Has Erdogan began a journey of no return in Cyprus?

Having exhausted the yields of his Syrian, Libyan and Eastern Mediterranean ventures, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned to long-divided Cyprus for the nationalist gasoline he wants in home politics. Back in 2004, Erdogan backed the so-called Annan Plan to reunify the island, however now he’s forging forward in an reverse lane, advocating a two-state answer in defiance of the long-standing settlement parameters within the battle.

Accompanied by a big delegation, Erdogan visited the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) July 19-20 to mark the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s 1974 navy intervention, which adopted a Greek Cypriot coup aimed toward uniting Cyprus with Greece and has left the island divided ever since. “No matter if 47 years or 147 years or 247 years pass, the Turkish Cypriot people will never back down from their independence,” Erdogan declared in Nicosia in reference to the TRNC, which solely Ankara acknowledges.

Erdogan’s go to was preceded by a lot hypothesis over the “good news” he stated he would ship to the Turkish Cypriots. A widespread guess was that he would announce the complete reopening of the coastal resort of Varosha, which was a bustling vacation spot earlier than being sealed off after the Turkish intervention. Despite the excellent subject of Greek Cypriot properties and a 1984 UN Security Council decision prohibiting the resettlement of Varosha, the realm was partially reopened in October. Yet Erdogan’s go to noticed an announcement of a “second phase” within the partial reopening relatively than a bolder move. Under the plan, 3.5% of Varosha will likely be reopened and demilitarized, whereas Greek Cypriots proudly owning actual property within the space will be capable to apply to a Turkish Cypriot reparation fee to reclaim their properties or search barters or compensations, regardless that monetary strains have been hampering the work of the fee.

Another guess about Erdogan’s “good news” was that Azerbaijan and Pakistan would possibly acknowledge the TRNC. Yet he solely stated the problem was a fixed matter in his discussions with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

Some speculated Erdogan would possibly announce the renaming of the TRNC to the “Cypriot Turkish State” or the invention of gasoline reserves in its waters. Others raised the prospect of a move to determine a everlasting Turkish air base and a naval base within the TRNC to bolster Ankara’s posture within the power rivalry within the Eastern Mediterranean.

None of these guesses was even shut. What Erdogan introduced was a undertaking to construct a “splendid” advanced consisting of a presidential palace, a parliament constructing and a park for the Turkish Cypriots, which was basically a recycle of present plans. He described the present presidential workplace as “a shanty house” left from British rule and the prevailing parliament constructing as “not befitting” the TRNC, including that he was personally following the undertaking and development would start quickly. His phrases will need to have been offensive to the Turkish Cypriots, as each buildings are of excessive symbolic worth regardless of their modest structure, having borne witness to crucial junctures within the historical past of the island. Erdogan had erected a big palace for himself in Ankara a number of years in the past, however Turkish Cypriot leaders had by no means requested for one.

Erdogan had already floated plans for a brand new presidential palace throughout his go to to Nicosia in November, and funds have been allotted for its development in a Turkey-TRNC monetary cooperation deal in March. Thus, the undertaking was hardly one thing new, and plenty of have been left questioning whether or not Erdogan had deliberate to announce one thing else however needed to step again. Earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated she had cautioned Erdogan how delicate the European Union was on what his go to to the island would entail. Meanwhile, a bunch of US senators urged President Joe Biden “to pressure Turkey to halt its provocations in Varosha.”

Whatever the reality behind the “good news,” Erdogan has taken an open-ended and contradictory course on the Cyprus subject. On the one hand, he argues that the Greek Cypriots have continued to hamper settlement efforts since their rejection of the Annan Plan and the two-state answer is now the one choice left. In an obvious sign that he’s bent on Turkish Cypriot independence, he lauded the presidential advanced undertaking as a logo of statehood and famous that Ankara not wished to make use of the time period “Northern Cyprus” however as an alternative “Cypriot Turks.” On the opposite hand, some see his strikes as an try to pile stress on the Greek Cypriots to push them right into a settlement amid studies that the Turkish Cypriot negotiating workforce is engaged on a proposal to reunify the island on a confederation foundation.

And even when his steps should not brinkmanship ways to power a settlement however real efforts towards a two-state answer, his therapy of the Turkish Cypriots belies that goal. He treats Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar as his personal secretary and the TRNC’s authorities and parliament as rubber stamps of Ankara’s selections, whereas actively selling an Islamist-conservative transformation within the markedly secular Turkish Cypriot society. This angle inevitably evokes Turkey’s annexation of Northern Cyprus as the final word state of affairs in his thoughts.

No doubt, Turkey has all the time had a decisive say in Turkish Cypriot affairs, however Erdogan feels entitled to dictate, consuming into the autonomous area that Ankara has historically left to the Turkish Cypriot management. Former TRNC President Mehmet Ali Talat stated in a current interview that the present scenario was “as if Turkey has seized the administration.”

Tatar, who grew to become TRNC president final 12 months after a stint as prime minister, has displayed unprecedented docility and rapport in relations with Ankara. The Turkish Cypriot opposition likens him to the trustees that Ankara has put in to run dozens of native administrations seized from Kurdish mayors. Erdogan overtly threw his weight behind Tatar through the two-round elections in October. Other outstanding contenders comparable to Mustafa Akinci and Serdar Denktash stated they got here beneath stress from Ankara to tug out of the race. Akinci even claimed he acquired threats from Turkish intelligence operatives. There have been additionally allegations of vote shopping for for Tatar and, based on Denktash, Erdogan despatched a particular workforce to again and information Tatar’s marketing campaign on the bottom.

Yet Ankara’s interventions haven’t gone with out resistance. Two opposition events in addition to Talat and Akinci boycotted Erdogan’s speech on the Turkish Cypriot parliament amid rising grassroot stress on opposition leaders to face as much as Ankara’s flouting of Turkish Cypriot will.

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