Last week, [South] Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades announced he would seek his second and final five-year term. His focus, he said, would be to reunite the island. It’s a tall order, writes Pinar Tremblay for Al Monitor.
She goes on to refer to the piece written by former UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw who wrote in the Independent that any efforts to reunite the island were dead in the water. The Greek Cypriots were too comfortable will the status quo, he said, to make any real concessions. Even basic confidence building measures such as connecting the two electric grids on the island or setting up a roaming agreement for mobile phones had proved to be an uphill task.
TRNC Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertugruloglu had hit Turkish headlines on 3 October when he told the International Republican Institute in Washington that pursuing the idea of a federal Cyprus was pointless, the Turkish Cypriots could not wait for ever for a resolution and that there were two options being considered. Those were either establish an independent state and or opt for the France-Monaco option. The TRNC would hand over matters of defence and foreign policy to Turkey but government themselves on the domestic front.
TRNC President Mustafa Akinci was harshly critical about Ertugruloglu’s statements. Columnist for Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Duzen, Sinan Dirlik, told Al-Monitor that Ertugruloglu’s position as foreign minister is symbolic and had little impact on the negotiations. President Mustafa Akinci leads the process, he said adding that, “Ertugruloglu just reiterates the well-known rhetoric of right-wing politics on the island in preparation for the 2018 elections. Neither Turkey nor the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has any goal of independence or confederation with Turkey as options. To the contrary, all these years of negotiations reinforced the idea of a bizonal, bicommunal federation.”
However, when asked what he thought the public mood was, the view was that hopes of reunification were fading.
Pro-government columnists and social media trolls largely ignored Ertugruloglu’s controversial statements, writes Tremblay. Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spouts ultra-nationalistic rhetoric, even he must have thought that endorsing Ertugruloglu would be counterproductive, she says. Al-Monitor learned from remarks made by different senior bureaucrats in Ankara that the Cyprus problem, although important, is no longer a priority for the government given the situation in Iraq and Syria. However, what does concern Turkey is that foreign companies are drilling for natural gas and oil at the invitation of Greek Cypriots.
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Al Monitor – Pinar Tremblay