President Ersin Tatar: “The UK should support the two-state solution”

President Ersin Tatar, in his article published in one of the most prominent newspapers of the United Kingdom- Daily Express, invited the United Kingdom to support the two-state solution in Cyprus by putting an end to the inconclusive efforts. In his article published during his London contacts, President Tatar brought forth the Turkish Cypriot side’s expectations from the UK, which has historical importance on Cyprus, to support the forward-looking vision set out by the Turkish Cypriot side.

President Ersin Tatar in his article mentioned the following:

“I am currently visiting the UK to set out the Turkish Cypriot Side's new forward-looking vision for a solution in Cyprus that is based on the sovereign equality and equal international status of the two Sides.

I am talking about a settlement that is based on a cooperative relationship between two States, based on mutual respect and acknowledgment of the inherent rights of the Turkish Cypriot People. 

Our vision is for the island of Cyprus to act as a beacon of sustainable peace and stability in an otherwise volatile region, whilst recognising the facts on the ground.

This vision protects the cultural identity and political rights of both sides. It is a fair, realistic and viable solution to a decades-old problem, for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus exists for a reason.

It is the embodiment of the sovereign equality of the Turkish Cypriot People and despite unjust international isolation, our vision continues to grow stronger each day. We are no less legitimate than the Greek Cypriot entity next door.

The Turkish Cypriot People did not adopt this vision as a basis for a settlement overnight, but out of necessity after decades of negotiations for a federal-based solution, which has now been exhausted due to the Greek Cypriot side’s continuous rejections and attempts to perpetuate the status quo.

The absence of a mutually hurting stalemate and lack of equal treatment has left the Greek Cypriot Side in a comfort zone which they do not want to change – unfairly perpetuating the status quo.

Let me explain the situation. The island is home to two sovereign peoples, the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots: neither of whom can rule over or represent the other. In short there is no such thing as a ‘Cypriot’ nation. For example, we both have our own flags, national anthems and parliaments etc.

The problem in Cyprus started in the 1950s when the Greek Cypriots began a campaign to annex the island with Greece (ENOSİS) during British colonial rule.

The EOKA terrorists who fought for ENOSIS murdered 371 British soldiers in what was known as the Cyprus Emergency between 1955-1959. The Turkish Cypriots, however, remained loyal to the United Kingdom.

On December 19, 1956, Britain’s Secretary of State for the Colonies, Alan Lennox-Boyd, informed the House of Commons, in a pledge later reiterated by the then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, that: “It will be the purpose of Her Majesty’s Government to ensure that any exercise of self-determination should be effected in such a manner that the Turkish Cypriot community, no less than the Greek Cypriot community, shall, in the special circumstances of Cyprus, be given the freedom to decide for themselves their future status. In other words, Her Majesty’s Government recognise that the exercise of self-determination in such a mixed population must include partition among the eventual options.”

Our right to self-determination is thus rooted in history.

Yet, shortly after, the Greek Cypriot side usurped the partnership of the Republic of Cyprus and created a unilateral Greek Cypriot administration in 1963 by force of arms.  For the next 11 years, the Turkish Cypriots were then subjected to the horrors of ethnic cleansing.

It was only thanks to the Turkish peace operation in 1974 that the bloodshed ended and peace and stability was achieved. This new-found peace would eventually lead to the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that we see today.
In the decades since, despite arduous efforts by the Turkish side to reach a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem, the Greek Cypriot side have rejected 15 settlement plans and ideas, in particular the UN’s proposals in 2004 and 2017. The Greek Cypriots continue to pay lip service to the international community for a solution but have in fact refused every opportunity that has been presented to them.  

Rather than wasting further time on shown to be unworkable solutions it is now time for a new approach. The time has come to work on a way forward based on the re-affirmation of sovereign equality and equal international status of the two Sides. Only this will allow for a cooperative relationship between the two States moving forward.

This means finally delivering on the promises made by the international community back in 2004, such as by the late UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Britain, to finally allow us to trade and travel directly from our own country.

Likewise, to end the ban on our youth from participating in international sports tournaments such as the Olympics, or for us to be able to sell items such as our world-renowned potatoes and citrus fruits under the banner of Northern Cyprus.

Within the island of Cyprus, it also means working towards areas of concrete cooperation such as the sharing of hydrocarbon resources, establishing an electricity interconnector for the island with Europe via Turkey, tackling illegal migration via the auspices of the UN and clearing mines.

For the UK specifically, we would encourage a fresh new approach towards the Turkish Cypriot people - to treat us on an equal footing. Using the greater flexibility of Brexit, it is time to start to normalise relations on areas such as trade and police cooperation. I am confident that anything which helps to reduce the disparities with the Greek Cypriot side will ultimately help with the search for a solution. 

In short, the merry-go round must end. Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots should get off: it’s a farce. We need a fresh agenda and fresh opportunities for both peoples of the island of Cyprus – for peace, security and prosperity.”