LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Turkish Cypriots neither want to be an authority under a so-called “Republic of Cyprus” nor a minority on the island, the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) said on Monday.

“We, Turkish Cypriots, don’t want to be an authority under the Republic of Cyprus. We don’t want to be a minority on the island,” Ersin Tatar said In an exclusive interview with Greek Cypriot newspaper Filelefheros.

“The reality is that there are two different peoples on the island: Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots,” said Tatar urging Greek Cypriots to “accept and reaffirm the sovereign equality of Turkish Cypriots.”

He underlined that due to the EU membership and international recognition of the Greek Cypriot administration, there was an imbalance between the two sides on the negotiating table.

“We aren’t recognized, but we have a separate state. We want recognition of our sovereign equality and our equal international status,” he added.

Turkish and Turkish Cypriot officials have argued that a two-state solution would be the fairest way to solve the ongoing dispute on the long-divided island.

Tatar said he had told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that formal negotiations could not begin as there was no common ground between the sides, stressing that despite this, he was ready to partake in informal dialogue.

“I told the British ambassador, who was here a few days ago: ‘Invite me and Anastasiadis to London for dialogue in a different environment where we can speak and discuss,” said Tatar.

“There may not be common ground today, but there may be two years later. We must continue dialogue for a better Cyprus with our hopes, which are revived constantly,” he added.

“The adoption of the sovereign equality of Turkish Cypriots is taken before the UN Security Council, it is accepted, and if the Greek Cypriots do not object, we can negotiate the Cyprus problem in all its aspects,” he emphasized, mentioning that there are two separate states in Cyprus in 60 years and that this should end soon.

Tatar explained the reasons why the Turkish Cypriot side insists on demanding sovereign equality and equal international status together with the historical process, noting that the Greek leadership wanted to connect Cyprus to Greece long ago.

There are many documents indicating that this movement began from 1878, when the British arrived on the Island, he said.

East Mediterranean hydrocarbons

The Greek Cypriot side wrongly believe they own all of Cyprus and the rights to its exclusive economic zone in the Eastern Mediterranean, Tatar said, underscoring Turkish Cypriots only wanted their “fair share” of rights to hydrocarbons in the island’s surrounding waters.

“We don’t want your share, we want our share,” said the Turkish Cypriot leader, adding that the TRNC “trusts Turkiye and moves with Turkiye.”

He also noted that Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had proposed to discuss these issues in a conference, but that the Greek side had turned down this offer.

Decades-long dispute

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation of the island led to Turkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkiye, Greece and the UK.

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the European Union in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted a UN plan to end the longstanding dispute.

*Writing by Merve Berker

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