Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will attend an inauguration ceremony in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on Saturday, marking the official opening of a new undersea pipeline providing the island with drinking and irrigation water from a reservoir in southern Turkey.
President Erdogan will fly to the island for a brief visit via private helicopter where he will attend inauguration at the Camlibel Treatment Facility midday Saturday, before flying back to Turkey.
The project, called Peace Water, is expected to transfer 75 million cubic metres of water in total per annum from the Alakopru Dam in Mersin’s Anamur district in southern Turkey to the Gecitkoy Dam near the shores of Kyrenia in northern Cyprus.
Construction on the pipeline, also dubbed the “Project of the Century,” began in 2011 and was finally completed in August of this year.
The pipeline is 80 kilometres long and runs 250-metres below sea level.
It aims to provide Cyprus, which lacks its own fresh water resources, with enough water to last for the next 30 years.
At present, the water only extends to territories in the TRNC, but Turkey has said that the project could supply water to the southern territories under the control of the Greek Cypriot administration in the future.
Earlier this year, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that the water would be managed by a private company, dampening the hopes of local Turkish Cypriot municipalities that were relying on the project to help them revive their dwindling funds.
Speaking to a platform of trade unions in September, Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci welcomed the project, but urged for control of it to be given to local authorities in the TRNC.
“The coming of this water carries huge importance, but that does not mean we should neglect our own sources,” Akinci said. “We should protect every drop of water in this land.”
In early October, 26 out of 28 municipalities in the TRNC founded a private company called the Water and Canalization Enterprises (BESKI) for the management of the water. However, six Turkish Cypriot mayors on the board of BESKI did not even receive invitations to the inauguration ceremony, which were issued by Turkey.
The Greek Cypriot administration, meanwhile, has slammed the project, saying it aims to “integrate” the Turkish-controlled northern territories and “augment Turkey’s influence and control over Cyprus.”
The Greek Cypriots also criticised Turkey’s plan to maintain sovereignty of the water by dictating the terms of its management.
Turkey, on its part, does not recognise the internationally accepted Republic of Cyprus, which Ankara argues ceased to exist after it was overrun by the Greek junta in a coup on July 15, 1974 in an attempt to unite the island with Greece.
The coup prompted a military intervention just five days later by Turkey, which exercised its right under the Treaty of Guarantee agreed between Turkey, Britain and Greece in 1960, granting the three nations the status of peace guarantors in Cyprus.
Turkey secured the northern third of the island, which became a safe haven for persecuted Turkish Cypriots who had been forced out of the previously joint government with the Greek Cypriots in 1963.
Turkish Cypriots later declared the independence of the TRNC in 1983, which was only recognised by Turkey and briefly by Pakistan and Bangladesh before they backed off due to international pressure.
Peace talks between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have thus far failed to reunite the two communities, but talks were revived in April after a seven-month standoff over offshore gas exploration being undertaken by the Greek Cypriot administration.
The Greek Cypriot side had initially pulled out of talks in October 2014 after Turkey sent a seismic vessel with the agreement of the TRNC government to search for gas reserves off the island’s southeastern coast in response to Greek Cypriot efforts to do the same.
However, the suspension of exploration by the Greek Cypriot side in April, immediately followed by the withdrawal of the Turkish ship, allowed talks to resume.