Turkish Cypriots are self-determining: Foreign Minister

Turkish Cypriots will not have a solution to the Cyprus problem imposed upon them, provisional Minister of Foreign Affairs Kutlay Erk has said, in an interview with Turkish Cypriot daily, ‘Kibris’. “They are not infants,” he added.

Mr Erk was asked to comment on information recently published in Greek Cypriot daily, Cyprus Mail, that Turkey, the Republic of Cyprus and the EU have reached an agreement through secret bargaining on the issue of how Cyprus’ natural gas resources will be used. Erk said that this kind of scenario is put onto the agenda from time to time, but they have absolutely no relation to reality.

“Turkey clearly knows that it cannot impose any kind of agreement upon the Turkish Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots have proved their political mettle,” he claimed. While doing so, however, the TRNC has received support from Turkey. “Turkish Cypriots are not kittens anymore”, said Erk and added that there are enough Turkish Cypriots to determine their own future.

On the issue of hydrocarbon finds offshore Cyprus, he said, “The Greek Cypriots need to bring a more peaceful and collaborative approach towards the issue of hydrocarbons”.

He referred to provocative statements made by the Greek Cypriot defence minister, Ioannis Kasoulides regarding any intervention by Turkey. Kasoulides had said that should Turkey attempt to interfere with any energy companies engaged in the search for hydrocarbons, would be “playing with fire”.

Mr Erk cited the 1960 Constitution as being still valid regarding the rights of the Turkish Cypriots according to the constitution. However, in the event of an annulment, he underlined the need to re-determine the rights of both peoples.

He continued that the interim government had, within a short time in office, made contacts with the United States, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. The TRNC had again conveyed the message that it was ready for negotiations on the Cyprus problem, the minister said, accusing the South of being “confused”.

When reminded that President Anastasiades had said that he wanted to solve the Cyprus problem, Mr Erk said that “it may be true, but he was concerned about the coalition partner DIKO party”. DIKO is historically the main rejectionist political party when it comes to the Cyprus problem.

Mr Erk also said that vehicles other than political diplomacy were of great importance when communicating with the wider world.

For example, civil society organizations’ (CSOs) diplomacy efforts in the development of city diplomacy and citizen diplomacy and contacts. “The offices of governmental political diplomacy had taken steps to support and strengthen other diplomatic channels,” he said. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, NGOs, and citizens of the Turkish Cypriots, had by their visits abroad, by expressing their thoughts, demonstrating their way of life, attitudes about democracy, had given definition and shape to Turkish Cypriot identity and sense of destiny.

He said it was critical towards gaining a solution to the Cyprus problem to let those abroad know how they felt.

The three major municipalities, Nicosia, Kyrenia and Famagusta, had contacts with foreign representative offices in other countries. The obscurity of the Foreign Affairs ministry had been removed through international organisations being active there and by recent efforts by the Ministry of Tourism to promote the North abroad.

He stressed that such initiatives had had a positive impact on the TRNC’s image abroad.

Mr Erg also said that currently there were only 30 career diplomats representing the country and that following a solution to the Cyprus problem, the government would need more than 60 diplomats. He stressed the need to train such people up to be in readiness. This would require further financial resourcing and professional know-how. He cited Turkey as the benefactor in this project.

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