Is Azerbaijan close to TRNC recognition?
Taken from this week's issue
By GÜLDEREN ÖZTANSU and ELTAN HALİL
THE prospect of Azerbaijan recognising the TRNC has moved a step closer, experts have told Cyprus Today, following its victory against Armenia over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two countries signed a peace deal on November 10 that meant Azerbaijan held on to areas of Nagorno-Karabakh that it retook following six weeks of fighting while Armenia agreed to withdraw from several adjacent areas.
The outcome is potentially significant for North Cyprus. It could mean that Azerbaijan, which is regarded as the Turkish Cypriots’ closest ally after Turkey, will be more willing to establish formal relations with the TRNC now that the threat of international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as a separate state has been removed.
Dr Ahmad Shahidov, head of the Azerbaijan Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, said in a recent interview on Turkish Cypriot TV that the “so-called ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’ no longer exists under the November 10 agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia”.
“Azerbaijan has liberated its lands from occupation,” he said. “After the completion of this process, official relations between Azerbaijan and the TRNC can begin in the first months of 2021.”
In comments made exclusively to Cyprus Today, Professor James Ker-Lindsay of the London School of Economics, an expert on recognition and secession, said that the latest developments in Nagorno-Karabakh and what they could mean for North Cyprus is a “really interesting” subject.
“There has always been some speculation that Azerbaijan would be the first [country after Turkey] to recognise the TRNC,” he said.
“However, many of us thought that this was extremely unlikely as it was dealing with the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“It would really not have been a good signal to go against UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus when asking countries to respect UN Security Council resolutions on Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
“Of course, many will be asking whether things may now change. . . Firstly, will Turkey now bring pressure to bear on Azerbaijan over this? Is this the payback that Ankara will be looking for [in return for supporting Azerbaijan]?
“Secondly, will Baku be willing to be indifferent to UN Security Council resolutions now that it has taken back the territory. On both counts, it is very hard to say.
“While Turkey is now talking about a two-state solution [in Cyprus], it will know that this is unlikely for the foreseeable future. It would be putting Baku into a very difficult position by doing this. Then again, while one would think that Baku would not want to go against UN resolutions, it might feel that it has nothing to prove.
“Indeed, it may draw attention to the fact that those resolutions did little or nothing to help solve their problem. Really, it could go either way. But, if anything, my sense is that if Baku wants to send a message now that it considers the threat of Nagorno-Karabakh’s secession to be over, it is probably more likely to recognise Kosovo than to recognise the TRNC.
“As for consequences, there isn’t much that could be done – certainly not by the United Nations. The decision to recognise another country is a sovereign right and decision.
“It would be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 541 [condemning the declaration of the TRNC], and the Security Council could act, but it is unlikely to take harsh measures – or any measures at all.
“However, it is always worth remembering that Cyprus is an EU member. Any move to recognise the TRNC would force the EU to react. Recognising the TRNC would have extremely grave implications for relations with the European Union. Indeed, this is perhaps the most significant deterrent for most countries.
“As for how recognition could occur, it is in fact very easy. Once a state has decided to recognise another country it will usually just announce it in some way. This can be done via a press release or even just an email to an official of the country in question.
“There’s no great formal procedure. In many ways, the bigger step is establishing diplomatic relations. While we think of the two as linked, they are in fact separate procedures in a formal sense.”
Former TRNC ambassador Osman Ertuğ – now an adviser to Mr Tatar – when asked by this newspaper declined to “name a country or countries that may be poised to recognise the TRNC formally” but said that other countries should “look at the example of Turkey, which recognised the TRNC and continues to be a highly respected member of the international community as well as a regional power in the eastern Mediterranean”.
He continued: “Furthermore, the international scene has dramatically changed since the proclamation of the TRNC as an independent State in 1983, with tens of new states achieving independence, particularly since the end of the Cold War, and many becoming members of the United Nations.
“The trend and political environment is clearly much more suitable for the wider recognition of new states like the TRNC in the period ahead.
“Meanwhile, the TRNC will work on strengthening its ties and establishing new ones with countries with which we have common economic and other interests and connections. . . Turkey will naturally be a key actor, both as a Motherland and a Guarantor, in assisting the TRNC in its efforts for wider acceptance and eventual recognition of the State.”
Recognition of the TRNC would “make the solution of the [Cyprus] problem on a just, realistic and sustainable basis not only easier but possible,” Mr Ertuğ added.
“Even a United Nations document prepared by experts way back in 1968 states that, even for a federation to be established, the Turkish Cypriot State must be recognised for a designated period of time as a legal necessity, so as to achieve equal status between the two States in Cyprus.
“We are clearly beyond that now and the existence of two sovereign independent States on Cyprus is a fact of life, a reality.
“Wider recognition of this reality by the international community would contribute to the realisation of a just and sustainable settlement, by creating the conditions conducive to such a settlement and paving the way for cooperation between these two independent States.”
Fikri Toros, an MP of the Republican Turkish Party, said that while UN Security Council resolutions recognising the “Republic of Cyprus” as the only legitimate state on the island remain, it is “unlikely” that any UN member country will recognise the TRNC.
“Furthermore, such an attempt [to gain recognition] would jeopardise the ongoing efforts under the auspices of the UN, aimed at a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus conflict in line with all relevant UN resolutions and parameters,” Mr Toros said.
“It would be detrimental to the prospects of the resumption of negotiations, and would deepen the division further.
“I welcome President Tatar’s planned visits to certain countries. It’s very important to broaden our relations with as many countries as possible, as this would bring opportunities for social, cultural and economic relations.
“It would also enable us seek support for a federal solution of the Cyprus issue based upon political equality and security of the two Cypriot communities.”