UK EYES CLOSER TIES WITH TRNC
Taken from this week's issue
By ELTAN HALİL
THE UK is eyeing closer ties with North Cyprus after three days of “informal” talks in Switzerland failed to find “common ground” for the start of formal Cyprus solution negotiations, it was claimed yesterday.
Britain is considering taking steps to “further intensify its relationship with the Turkish Cypriots and to ease the embargoes in the upcoming period” a report by the BBC’s Turkish service said.
The report added that British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who attended the “five-plus-one” UN-hosted talks in Geneva from Tuesday to Thursday, put forward “two different proposals” to the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot delegations.
The first proposal was for a “decentralised federation”, the BBC said, while the second is “based on the idea that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots should mutually recognise each other’s existence, and that North Cyprus should be regarded as a part of the EU but not have international recognition”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who was also at the Geneva talks, confirmed that Mr Raab had made “suggestions”, according to the BBC.
“Although we find some ideas interesting, we also shared our own thoughts, especially because they did not meet the expectations of the sovereign equality and the status and sovereignty that the Turkish Cypriots achieved with the 1960 [Republic of Cyprus] agreement,” Mr Çavuşoğlu was quoted as saying.
The claims came after a report in the UK’s Sunday Express newspaper, quoting “Whitehall sources”, said that the UK is considering “officially recognising North Cyprus as an independent country”, while former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said this week that the formal partition of Cyprus must be put on the table.
Senior Conservative Party politicians have become more vocal in supporting the Turkish Cypriot cause in recent years, most notably former leader Iain Duncan Smith, who has been campaigning for direct flights between the TRNC and the UK.
In December 2019 Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the isolation of Turkish Cypriots is “unfair and unjust” during a campaign visit to a Turkish Cypriot family in London ahead of that year’s general election.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that the two leaders of Cyprus and ministers from the island’s “guarantor” countries will meet again “in two to three months” after this week’s Geneva talks, the most intensive on the Cyprus issue for nearly four years, ended inconclusively.
President Ersin Tatar stood by his demand for a “two-state solution” while Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades insisted that he would only enter formal negotiations for a federal settlement, positions that have been apparent since Mr Tatar’s election as President last October.
During the talks Mr Tatar’s team put forward a six-point set of “principles” for a “sustainable settlement” which included UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres taking “an initiative so that the Security Council adopts a resolution in which the equal international status and sovereign equality of the two sides is secured”.
“Such a resolution will form the new basis for the establishment of a cooperative relationship between the two existing States,” the document said.
“Once the equal international status and sovereign equality of the two sides is secured through the above-mentioned arrangement, they will enter into results-oriented, time-framed negotiations, on this new basis, under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General to establish a freely-reached and mutually acceptable cooperative agreement.
“The negotiations will focus on the future relationship between the two independent States, property, security and border adjustment, as well as relations with the EU.
“The negotiations will be supported by Turkey, Greece and the UK, as well as, where appropriate, the EU as an observer.
“In the context of any agreement the two States will mutually recognise each other; the three Guarantor States will support this.
“Any agreement to be reached as a result of these negotiations will be submitted for approval in separate simultaneous referenda in the two States.”
In a statement issued on Thursday President Tatar said the talks had been a “valuable opportunity to present our vision for a two-State settlement in Cyprus based on the current realities on the island”.
The UN’s mandate in Cyprus “must change”, he said, to “reflect our sovereign equality and equal international status”.
“Once we level the playing field, I am confident we will have the breakthrough that we all so desperately want to see,” Mr Tatar said.
“For that reason I welcome the statement of the UN Secretary-General for more talks to explore whether common ground exists.
“We leave Geneva optimistic. Turkish Cypriots will continue to play their part positively and with the necessary determination to achieve a fair and sustainable settlement of the Cyprus
Mr Çavuşoğlu, speaking at a joint press conference with Mr Tatar on Thursday, said Mr Anastasiades did not bring a new vision to the talks in Geneva but rehashed “existing rhetoric” and sounded like a “broken record”.
Mr Anastasiades told Greek Cypriot media on Wednesday night that he had been disappointed by the proposals put forward by Mr Tatar.
“I must say I have heard with great disappointment what Tatar said and even submitted in writing, and of course I have told the Secretary-General that our effort was to create a positive climate, without provocations, without making references to all the unacceptable things we have heard,” he was quoted as saying.
Mr Guterres, speaking at a press conference following the Geneva talks, said that the discussions on Cyprus had not been “easy”.
“We conducted extensive consultations in a succession of bilateral meetings and plenary meetings in order to try to reach common ground,” he said.
“The truth is that, at the end of our efforts, we have not yet found enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations in relation to the settlement of the Cyprus problem.
“But I do not give up. My agenda is very simple. My agenda is strictly to fight for the security and well-being of the Cypriots, of the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, that deserve to live in peace and prosperity together.
“And being so, we have been able to agree that I will convene in the near future another meeting of the 5+1, the five plus the United Nations, again with the objective to move in the direction of reaching common ground to allow for formal negotiations to start.
“We are determined to do everything we can to make this dialogue move on and to make this dialogue at one moment be able to reach positive results.”
Asked by a reporter when the next meeting could take place, Mr Guterres replied: “There was an understanding that probably two to three months should be the kind of time framework that could be useful.
“If it is too short of a period, it will not allow for any meaningful positive development. If it is too long, then it really does not help in our common search for a solution for a settlement.
“Now, to square the circle is an impossibility in geometry but it is very common in politics.”
Mr Guterres added that he will report back to the UN Security Council on the “different positions expressed in this meeting”.
Oğuzhan Hasipoğlu, a senior member of Mr Tatar’s negotiating team, shared a newspaper report on Twitter from August 1964 about talks in Geneva then that had also ended without a result.
“The date is April 29, 2021,” he wrote. “A Cyprus summit in Geneva has again ended with no results. History is about repetition! I hope this time will be the last and that we will get a result on the ground where our sovereignty is accepted.”
Former TRNC foreign minister and ex-Cyprus talks negotiator Özdil Nami tweeted that the latest talks in Geneva had been a “farce”.