The Cyprus Question: Following over 300 years of Turkish rule, the island of Cyprus came under de facto British rule in 1878 and British sovereignty was officially recognized in 1923. In 1960, the Republic of Cyprus was established as a bicommunal partnership state by international treaties, signed by Great Britain, Turkey, Greece, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
The leaders of the Greek Cypriot community, however, did not regard the 1960 treaties as the final solution for Cyprus. In fact, they considered them a barrier to ENOSIS which means union with Greece. Then, on December 21st, 1963, Greek Cypriots put into practice a malicious plan they systematically developed with the aim of exterminating the Turkish Cypriots. This campaign was based on the previously prepared “Akritas Plan”, which forsees destroying the Turks and throwing them out of the island. As a result of brutal Greek Cypriot onslaughts, Turkish Cypriots living in a total of 103 villages had to flee their homes and take refuge in small enclaves throughout the Island. They were put under economic pressure and were isolated from the world outside. With the acceptance of the 1960 Constitution, the basic rights of the Turkish Cypriots were put on hold and the validity of the establishment agreement was put into jeopardy in 1963. Even the United Nations Secretary General of the day described the situation as a veritable siege.
The UN Security Council sent a peace force to the island under Decision No. 186, taken on March 4th, 1964. The military government in Greece engineered a coup in Cyprus on July 15th, 1974 with the aim of achieving ENOSIS. As one of the three guarantor states, Turkey urged Great Britain, the other guarantor, to take joint action under Article 4 of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. However, the reply of the British government was negative. Therefore, the Turkish armed forces, in accordance with the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, made a rapid and highly successful intervention called the Peace Operation, reestablishing peace and preventing ethnic cleansing targeting the Turkish Cypriots.
The Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş and the Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides reached an agreement in Vienna on August 2nd, 1975 for an “exchange of popu-lations” under the auspices of the United Nations, and this agreement was implemented by the mediation of the UN peacekeeping force. With the implementation of this agreement 120 thousand Greeks moved from North to South and 65 thousand Turks moved from South to North. In this way, a homogenous population environment was created.
After 1974, Turkish Cypriots and Turkey adopted the idea of a bicommunal federation. In this frame, all the meetings held between 1975 and 1997 were carried out around the formation of a federation. But the Greek side, following a policy of spreading their sovereignty to the North, tried to structure the state this way.
The Turkish Cypriots, in order to structure the Turkish side of the federation, announced the formation of the Turkish Cypriot Federated State (TCFS) on February 13th, 1975. Following the announcement of the TCFS, the UN Security Council had a meeting and on March 12th, 1975 took Decision No. 367, giving the UN General Secretary a good-will duty, to bring a solution to the problem.
The sides reached the first High Level Agreement following a meeting between Denktaş and Makarios on February 12th, 1977, envisaging the establishment of a bicommunal federal republic on the Island.
In May 1979, a Denktaş-Kiprianu meeting was held, with the call of the Turkish Cypriot side, and the second High Level
Agreement was reached. This agreement supported the 1977 Agreement and contained an article which emphasized the importance of creating an environment of trust.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was established in 1983 and Rauf Denktaş was elected as first President of the TRNC.
In 1990, as a result of renewed efforts to find a solution, with the active contributions of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side, UN General Secretary Ghali prepared an informal agreement draft named the “Set of Ideas” and presented it to the parties. Discussions held in New York in June and November 1992 were centered around the 1992 Set of Ideas, which primarily sees a bicommunal federal state as a solution. These discussions confirmed that, as accepted in 1960, the 1960 Treaties of Guarantee and of Alliance were to continue and also that a “Federal Cyprus” would give Turkey and Greece the status of “most respected countries”.
Turkish Cypriots accepted 91 of the 100 paragraphs of the Set of Ideas and stated that they were ready to discuss the other 9. The Southern Greek Cypriot Administration (SGCA) on the other hand, ended its dialogue with the Turkish Cypriot side with a unilateral decision and completely rejected the idea of continuing guarantee treaties, regardless of whether the Turkish Cypriots would have a federation status or be completely independent. Klerides, who won the February 1993 general elections held in the southern side by completely rejecting the Set of Ideas, immediately after forming his government announced that he would not discuss the Set of Ideas at all and would focus on EU membership. After its EU candidacy was recognized in March 1995, the SGCA focused its efforts on EU membership.
In January 2002, ex-President of the TRNC Rauf Denktaş and ex-leader of the Greek Cypriots Glafcos Clerides began negotiations to resolve the dispute, and the Cyprus question entered a new phase when the UN Secretary-General of the time, Kofi Annan submitted to both sides on November 11th, 2002, a document entitled, “Basis for a Comprehensive Solution to the Cyprus question” also known as the Annan Plan. Annan invited the two Cypriot leaders to The Hague for talks on March 10th-11th, 2003 and Turkey, Greece and the UK also attended these talks as three guarantor powers. Both sides brought to the agenda the amendments they wished to make to the Annan Plan and the Annan noted that he had reached the conclusion that the chances of reaching an accord by March 28th, a deadline he had introduced earlier, were virtually nil but that the Plan was still on the table. Thus, negotiations ended in March 2003 without any result. Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriot administration unilaterally signed the Accession Agreement with the EU on April 16th, 2003. The Cyprus issue was on the top of the agenda of the international community once again following a January 2004 diplomatic initiative by Turkey to resume negotiations between the two parties in the Island, with the objective of working out a comprehensive settlement to this dispute. The political will of Turkey to settle the issue caused a new initiative by Annan. Following Annan’s new initiative, intensive negotiations under the auspices of the UN were held between the two parties in the Island between February 19th and March 22nd, 2004, and afterwards, further talks took place in Burgenstock, a Swiss town, on March 24th-31st, 2004 with the participation of the motherlands Turkey and Greece. The aim of the negotiations was to finalize the Annan Plan, then to submit it to two separate referenda in the Island before May 1st, and thus to create the necessary conditions for reunification before Cyprus entered the European Union.
The final text of the settlement plan conveyed to both parties by Annan on March 31st was submitted for public approval through two referenda, which were held separately but simultaneously in the TRNC and the SGCA on April 24th, 2004. While 65% of the Turkish Cypriots accepted the settlement plan, which would have allowed a reunified Cyprus to enter the EU, 76% of the Greek Cypriots rejected it. Despite this outcome, the Greek Cypriot side became a full member of the EU on May 1st and this situation has created imbalances in the Island.
Turkey has always advocated a comprehensive, practical and freely negotiated settlement for Cyprus. In this context, it has extended full support to the good faith mission of Annan and displayed its political will to end the partition of the island by cooperating closely during the process which led to the referenda. If it had been accepted by both sides, the settlement would have reunified Cyprus under the name of the “United Cyprus Republic”, consisting of a federal government and two equal constituent states, the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot states.
A new situation has arisen on the Island after the April 24th referenda. The international community expressed the view that the Turkish Cypriots who bravely demonstrated their support for a settlement should not be punished, for what the Greek Cypriots rejected was “the solution itself rather than a mere blueprint,” as the UN Secretary General pointed out in his report.
Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots have fulfilled their responsibilities of working out a comprehensive settlement to the issue within the framework of the good offices mission of the ex-UN secretary general Annan, by supporting the Comprehensive Plan which was prepared by both parties under the auspices of the UN secretary general. Now it is up to the international community to take concrete steps to end the political, economic, social and cultural isolation from which the Turkish Cypriots have suffered and to lift the unjust economic embargoes which have been going on for many years.
Annan issued his report (S/2004/437) on his mission on May 28th, 2004. In his report the secretary general emphasized that, “in the aftermath of the vote, the situation of the Turkish Cypriots calls for the attention of the international community as a whole, including the Security Council” and underlined the fact that the “Turkish Cypriot vote has undone any rationale for pressuring and isolating them”. On this basis, Annan also called on “the members of the (Security) Council” to “give a strong lead to all States to cooperate both bilaterally and in international bodies to eliminate unnecessary restrictions and barriers that have the effect of isolating the Turkish Cypriots and impeding their development.”
Following the referenda, particularly the EU and several international bodies alongside a number of countries on a bilateral basis, have exerted some efforts in this direction. However, it has not been possible to break the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots or to heal the wounds of their bitter past experiences. The core reason is the negative stance of the Greek Cypriot side that has been obstructing all positive steps to improve the situation of the Turkish Cypriots by exploiting its EU membership since May 1st, 2004. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) made a strong call to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and decided to call the TRNC, which has been attending OIC activities under the name of the “Turkish Cypriot Muslim Community,” the “Turkish Cypriot State” as of September 2004, at the 31st Term Islamic Foreign Ministers Confe-rence. Also, the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), in its 14th Council of Ministers and 8th Summit of Heads of State and Government, in the same year agreed to change the name of the TRNC from the “Turkish Cypriot Muslim Community” to the “Turkish Cypriot State,” the name used in the Comprehensive Settlement Plan of the United Nations. In the TRNC Presidential elections of April 17th, 2005, the Prime Minister of the day, Mehmet Ali Talat, was elected president with 55.6% of the vote in the first round, and he took over the presidency from Rauf Denktaş on April 20th, 2005 after giving his oath.
Acting in conformity with its statement made during the EU’s Brussels Summit of December 16th-17th, 2004, Turkey signed the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement on
July 29th, 2005, prior to the commencement of accession talks with the EU. This protocol, extending the 1963 Ankara
Agreement to all members of the Union, was signed by exchange of letters between Turkey, the EU term presidency and the EU Commission. In the meantime, Turkey issued a formal declaration to the effect that the signature, adoption and implementation of this protocol would not in any form constitute recognition of the SGCA.
The acceptance of the SGCA into the EU unilaterally, affected Turkish-EU relations and also made it more difficult to resolve the Cyprus problem.
Turkey’s efforts towards settlement of the problem continued and on January 24th, 2006 a new ten-article Action Plan proposing the simultaneous removal of all restrictions in Cyprus by all sides concerned was announced. Several countries and institutions declared support for this plan.
TRNC president Talat called the Greek side to start negotiations on a technical level and in February 2006 both sides agreed to start meetings concerning the 10 paragraphs, on issues which are relevant to both sides. But the persistence of the Greek side to include specific issues in the discussions prevented the parties from having meetings until July 2006.
TRNC president Mehmet Ali Talat and SGCA president Papadopulos had a meeting on July 8th, 2006. In this meeting, two papers entitled the “Set of Principles” and the “Decision of Two Leaders” were accepted. Within this frame, on issues affecting the daily life in the island, it was decided to start Work Groups to be active in specific matters that would require Technical Committees working towards a comprehensive settlement. But, due to the obstructions of the SGCA, intending to ignore the UN decisions, it was not possible to see any development in this period.
On September 5th, 2006, the two leaders got together under the supervision of the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy Möller. Talat emphasized the importance of the compre-hensive settlement and responsibilities. Also, he suggested that following a two months’ preparation period, compre-hensive discussions should be started and be settled by the end of 2008. He also recommended that technical com-mittees start work immediately, independent of the meeting sessions.
The Greek Cypriots’ leader Papadapoulos rejected these suggestions and took a position that could be summarized as the following: the July 8th agreement should have been continued and the leaders should continue meeting in certain periods. Due to these differences in approach, an understanding could not be reached.
During the meeting that was held in New York on October 16th, 2007 between Talat and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, a proposal for Confidence Building Measures, to be a cooperation mechanism formed on an equality basis under the auspices of UN, was put forward to the attention of Secretary General. This proposal contained issues that concern both parties such as opening up new gates between the North and South.
In SCGA, Hristofyas won the presidential elections held on February 17th and 24th, 2008 and took over the leadership on February 28th, 2008.
On March 21st, 2008, Talat and Hristofyas got together to discuss the existing situation on the Cyprus issue and to Exchange views on the future period. In this meeting, it was decided to form Technical Committees and Work Groups and to start working immediately. It was also agreed that the two leaders should review these works three months later and start the comprehensive discussions along with the UN Secretary General’s Good Will Mission, by using the outcomes of these meetings.
Turkey continues to support efforts towards a lasting, comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue, based on the political equality under the supervision of the UN and actively contributes to such efforts.
Since 2003, the SCGA has increased efforts to sign bilateral agreements with the Eastern Mediterranean countries in order to increase their sovereignty over the seas. The TRNC and Turkey have always confronted such efforts and advocated that issues such as the continental shelf of the Eastern Mediterranean and economic area restrictions could only be resolved by arrangements protecting the rights and benefits of all parties involved.
In this direction, it was recorded both by Egypt and by the UN that Turkey did not recognize the exclusive economic area restriction treaty signed between Egypt and SCGA on February 17th, 2003.
However, the SCGA continued its attempts and, following the SCGA parliament accepting the law announcing the 13 petrol regions, has called for international bids. Upon these developments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it is expected of the SGCA to stop breaching the rights owned mutually by two parties on issues like petrol and natural gas and to give an end to attempts to collect bids without the consent of the Eastern Mediterranean countries, and indicated that the SCGA did not represent the whole of the island and they did not have the authority to sign agreements on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots. It was stressed that Turkey was determined to protect her rights and benefits in the Eastern Mediterranean.
All international institutions, including the UN and the world public, have been informed of Turkey’s views on the SCGA’s attempts, against international and statutory law, to restrict the sea authorization areas and to issue licences of perol and natural gas drilling in the seas.
These developments, once again have put forward the importance of a just, permanent and comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the UN and UN parameters.