President Ersin Tatar speaks at the University of Cambridge in a conference titled “The Proposed Way Forward in Cyprus”
“Sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot Side is essential for a sustainable settlement”
President Ersin Tatar has held a conference at the University of Cambridge, Selwyn College, where he has called upon the UK to take a fresh new approach to the Cyprus issue and to fulfill its obligations as a Guarantor power to spearhead the equal status, equal opportunities and equal treatment of the Turkish Cypriot People.
The President addressed the conference titled “The Proposed Way Forward in Cyprus” that was attended by academics and students, organised by the Cambridge University Turkish Society, which was chaired by Mete Karslıoğlu, at the Quarry Whitehouse Auditorium on Monday evening.
President Tatar said he was delighted to be giving a conference at the University of Cambridge and talked about his years when he studied Economics at Jesus College, where he graduated in 1982.
Referring to the Cyprus issue and his policy for a two-State settlement, President Tatar said: “I wish to make a fresh call to the UK Government from Cambridge University. The Turkish Cypriot People are being subject to an inhumane isolation despite promises by the international community to end this, which is not only violating our collective human rights, it is also negatively impacting our right to development.”
The President asked how, in this day and age, a justification can be provided in relation to the sports embargoes which is preventing Turkish Cypriot youth from being able to participate in many prominent sports tournaments, including in football and the Olympics, under their own flag. “This is totally unacceptable, there cannot be any justification for this wrong, and the international community should not close a blind eye to this great injustice,” the President said.
He said the UK, as a Guarantor power and a pen holder at the UN, best placed in understanding the historical context and realities of the island, should “spearhead efforts to end these restrictions on our People, who are facing a serious injustice. I am making a renewed call to the UK Government to review its policy of not treating the Turkish Cypriots on an equal footing”.
The President added that he is a “firm believer in diplomacy,” and that “there is a need to learn lessons from previous failures for not reaching a settlement, and to understand the root cause as to why a settlement in Cyprus has not been reached to date”.
“There have been negotiations for an equality-based federal settlement for more than half a century, which has not been reached due to the mentality in the Greek Cypriot Side, which sees Cyprus as a Hellenic Island,” President Tatar said, adding: “Former Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister late Nicos Rolandis publicly wrote that it was the Greek Cypriot Side that rejected at least 15 settlement plans and ideas. In 2004, the Greek Cypriot Side voted against the UN Comprehensive Settlement [Annan] Plan by 76 percent, which was accepted by the Turkish Cypriot Side by 64 percent, in the separately held simultaneous referenda. The last chance for a federal-based settlement ended in 2017 in Crans-Montana, after the Greek Cypriot Side again demonstrated its unwillingness to share power and prosperity on the basis of equality with the Turkish Cypriot equal co-owners of the island”.
Explaining that federal-based negotiations have been exhausted, the President stated that “the time has come for fresh new ideas, to think outside the federal box, to open a new chapter as a way forward in Cyprus for the benefit of all”.
President Tatar added: “My policy for a settlement, that is fully supported by the Republic of Türkiye, is based on the cooperative relationship of two States co-existing as good neighbours. It is time for respect to be shown to my People who have the same inherent rights as that of the Greek Cypriots, who are wrongly treated as the sole Government despite being the side who expelled us from the state apparatus in 1963 by force of arms, forcing my People to effectively govern themselves as a State since 1963.”
President Tatar added that between 1963 to 1974, the Turkish Cypriots were driven out of 103 villages in fear of their own safety in the face of violent attacks, and were forced to live in 3% of the island’s territory,” adding that “there were attacks on our people island-wide, who lived in very bad conditions and persecution, which has been documented in the Ortega Report – by a senior UN official at the time”. He added that the Greek and Greek Cypriot duo were implementing the Akritas Plan designed to cleanse the island from its Turkish population, and on July 15, 1974, a coup d’état by the Greek military junta was staged, and the Hellenic Republic of Cyprus was declared. The President stated that had guarantor Türkiye not undertaken the Cyprus Peace Operation in 1974, there would not have been any Turkish Cypriots left to save, and Cyprus would have formed part of Greece.
The President stated that the international media had reported the mass graves of Turkish Cypriots later discovered in the presence of the UN in 1974, adding: “The Greek Cypriot Side, which has an obsession that Cyprus is a Hellenic Island, does not have the right to represent the Turkish Cypriot People, because this violates the principle of equality and that of our inherent rights,” President Tatar said.
The President stated that he had at the 5+UN informal meeting in Geneva in April 2021, put forward the position of the Turkish Cypriot Side and for formal negotiations to be started once a common ground has been found, that is based on the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot Side. He added that a settlement on this basis and the continuation of the Guarantee of the Republic of Türkiye will “continue the peace and stability in Cyprus and the region”.
President Tatar added that a settlement “will benefit the Greek Cypriot Side, as there would be cooperation on hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean, replacing conflict with cooperation. Türkiye would open her ports, airports, and airspace to Greek Cypriot vessels and aircraft. There will be a new market in a country that has a population of 85 million that is only 40 miles away. The Greek Cypriot Side will also benefit from trade and tourism from Türkiye, and the region will be turned into one of peaceful coexistence and cooperation and not conflict.”
President Tatar also said the EU, which has Greece and the Greek Cypriot Side as member states, was not able to act impartially. “When I speak to certain diplomats, I am told that the EU undertook a political decision to enable the Greek Cypriots to become members of the bloc, despite the articles of the founding treaties of the Republic of Cyprus, which prohibit Cyprus from joining any international organisation of which both Türkiye and Greece are not members,” the President said.
Turkish Cypriot People have always had good historical ties with Britain
President Tatar added that the island of Cyprus, which is located just 40 miles from Motherland Türkiye and some 600 miles from mainland Greece, lies at the crossroads of three major continents, in a geostrategic location in the eastern Mediterranean, which has been a focal point of interest of major powers vying to have a stronger sphere of influence — exacerbated by the discovery of natural gas in the region.
The President stated that historically, the Turkish Cypriot People have enjoyed good relations with the British dating back to the 1950s, when Greek Cypriot forces and the EOKA terrorist organisation, aspiring to unite Cyprus with Greece (ENOSIS), killed 371 British servicemen during the Cyprus Emergency between 1955-1959. The President added that, as someone who studied and lived in the UK, he cherishes the British values of fairness and justice for all People.
Rebutting claims that the Turkish Cypriots are not a sovereign people, President Tatar Britain’s Secretary of State for the Colonies Alan Lennox-Boyd informed the House of Commons, in December 1956, which was reiterated two years later by then British Prime Minister Harold MacMillian as a pledge in 1958, that: “It will be the purpose of Her Majesty’s Government to ensure that any exercise of self-determination should be effected in such a manner that the Turkish Cypriots, no less than Greek Cypriots, shall in the special circumstances of Cyprus, be given the freedom to decide for themselves their future status. Her Majesty’s Government recognises that the exercise of self-determination in such a mixed population must include partition among eventual options”.
President Tatar said that the former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who served in office at the time of the Annan Plan in 2004 that was rejected by the Greek Cypriot Side, is writing columns in UK press that is supportive of a realistic two State settlement as a way forward in Cyprus.
Stressing that the former Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister, the late Nicos Rolandis, had publicly written that it was the Greek Cypriot Side that rejected at least 15 solution plans and ideas, President Tatar added that “the Cyprus issue is one of sovereignty and status, and the attempts by one side to dominate the other”.
In reference to his telephone call with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday (June 30), President Tatar said that he had clearly stipulated to the Secretary-General that there is no common ground between the two Sides, adding that “I explained that the recognition of the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot Side is essential in order for new formal negotiations to be started…. The denial of this recognition amounts to the denial of the inherent equality of the Turkish Cypriot Side”.
President Tatar said that the way forward for Cyprus is for the UN Secretary-General, within its mission of good offices, to secure an acknowledgement to be confirmed by the UN Security Council that the two Sides in Cyprus have equal sovereignty rights and equal international status.
The UK needs to review its lack of equal treatment of Turkish Cypriot People
Emphasising that he had previously met with former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and that he recently met with the UK Minister of Europe, Leo Docherty at the TRNC Presidency in Lefkoşa, President Tatar stated:
“In our respective meetings, we appeal to the UK Government to reconsider its somewhat unequal treatment of Turkish Cypriot People,” President Tatar said. “The UK is a guarantor power and has an obligation to treat both Sides with equality. Despite the promises by many international actors to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot People in 2004, we are still unable to trade our delicious citrus, world-renowned potatoes and other produce through preferential direct trade. We do not have direct flights to and from our country to the UK, and passengers are being told to re-screen in airports in Türkiye during a brief touchdown that is creating hardships, prolonging journey time, and increasing the price of air fares. We have more than 350,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the UK, and more than 10,000 expats living in the TRNC, who are being negatively affected by this injustice. Our youth cannot even play international friendlies in many prominent sports tournaments under their own flag. The right to life and the right to development are human rights issues that should not be made subject to a settlement. The UK should stop ignoring our existence as Turkish Cypriots and spearhead moves to end this great injustice. The time for freedom and fairness for Turkish Cypriot People is now.”
President Tatar added that he had in July 2021 conveyed six cooperation proposals to the Greek Cypriot leadership via the UN Secretary-General. He said these proposals were on hydrocarbon resources, the interconnection system of the island to the European grid via the Republic of Türkiye, solar energy and transition to green energy, the rational use and development of freshwater resources on both Sides, freeing the island from landmines and irregular migration.
President Tatar added that he had recently proposed cooperation between the two Sides on earthquake preparedness, following the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye in February.
Two States as a way forward for Cyprus
The President concluded that his policy for two States is continuing to garner more support internationally, adding that the TRNC is indeed a success story.
Stating that the President of the Republic of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had in his historic address at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly last September invited the international community to formally recognise the TRNC, President Tatar said that the TRNC was soon after admitted as an observer member to the Organisation of Turkic States.
“Despite the unjust isolation, TRNC has universities with 100,000 students from 144 different countries; hundreds of thousands of people have graduated from our universities; we have started manufacturing our own electric cars – such as the Günsel automobile; and we are on the verge of opening a new state of the art Terminal Building at Ercan Airport, which we hope to be inaugurated by President of the Republic of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 20, 2023. We have many international investors in the tourism and construction sectors,” the President said.
The President thanked everybody for attending the conference and the Turkish Society Cambridge University for inviting him to the conference.