nations with close ties to Ankara are prepared to take this path.
Would Turkish Cypriots' and Turkey's problems be resolved by the partial recognition and upgrading of the "TRNC" as Ankara hopes? The answer to this question is obvious considering the ongoing economic crisis in Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community, with young Turkish Cypriots looking for a better future in the regions under the active control of the Republic of Cyprus and overseas. The power dynamics between the "TRNC" and the Republic of Cyprus won't change once flights and direct trade links are established. The latter will still be a member of the UN and the EU, and holders of its passport will continue to be eligible for visa-free travel to 176 nations. The Republic of Cyprus continues to develop a modern economy when Ankara's holdup in giving money to Turkish Cypriots risks destabilizing Turkish Cypriot households' budgets and everyday life. That Cyprus will continue to disappoint the president of Turkey is something that is certain in many respects.
Why does Erdogan keep on propagating the Turkish narrative on Cyprus if it has no international impact? This crucial question can now be answered with the "help" of a new, significant development; the appointment of the new Turkish Ambassador to the "TRNC." A Turkish lawyer with a Kemalist perspective who lacks diplomatic experience was just appointed to the position. In the 2000s, Metin Feyzioglu publicly disagreed with the Erdogan administration to support Kemalist principles. He is currently packing his bags for Northern Cyprus, where nationalist circles that once opposed the Turkish government are now praising President Erdogan's character and accomplishments. The political coalition between conservative and nationalist forces, which is propelled by "success myths" like the updated partition rhetoric in Cyprus and the "new Turkish century" appears to have a bright future against all the odds, especially the international isolation of Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots.
*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece.