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The UN ‘is the problem’ when it comes to resolving Cyprus conflict

  • 4 Jul 2022

In an exclusive interview with TRT World, TRNC Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertugruloglu said the global body’s biased actions have made it impossible to find a negotiated settlement.

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertugruloglu speaking with TRT World. ( TRTWorld )

The United Nations (UN) efforts to resolve the Cyprus conflict over 50 years have not only failed to create a settlement, but the global body’s involvement has exacerbated the problem by perpetuating the status quo.

“The UN is a disappointment,” the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC) Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertugruloglu said in an exclusive interview with TRT World. “Quite to the contrary, the UN is the problem itself.”

Ertugruloglu pointed out how the Greek Cypriot state, calling itself the Republic of Cyprus, has been recognised in the UN Security Council (UNSC) as the status quo and is sustained due to UN resolutions that do not allow for an equal standing of the two parties.

“They [the UN] are the ones who maintain the status quo. It is us [TRNC] who are constantly trying to change the status quo [based on] reality, not the myth of Cyprus,” Ertugruloglu said.

Despite Turkish Cypriots and their leadership being willing to compromise to reach a settlement in Cyprus, promises from the UN and the EU that long-imposed economic and political sanctions would be lifted, have still remained in place.

Additionally, France has increasingly thrown their weight behind the Greek Cypriot administration.

Last month, the Parliamentary Committee on Defense approved the release of $56 million to be paid in advance to French aerospace giant Airbus, as part of a $146 million deal for 12 helicopters.

The French sale of attack helicopters indicates “that there is no way we can trust our future to the UN,” Ertugruloglu said, adding that it only strengthens the TRNC’s relationship with Türkiye on matters of security.

In February 2020, Paris signed a $262 million arms deal with the Greek Cypriot Administration to help upgrade its air defences with short-range Mistral missiles and Exocet anti-ship missiles.

Ertugruloglu noted that such actions by a permanent UNSC member reinforce the view that the UN cannot be expected to fulfill its role as a neutral arbiter of the conflict.

“What they [France] are doing signifies to us that the UN, led by the Security Council members, is not an impartial institution capable of dealing with the Cyprus problem the way it should be dealt,” he told TRT World.

The oldest item continuously on the Secretary-General’s peacemaking agenda, the intractable Cyprus issue has been before the UN Security Council for five decades.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots tried to live in a bi-zonal and bi-communal state called the Republic of Cyprus created by an international agreement in 1960. But Türkiye and Turkish Cypriots complained that Greek Cypriots used the state power of the Republic of Cyprus against the island's Turkish community.

The UN Peacekeeping Force on the Island of Cyprus (UNFICYP) was set up in 1964 to “prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island and bring about a return to normal conditions,” according to the UN.

The Turkish side has consistently questioned the force’s presence on the island due to its “political and biased approach.”

The UNFICYP’s mandate has been extended every six months since 1964. Earlier this January, the TRNC condemned the UNSC for extending the international peacekeeping mission on the island for six more months, calling it a “violation of the UN’s own principles and rules” because the body failed to obtain the consent of Turkish Cypriots.

In 1974, the then-ruling junta in Athens backed a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation of the island, which was followed by violence against the island’s Turkish population and led to Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution.

Ertugruloglu said that the Greek Cypriot and Greek claims that the Cyprus problem began in 1974 because of Turkish intervention on the island are belied by the fact of the presence of UN peacekeeping forces since 1964.

“The wrong diagnosis of the international community,” he said, “is in dealing with the Greek Cypriots as if they are the legitimate successors of what used to be a partnership between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.”

“The international community has basically deemed it impossible to find a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus conflict so long as they treat the Greek Cypriots as the Republic of Cyprus and they treat the Turkish Cypriots as if we are a minority community of that state.”

In 1983, Turkish Cypriots declared their own republic – which is only recognised by Türkiye– the TRNC.

While the UNSC resolution 541 (1983) condemned the declaration of the TRNC, considering it to be “incompatible with the 1960 Treaty concerning the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus”, so was the Greek Cypriot administration which ousted Turkish Cypriot partners from the Republic’s government and appropriated the name of the Republic of Cyprus. There is no juridical justification for the UN’s acceptance of one fraction of Cyprus as legal and the other as illegal.

Ertugruloglu noted that if this political inequality continues and Greek Cypriots are allowed by the international community to impose embargoes and restrictions, they will “continue to sabotage any attempt at settlement of the problem” and have no incentive to change the status quo.

The TRNC supports a 5+ UN informal meeting on Cyprus – both sides of Cyprus, the guarantor countries, and the UN – to resolve the issue.

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year that Greek Cypriots scuttled a UN plan to end the decades-long conflict.

In recent years, the conflict has seen an on-and-off peace process, including a failed Annan Plan and a 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Türkiye, Greece and the UK. “That also failed because of the Greek Cypriot attitude,” said Ertugruloglu.

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