President Mustafa Akinci of North Cyprus was elected to office in April 2015 with a popular 60.5 per cent of the vote and he immediately took on a new mission to seek reconciliation between the two main communities of Cyprus — Greek and Turkish. Sadly, recent talks between him and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades in Switzerland have ground to an abrupt halt.
The reported reason was intervention by the Greek mainland to abolish constitutional guarantees currently in place that give rights to Turkey, Britain and Greece to intervene to restore order in the event of a civil war between these communities. This is a key issue for Turkey and North Cyprus, who fear repeat of attacks on Turkish Cypriots (who are outnumbered 4:1), which were initiated by the rightwing nationalist EOKA movement in 1963-64 and in 1974. The military reaction in 1974 by Turkey to protect the lives of the Turkish Cypriots resulted in tragic losses of life on both sides.
The recent electoral success of the rightwing nationalist Elam party, and ongoing attacks on Turkish Cypriot vehicles and their occupants travelling to the Greek sector, do little to quell these fears. Following the UN Annan peace plan referendum of 2004, which Turkish Cypriots voted overwhelmingly to accept, and Greek Cypriots to reject, many states including Britain declared that Turkish Cypriots should not be punished for voting for peace, but assisted to progress economically and socially. Direct trade regulations between North Cyprus and the EU were formally established but these have never been actioned.
With such enthusiasm from Turkish Cypriots for reconciliation, then and now, nobody really understands the moral basis for the continuation of economic and cultural embargoes placed on them by the EU.
Turkish Cypriots have always seen Turkey as their saviours, but expanding religious conservatism in Turkey is worrisome to many, especially the young. They see this as a threat to their European outlook.
Now, their only option is to further consolidate their political future with Turkey. Perhaps this is the right moment for the EU to consider, again, why this small community of 300,000 people cannot be welcomed into Europe and enjoy the full human rights afforded to all existing 500m citizens.
Fahri Zihni, Chair, Embargoed!
(This letter was first published in the Financial Times and FT.com on 28 November 2016)