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Northern Cyprus: on the way to recognition?

photo: tmgrup.com.tr
28 November 2022
Amur GadzhiyevAmur Gadzhiyev

Amur Gadzhiyev

Candidate of historical sciences, CISS expert

«New era for Turkic Civilization: Towards Common Development and Prosperity» that was exactly the slogan under which a scheduled summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) was held in Samarkand. The Samarkand meeting of the OTS was marked by the parties desire for further pan-Turkic integration with the use of very ambitious initiatives in the transport, energy, financial and trade-economic spheres. In order to implement the «Turkic world vision 2040» summit participants signed the «The Strategy of the Organization of Turkic States for 2022-2026» which contains the principles of further cooperation between the Turkic states. Based on the summit results, leaders of the states confirmed «adherence to the goals of deepening and expanding cooperation on the basis of common history, language, culture, traditions and values of the Turkic peoples».

Along with the issues of deepening regional economic integration, Samarkand summit participants also touched upon the political problems of the Turkic world. The declaration adopted upon completion of the summit underscored the organizations aim to «strengthen security and stability of the Member States in accordance with the generally recognized norms and principles of international law». The summit noted determination of the OTS to further promote values and interests of the Turkic world on the regional and on the global levels. The participants agreed to achieve this through various consultation mechanisms.

Among the political problems discussed during the ninth summit of the OTS special attention was paid to the problem of Northern Cyprus to which, on the first glance, Turkic-speaking states still show mixed attitude. The intrigue was spurred by the fact that in contrast with the statements by the Turkish officials on granting an observer status to the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) representatives of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan spoke about compliance with international law, UN Charter and support to the territorial integrity of states. While so doing, attention was drawn to the fact that TRNC has an observer status in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Organization, as well as participates in the events of the International Organization of Turkic Culture.

Item 7 of the Samarkand Declaration adopted after the ninth OTS summit says that the parties «consider Turkish Cypriots as part of the Turkic World and welcome TRNCs OTS Observer Status» which, according to article 16 of the  Nakhichevan Agreement «may be received by the states, international organizations and international forums». Therefore, the parties that had signed the Samarkand Declaration actually recognized international legal personality of Northern Cyprus.

Moreover, TRNC also appeared on the site of the Organization of Turkic States in the section on observer countries. The flag of the unrecognized republic appeared in the header of the ORS official account in the social network Twitter*. On November 15, 2022 Secretary General of the Organization of Turkic States Kubanychbek Omuraliev congratulated the «new observer at the organization» on the Republic Day. Next day Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated in no uncertain terms that the issue of granting the OTS observer status to TRNC was «resolved and closed». Turkish Presidents statement was accompanied by the exercises of the anti-terrorist forces of the «fraternal Turkic countries» in the Turkish Isparta in which TRNC representatives, among others, participated too. However, prior to the Samarkand summit Erdogan had said that he does not perceive admission of Northern Cyprus to OTS as an observer as the initiation of the recognition process.

Why is TRNC special and important to Turkey? To answer this question one should first go through the background of the Cyprus issue, highlight the most acute problems of the negotiations process on the settlement of the Cyprus problem and assess the condition of this process with regard to the Turkish interests in the East Mediterranean.

Cyprus issue: brief background

In the period from 1571 to 1878 Cyprus belonged to the Ottoman Empire, in 1878-1960 the island was under British rule. Greeks and Turks always lived separately and had their own administrative bodies. In 1960 the Republic of Cyprus proclaimed independence. However, its sovereignty was limited by the treaties concluded in Zurich and London in 1959. According to the first document (Treaty of Alliance) signed between Cyprus, Turkey and Greece, the Greek and Turkish contingents were deployed on the island. According to the second document (Treaty of Guarantee) signed between Cyprus, Great Britain, Turkey and Greece, independence, territorial integrity and security of the island was guaranteed by London, Ankara and Athens. In connection with sporadic ethnic clashes between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots UN keeping forces were deployed on the island in 1964 by decision of the UN Security Council. At that time the island was divided by a buffer zone (a «green line»).

In 1974 a coup dtat was executed in Cyprus supported by the Greek military junta in order to annex the island to Greece. In response Turkey landed its troops and occupied the northern part of the island (about 37% of the countrys territory). Cyprus found itself divided into the Republic of Cyprus (not recognized by Turkey) and Turkish Federal State of Northern Cyprus (TFSNC). In 1983 TFSNC declared its independence of Cyprus. The new state formation was named Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, the UNO refused to accept the TRNCs declaration of independence. Nevertheless, on May 5, 1985 TRNC adopted its Constitution.

Negotiations process

In 2003 when negotiations on the Republic of Cypruss entry into the European Union were on a final lap the possibility of a united countrys joining the EU gave a new impetus to the attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem.  On April 24, 2004 referendums were held in the Republic of Cyprus and TRNC on the approval of the reunification plan proposed by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. This plan provided for the establishment of a federal state consisting of two autonomous parts. It was proposed that obligations of the head of state be discharged by a collective organ including representatives of the two communities. However, Kofi Annans plan was not accepted through the fault of Greek Cypriots 75% of which voted against this plan («contra»), while 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted «pro». The Greek Cypriot side quoted the main drawback of Annans plan: it did not oblige the Turkey to withdraw its troops from the island. After rejection of UN Secretary Generals project TRNCs leadership embarked on the course of preparing ground for the creation a confederation of two independent states.

The situation deteriorated after Turkey declared in early October 2014 about the plans to conduct seismic survey of oil and gas resources in Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Nicosia decided to suspend the negotiations qualifying Ankaras actions as a gross violation of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus. In early April 2015 Turkey declared about the termination of survey in Cyprus EEZ because there appeared an opportunity to renew a dialogue between the communities.

A new impetus to the negotiations process was given on May 15, 2015 at the meeting between the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and Head of TRNC Mustafa Akinci. Several rounds of negotiations were held. Observers noted that the positions of the sides became closer. Besides, in November of the same year 2015 Prime-Ministers of Turkey and Greece Ahmet Davutolu and Alexis Tsipras stated willingness of Ankara and Athens to come to terms in resolving the Cyprus problem. In May 2016 the leaders of the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus said that the common task is to search for a solution that would be beneficial to both the sides.

From 7 to 11 and from 20 to 21 November during the negotiations between Anastasiades and Akinci in the Swiss town of Mont-Pėlerin a territorial issue was discussed. According to the mass media, «progress was achieved» at these talks, but no concrete decisions were taken. On January 9-11, 2017 another round of talks was held in Geneva. Based on the results, a decision was made to set up a working group on the level of deputy ministers of foreign affairs. The purpose is to search for a solution on guarantees and security. Work commenced on January 18.

Simultaneously, on January 12, a conference was convened in Geneva with participation of ministers of foreign affairs of the Cyprus independence guarantor countries and an EU delegation as an observer. However, already in July 2017 during the scheduled negotiations between the communities in Crans-Montana the delegations stated that is impossible to continue the dialogue because of intransigence of the parties. Currently, attempts are made to resume the negotiations.

Most urgent problems of the negotiations process

One of the most complicated problems in the context of the Cyprus settlement is the territorial issue. Thus, the Greek Cypriot community expects to get the city of Morphou, the Karpas peninsula on which the monastery of the Apostle Andrew is located, as well as 60% of the islands coastline (at present Greeks control about 47%). Besides, the Greek side insists on creating conditions on which 100 thousand Greek Cypriots, which is 60% of the persons displaced as a result of the Turkish invasion in 1974, could return to their homes. At the Geneva meeting on January 12, 2017 the sides exchanged maps of territories that will be under the control of each community after reunification of the island. These maps were handed to the UNO until the talks are finalized. The list of lands each side is supposed to get is not disclosed.

Related to the territorial issue is the problem of property forfeited by representatives of both the communities in 1974. According to the estimates of the World Bank, the cost of possessions left by the Turkish Cypriots in the south of the island amounts to 8 billion euro, while the Greek Cypriots were deprived of the possessions worth 21 billion euro. The parties are to decide in which manner and in what amounts compensations will be paid.

Presence of a Turkish military contingent in the TRNC also poses a problem. The Republic of Cyprus stands for its withdrawal regarding the «occupation of the northern part of the island» as one of the major reasons of the Cyprus split, while Turkey seeks to keep the status of the guarantor-country in order to «protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots if violated».

Issues related to the development of gas fields on the Cyprus shelf are among the relatively new problems in the context of Cyprus settlement. Disputes about the shelf began after discovery on block 12 in 2015 of a gigantic gas field Aphrodite, an extension of the Israeli field Leviathan, which attracted the attention of the oil and gas companies. Specialists estimated the reserves of this field at about 116 bn m3. Besides Aphrodite, in Cyprus exclusive economic zone they discovered large gas deposits in the Glafkos field with reserves from 142 to 227 bn m3 and in the Cronos-1 well with reserves about 70 bn m3

After Nicosia had taken a decision to begin gas exploration in the zone around the island Turkish survey vessels escorted by the ships of the Turkish Navy also began to perform drilling operations and seismic exploration on the same shelf. Ankara contests the boundaries of the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus and claims that it will not allow geological exploration drilling at the islands coasts without consent of the Turkish Cypriot community. According to Ankara, Turkish drilling vessels accompanied by the military ships are in the gas field zone on the basis of licenses issued by TRNC. These actions by the Turkish side caused sanctions introduced by the European Union against Ankara.

Conclusion

From the point of view of security, Cyprus is special to Turkey because the island lies at just 40 miles from the Anatolian coast. Therefore, Cyprus covers the «vulnerable underbelly» of the Turkish Republic.

In the context of geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean Ankara applies efforts to disrupt the activities of the Gas Forum in that region which is actually aimed against Turkey. Turkey expects to reinforce its position in disputes about the EEZ in the Mediterranean Sea waters. The biggest apprehension in Ankara is caused by a possible integration of military and political resources of Greece, Egypt and Cyprus supported by the USA into the GREGCY formation so conventionally named after a similar AUKUS bloc in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Cyprus problem also has a direct impact on Turkeys relationship with the European Union. As members of the EU Greece and Cyprus use every opportunity to put pressure not only on the TRNC, but also on Turkey within the framework of its relations with the EU.

From the domestic policy point of view it is obvious that diplomatic activity towards recognition of Northern Cyprus enables Erdogan to enhance his popularity among the nationalists, which is especially important on the eve of presidential and parliamentary elections.

In view of the above it becomes quite easy to understand the position of Ankara on the Cyprus problem which in general terms is expressed in the necessity to settle it on the basis of sovereign equality of the two states already de-facto existing on the island of Cyprus. It is also worth noting that the Turkish authorities will do their best to recognize international legal personality of Turkish Cypriots, including and first of all, on the platform of the summits of the Organization of Turkic States.


* Social network Twitter is blocked in the territory of the Russian Federation

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Publications

Northern Cyprus: on the way to recognition?

photo: tmgrup.com.tr
28 2022
Amur Gadzhiyev

Amur Gadzhiyev

Candidate of historical sciences, CISS expert

«New era for Turkic Civilization: Towards Common Development and Prosperity» that was exactly the slogan under which a scheduled summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) was held in Samarkand. The Samarkand meeting of the OTS was marked by the parties desire for further pan-Turkic integration with the use of very ambitious initiatives in the transport, energy, financial and trade-economic spheres. In order to implement the «Turkic world vision 2040» summit participants signed the «The Strategy of the Organization of Turkic States for 2022-2026» which contains the principles of further cooperation between the Turkic states. Based on the summit results, leaders of the states confirmed «adherence to the goals of deepening and expanding cooperation on the basis of common history, language, culture, traditions and values of the Turkic peoples».

Along with the issues of deepening regional economic integration, Samarkand summit participants also touched upon the political problems of the Turkic world. The declaration adopted upon completion of the summit underscored the organizations aim to «strengthen security and stability of the Member States in accordance with the generally recognized norms and principles of international law». The summit noted determination of the OTS to further promote values and interests of the Turkic world on the regional and on the global levels. The participants agreed to achieve this through various consultation mechanisms.

Among the political problems discussed during the ninth summit of the OTS special attention was paid to the problem of Northern Cyprus to which, on the first glance, Turkic-speaking states still show mixed attitude. The intrigue was spurred by the fact that in contrast with the statements by the Turkish officials on granting an observer status to the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) representatives of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan spoke about compliance with international law, UN Charter and support to the territorial integrity of states. While so doing, attention was drawn to the fact that TRNC has an observer status in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Organization, as well as participates in the events of the International Organization of Turkic Culture.

Item 7 of the Samarkand Declaration adopted after the ninth OTS summit says that the parties «consider Turkish Cypriots as part of the Turkic World and welcome TRNCs OTS Observer Status» which, according to article 16 of the  Nakhichevan Agreement «may be received by the states, international organizations and international forums». Therefore, the parties that had signed the Samarkand Declaration actually recognized international legal personality of Northern Cyprus.

Moreover, TRNC also appeared on the site of the Organization of Turkic States in the section on observer countries. The flag of the unrecognized republic appeared in the header of the ORS official account in the social network Twitter*. On November 15, 2022 Secretary General of the Organization of Turkic States Kubanychbek Omuraliev congratulated the «new observer at the organization» on the Republic Day. Next day Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated in no uncertain terms that the issue of granting the OTS observer status to TRNC was «resolved and closed». Turkish Presidents statement was accompanied by the exercises of the anti-terrorist forces of the «fraternal Turkic countries» in the Turkish Isparta in which TRNC representatives, among others, participated too. However, prior to the Samarkand summit Erdogan had said that he does not perceive admission of Northern Cyprus to OTS as an observer as the initiation of the recognition process.

Why is TRNC special and important to Turkey? To answer this question one should first go through the background of the Cyprus issue, highlight the most acute problems of the negotiations process on the settlement of the Cyprus problem and assess the condition of this process with regard to the Turkish interests in the East Mediterranean.

Cyprus issue: brief background

In the period from 1571 to 1878 Cyprus belonged to the Ottoman Empire, in 1878-1960 the island was under British rule. Greeks and Turks always lived separately and had their own administrative bodies. In 1960 the Republic of Cyprus proclaimed independence. However, its sovereignty was limited by the treaties concluded in Zurich and London in 1959. According to the first document (Treaty of Alliance) signed between Cyprus, Turkey and Greece, the Greek and Turkish contingents were deployed on the island. According to the second document (Treaty of Guarantee) signed between Cyprus, Great Britain, Turkey and Greece, independence, territorial integrity and security of the island was guaranteed by London, Ankara and Athens. In connection with sporadic ethnic clashes between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots UN keeping forces were deployed on the island in 1964 by decision of the UN Security Council. At that time the island was divided by a buffer zone (a «green line»).

In 1974 a coup dtat was executed in Cyprus supported by the Greek military junta in order to annex the island to Greece. In response Turkey landed its troops and occupied the northern part of the island (about 37% of the countrys territory). Cyprus found itself divided into the Republic of Cyprus (not recognized by Turkey) and Turkish Federal State of Northern Cyprus (TFSNC). In 1983 TFSNC declared its independence of Cyprus. The new state formation was named Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, the UNO refused to accept the TRNCs declaration of independence. Nevertheless, on May 5, 1985 TRNC adopted its Constitution.

Negotiations process

In 2003 when negotiations on the Republic of Cypruss entry into the European Union were on a final lap the possibility of a united countrys joining the EU gave a new impetus to the attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem.  On April 24, 2004 referendums were held in the Republic of Cyprus and TRNC on the approval of the reunification plan proposed by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. This plan provided for the establishment of a federal state consisting of two autonomous parts. It was proposed that obligations of the head of state be discharged by a collective organ including representatives of the two communities. However, Kofi Annans plan was not accepted through the fault of Greek Cypriots 75% of which voted against this plan («contra»), while 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted «pro». The Greek Cypriot side quoted the main drawback of Annans plan: it did not oblige the Turkey to withdraw its troops from the island. After rejection of UN Secretary Generals project TRNCs leadership embarked on the course of preparing ground for the creation a confederation of two independent states.

The situation deteriorated after Turkey declared in early October 2014 about the plans to conduct seismic survey of oil and gas resources in Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Nicosia decided to suspend the negotiations qualifying Ankaras actions as a gross violation of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus. In early April 2015 Turkey declared about the termination of survey in Cyprus EEZ because there appeared an opportunity to renew a dialogue between the communities.

A new impetus to the negotiations process was given on May 15, 2015 at the meeting between the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and Head of TRNC Mustafa Akinci. Several rounds of negotiations were held. Observers noted that the positions of the sides became closer. Besides, in November of the same year 2015 Prime-Ministers of Turkey and Greece Ahmet Davutolu and Alexis Tsipras stated willingness of Ankara and Athens to come to terms in resolving the Cyprus problem. In May 2016 the leaders of the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus said that the common task is to search for a solution that would be beneficial to both the sides.

From 7 to 11 and from 20 to 21 November during the negotiations between Anastasiades and Akinci in the Swiss town of Mont-Pėlerin a territorial issue was discussed. According to the mass media, «progress was achieved» at these talks, but no concrete decisions were taken. On January 9-11, 2017 another round of talks was held in Geneva. Based on the results, a decision was made to set up a working group on the level of deputy ministers of foreign affairs. The purpose is to search for a solution on guarantees and security. Work commenced on January 18.

Simultaneously, on January 12, a conference was convened in Geneva with participation of ministers of foreign affairs of the Cyprus independence guarantor countries and an EU delegation as an observer. However, already in July 2017 during the scheduled negotiations between the communities in Crans-Montana the delegations stated that is impossible to continue the dialogue because of intransigence of the parties. Currently, attempts are made to resume the negotiations.

Most urgent problems of the negotiations process

One of the most complicated problems in the context of the Cyprus settlement is the territorial issue. Thus, the Greek Cypriot community expects to get the city of Morphou, the Karpas peninsula on which the monastery of the Apostle Andrew is located, as well as 60% of the islands coastline (at present Greeks control about 47%). Besides, the Greek side insists on creating conditions on which 100 thousand Greek Cypriots, which is 60% of the persons displaced as a result of the Turkish invasion in 1974, could return to their homes. At the Geneva meeting on January 12, 2017 the sides exchanged maps of territories that will be under the control of each community after reunification of the island. These maps were handed to the UNO until the talks are finalized. The list of lands each side is supposed to get is not disclosed.

Related to the territorial issue is the problem of property forfeited by representatives of both the communities in 1974. According to the estimates of the World Bank, the cost of possessions left by the Turkish Cypriots in the south of the island amounts to 8 billion euro, while the Greek Cypriots were deprived of the possessions worth 21 billion euro. The parties are to decide in which manner and in what amounts compensations will be paid.

Presence of a Turkish military contingent in the TRNC also poses a problem. The Republic of Cyprus stands for its withdrawal regarding the «occupation of the northern part of the island» as one of the major reasons of the Cyprus split, while Turkey seeks to keep the status of the guarantor-country in order to «protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots if violated».

Issues related to the development of gas fields on the Cyprus shelf are among the relatively new problems in the context of Cyprus settlement. Disputes about the shelf began after discovery on block 12 in 2015 of a gigantic gas field Aphrodite, an extension of the Israeli field Leviathan, which attracted the attention of the oil and gas companies. Specialists estimated the reserves of this field at about 116 bn m3. Besides Aphrodite, in Cyprus exclusive economic zone they discovered large gas deposits in the Glafkos field with reserves from 142 to 227 bn m3 and in the Cronos-1 well with reserves about 70 bn m3

After Nicosia had taken a decision to begin gas exploration in the zone around the island Turkish survey vessels escorted by the ships of the Turkish Navy also began to perform drilling operations and seismic exploration on the same shelf. Ankara contests the boundaries of the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus and claims that it will not allow geological exploration drilling at the islands coasts without consent of the Turkish Cypriot community. According to Ankara, Turkish drilling vessels accompanied by the military ships are in the gas field zone on the basis of licenses issued by TRNC. These actions by the Turkish side caused sanctions introduced by the European Union against Ankara.

Conclusion

From the point of view of security, Cyprus is special to Turkey because the island lies at just 40 miles from the Anatolian coast. Therefore, Cyprus covers the «vulnerable underbelly» of the Turkish Republic.

In the context of geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean Ankara applies efforts to disrupt the activities of the Gas Forum in that region which is actually aimed against Turkey. Turkey expects to reinforce its position in disputes about the EEZ in the Mediterranean Sea waters. The biggest apprehension in Ankara is caused by a possible integration of military and political resources of Greece, Egypt and Cyprus supported by the USA into the GREGCY formation so conventionally named after a similar AUKUS bloc in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Cyprus problem also has a direct impact on Turkeys relationship with the European Union. As members of the EU Greece and Cyprus use every opportunity to put pressure not only on the TRNC, but also on Turkey within the framework of its relations with the EU.

From the domestic policy point of view it is obvious that diplomatic activity towards recognition of Northern Cyprus enables Erdogan to enhance his popularity among the nationalists, which is especially important on the eve of presidential and parliamentary elections.

In view of the above it becomes quite easy to understand the position of Ankara on the Cyprus problem which in general terms is expressed in the necessity to settle it on the basis of sovereign equality of the two states already de-facto existing on the island of Cyprus. It is also worth noting that the Turkish authorities will do their best to recognize international legal personality of Turkish Cypriots, including and first of all, on the platform of the summits of the Organization of Turkic States.


* Social network Twitter is blocked in the territory of the Russian Federation