By Tayfun Salci
LONDON (AA) – The Turkish and Greek Cypriots have equal rights to exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean, said the Turkish Cypriot prime minister on Thursday.
“There are two equal nations under the Constitution and international law on the island of Cyprus, Turks and Greeks. Turks have rights equal to those of the Greeks,” Ersin Tatar told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview during his visit to London.
Greek Cypriots have recently balked at Turkish ships exploring for hydrocarbons around the island under a Turkish Cypriot-issued license, illegally denying that the Turks and Turkish Cypriots also have the right to energy exploration around their shores.
Tatar said it is imperative for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to emerge and win further acceptance as an independent state in the Eastern Mediterranean.
It seems unlikely that negotiations for a concrete solution based on a federal model will succeed, said Tatar.
He added that the Greek Cypriot administration's uncompromising attitude since they rejected the 2004 Annan peace plan has brought the world closer to recognizing the existence of the Turkish Cypriot state.
After the referendum on Annan’s plan – which the Turkish Cypriots accepted but the Greek Cypriots rejected – the Greek Cypriot administration was admitted to the European Union, illicitly claiming to represent the entire island.
During his visit to the U.K., Tatar underlined the importance of the Turkish diaspora in the country.
There are more than half a million Turks and Turkish Cypriots living in the U.K., said Tatar, adding that this creates an important opportunity to further improve relations between the U.K., Turkey, and the TRNC.
– ‘Turkey stood with TRNC through many hardships’
In his talks with British MPs, Tatar called on them to not forget that Turkey – along with Britain – is one of the three guarantors for Cyprus, adding that Turkey has stood with Turkish Cyprus through many hardships.
“The U.K. hasn’t been active enough with regards to the situation. But after Brexit, we expect concrete contributions and help from the U.K. in order for the Turkish Cypriots to be given their rights,” he said.
Tatar also said he has gotten a good reaction to his messages.
“The U.K. has now seen there will be no solution on a federal basis. I would like to share with pleasure that reunification is no longer on the agenda,” he added.
– TRNC president’s comments
Tatar also slammed Mustafa Akinci, the Turkish Cypriot president, for his recent controversial interview with British daily The Guardian.
In the Feb. 6 piece, Akinci reportedly said that a Turkish military “takeover” of the TRNC is unlikely but not impossible.
“A Crimea-style annexation has never been on Turkey’s or the TRNC’s agenda, and our only aim is to strengthen the TRNC,” said Tatar.
Tatar also said people holding important offices should be wary of making comments like this.
– Presidential run
On his running to be Turkish Cypriot president in elections this April, Tatar said: “Especially after the recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, along with Turkey’s claims in the region and remarks from our president, we are in an agreement that this office should be taken by someone who shares our vision and national policies.”
He said as president, he would work for a solution based on “two states living side by side on the island of Cyprus.”
In 1974, following a coup aiming at annexation of Cyprus by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest, held with the participation of the guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. – came to an end without any progress in 2017 in Switzerland.
* Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak and Firdevs Bulut