Former Turkish Cypriot negotiator Ozdil Nami recently gave an interview to Phileleftheros which raised strong reaction in the breakaway Turkish-held northern part of Cyprus.
Mainly because he has pointed out the rising strong interference by Turkey in the Turkish Cypriot community’s life and political state of play.
Nami also referred to the recent illegal opening of part of the occupied town of Famagusta and the hidden agenda by Turkey behind this provocative move.
Read the full interview here:
How difficult has the Cyprus issue become after Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s latest visit and the Famagusta opening announcement?
Actually, the expectation that Mr Erdoğan would announce something significant during his visit that would be seen as a game changer didn’t materialize. The only new decision announced was to remove the military zone status of 3.5% of the land of the closed city of Varosha. This fell short of expectations, which was nothing less than the opening of the entire city.
Returning 3.5% of Varosha to civilian rule does not make the Cyprus issue more difficult to solve. It just adds credibility to the Turkish side’s claim that unless we find a mutually acceptable way forward towards a comprehensive settlement there are things the Turkish side can do on its own to end the status quo on the island. As such it may be seen as a wake up call to all those who think the Cyprus problem can continue as it did before. If, however, this message is ignored by the Greek Cypriot leadership then things may become even more difficult to resolve as the situation on the ground will eventually change in a dramatic way.
What do you think are the aims of Tatar and Erdogan regarding Varosha? Will they proceed with the complete opening of the fenced-off town?
I think Mr. Erdogan’s primary concern for the time being is his chances of re-election. It seems he believes taking steps to please nationalist and religiously conservative groups in Turkey will bring him votes and like most other issues, he also evaluates all things related to Cyprus with that goal in mind.
Domestically, the opening of Varosha under Turkish administration has been presented as a sign of strength against the international community and the Greek Cypriot government who, from a Turkish perspective, has been doing great injustice to Turkish Cypriots by keeping us under isolations despite our real efforts to achieve a federal settlement in Cyprus since 2004.
Having said this, it is clear that there are significant financial and legal difficulties that first need to be addressed. My expectation is that this is going to be a process that will be spread out over a number of years.
Is it possible to reverse this new situation in Varosha?
I see some similarities between Varosha and the hydrocarbons issue. On hydrocarbons we had experienced unilateral steps being taken by the GC side. When the Turkish side responded with counter measures and tension rose these unilateral steps were paused because neither side wanted to be blamed for the collapse of the negotiation process. So, for a similar development in Varosha I believe the resumption of talks in a mutually agreed manner is necessary. If we achieve that then maybe for the sake of protecting that new process one might expect pausing of steps being taken in Varosha.
Why there was no reaction from Turkish Cypriots?
In the north, the opening of Varosha was originally promoted by the pro-settlement forces, but the idea was to do it both in line with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions as well as the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. The current Turkish Cypriot leadership chose to ignore the UN on this issue which triggered widespread international condemnation of the Turkish side and worsening of relations with the South.
This mishandling of the Varosha issue has been heavily criticized by the opposition political parties as well as various NGOs. We want Varosha to be a bridge between the two sides, not a point of yet another conflict.
However, having said all this I must say that Turkish Cypriots are feeling let down and betrayed by the international community and by the Greek Cypriots as neither the Yes vote in 2004 nor the full support to President Akıncı lead to the solution of the Cyprus issue or ending of isolations. So there is a strong sentiment that we have no option, but to take unilateral steps to cause a disturbance to the status quo.
Why the Famagusta Resolutions were never implemented? 550 and 789 clearly indicate the return of the city to the UN.
The Turkish side is already under heavy embargoes. There is no upside to the Turkish Cypriot side to implement those resolutions without getting something in return.
Moreover as you well know territorial adjustment is one of the 6 main chapters of negotiations, which means no territorial exchange can take place prior to a comprehensive settlement. So, what needs to be done is to come to an agreement with the United Nations as to what the term “under UN administration” can mean given the current situation.
We all know the UN can not alone run the city. Who will provide the municipal services, who will run the hospitals etc etc… clearly the UN cannot do all these. In the absence of Territorial adjustment this necessarily means it would be the Turkish side undertaking those responsibilities and the UN may in practice assume an observer role there. However, the Greek Cypriot side rejects such an approach. So clearly a middle ground needs to be found or the whole thing must be kept in the freezer until a comprehensive settlement is reached.
In the past many attempts were made to find a win-win solution to the question of Varosha but these were all rejected by one or the other side. In the absence of comprehensive settlement negotiations it may be a good idea to revisit those previous ideas and see if a mutually agreeable solution can be found. I would not be too optimistic though.
President Nicos Anastasiades stated that he is considering the possibility of removing passports from Tatar and the people around him, as a reaction measure. What is your opinion about this?
I think in countries where rule of law is respected such questions should not be at the discretion of political leaders. A citizen is a citizen and all must be treated equally under the law.
Erdogan and Tatar also announced the creation of more projects and works for “two states”. How concerned are you about this situation and which do you think it will be the result?
So far the steps taken have not been towards achieving international recognition for the ‘trnc’. Instead what we are witnessing is Turkey taking more and more control of all affairs of TRNC, from infrastructure to education to who gets elected to the senior political positions. For me as a Turkish Cypriot this of course is a cause for great concern as we have no influence on politicians in Ankara and their decisions regarding us are shaped by their internal political concerns instead of Turkish Cypriot interests.
This development will have profound implications in the future prospects of bi communal talks and even projects. The idea of achieving a united Cyprus is fast being replaced by Turkey and South Cyprus having a hard land border on island.
Why do you think we got to this point? What went wrong?
I believe for many years our leaders wasted the chances presented to them to unite Cyprus one after the other. As a result people lost confidence that this problem can ever be solved. What happened in Crans Montana was the last straw… Now the name of the game is no longer finding a mutually acceptable solution but to impose a solution. This has put the two sides on a head on collision course. Unfortunately, we are in for a period where we should expect to see worsening of relations and atmosphere on the island in the near future.
How do you think we can get out of this impasse and resume talks?
I have been saying since the failure we had in Crans Montana that the process of negotiations is wrong and we need a new design. What is needed is a new time limited, result-oriented negotiation process. For that process the Turkish side will have to abandon its prior request for recognition and accept to continue from where the negotiations were left off in Crans Montana. In return the Greek Cypriot leadership would have to accept that “this time will be different” as underlined by the UN Secretary-General by committing to a process that will be brought to a conclusion. At the end end of that process, Greek Cypriot voters will have to choose between a mutually agreed federation or a two-state solution, while Turkish Cypriot voters will be told that their choice is between a federation in the EU or to continue to live under isolation.
Only such a new negotiation design will give enough incentive for all parties to open their hand, knowing that the process will be brought to a conclusion, and for both sides to vote for change and Yes to a federal solution. In my view, this is the only way for the Cyprus issue will be resolved. The question is how do we make the two leaders agree to such a result oriented new process. Here we need the assistance of the international community. If they play their role constructively and impartially, this can be done.
The Christofias-Talat convergences are a good basis for a solution. Why were they not signed in an agreement? Late President Christofias had suggested it then.
First let me correct you. It was Ban Ki Moon who asked Talat and late Christofias to announce and endorse publicly the achieved convergences. Talat accepted but Christofias did not, saying that we still had not agreed on Security and Territory so just announcing agreements mainly on Governance and Power Sharing Chapter would be presented by hard liners in the South as if he had given too many concessions without receiving anything in return.
I believe that instead of going back to the Talat-Christofias times, we should concentrate on what has been achieved since then. For example the 11 February 2014 Agreement between Eroglu and Anastasiadis, as well as all the convergences achieved between Akıncı and Anastasiades that took us to the International Conference on Cyprus, including the six point framework he presented on 30 June 2017, as committed to by Mr. Akıncı and Anastasiades in Berlin in November 2019. I believe any new attempt must respect and uphold all that has been achieved until now. The process cannot start from scratch.
What is the current situation for Turkish Cypriots and how concerned are you about this situation in the future?
Turkish Cypriots are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they supported BBF but got rejected by the GC side. On the other hand, Turkey is not really treating TRNC as an independent sovereign state. The political power of Turkish Cypriots is constantly eroding and our ability to decide our own future is fading away. It seems that when faced with this dilemma, most Turkish Cypriots feel helpless and turn into resignation mode.
Some believe that there can be no solution for Cyprus problem. What are your thoughts on this? What is the plan to achieve a solution and why have not we found it yet?
Let’s not forget that at least two UN Secretary-Generals wrote in their reports that the solution was on the table and what was lacking was political will. So with that in mind what needs to be asked and answered is the question of political will, how do we create it? Well, like anything else in life, what you want to do depends on the kind of incentives you face. That’s why I am stressing the need for a new negotiation process that will bring the sides to a conclusion and where the people on both sides of the island are given the choice to decide whether to change things one way or the other. Continuing as before should no longer be an acceptable outcome of serious negotiations. If this is done I am certain we will end the Cyprus problem.
What is your dream for Cyprus?
The biggest danger I see is the continuation of the problem as it is now. This is bad for Cyprus and dangerous for the region. My dream is to live in our common homeland in peace and harmony with each other while protecting our individual as well as our common Cypriot identities. I hope no new generations have to spend their lives talking about the Cyprus issue and suffering from its consequences. Instead we must create a Cyprus that makes us grow and prosper together, a Cyprus which can be an example of peaceful coexistence to the rest of the world.