President Erdoğan calls on Eurasian states to strengthen ties with North Cyprus

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) to “develop their relations with the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus” (TRNC), so Turkish Cypriots can “overcome” the “injustices” they have faced for decades.

The Turkish president’s call came during his address to the leaders and delegations of ECO’s ten member states at the 14th Leaders’ Summit on Thursday, 4 March 2021.

The TRNC embargo issue was one of several President Erdoğan raised at the virtual summit. He also called for the end of American sanctions on Iran, closer member co-operation in the post-pandemic period, and the need for regional stability in the wake of the recent Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, which saw Azerbaijan regain control of its Karabakh territory after 30 years of Armenian occupation.

President Erdoğan also pressed for immediate action on the preferential trade agreement, signed by ECO members in Islamabad in 2003, that has yet to be fully implemented.

“Putting into action the Economic Cooperation Organisation Trade Agreement (ECOTA), which has not been put into force for 17 years, without wasting time will be beneficial,” President Erdoğan said.

In 2019, some members of the Eurasian group launched ECO Vision 2025. It would pave the way for Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey to create a free trade area by 2025.

During his speech, the Turkish president advocated for greater ties between ECO countries and the TRNC, which has observer status at ECO.

President Erdoğan invited all ECO members to, “Improve relations with the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus in every field to help her overcome the injustices she is exposed to.”

President Erdoğan and the Turkish delegation participate in 14th ECO Leaders Summit, held virually, 4 March 2021. Photo © Turkish Presidency


Turkish Cypriots have been internationally isolated since 1964 following the outbreak of the Cyprus Conflict, when Greek Cypriots brutally seized power and tried to force their former partners to accept minority rights. The island has been ethnically and politically split ever since.

About the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO)

Along with Iran and Pakistan, Turkey is one of the three founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation.

The regional body was established in 1985 to promote sustainable socio-economic development in the region through greater co-operation and integration among the member states.

ECO expanded to ten member states in 1992, when Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also joined.

Collectively, the ten countries have a population of 512 million – larger than the population of the European Union, which went down to 448 million after the departure of the United Kingdom.

ECO members granted the TRNC observer status in October 2012. The country is listed as the Turkish Cypriot State – the same name used by the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation (OIC), which represents the world’s 57 Muslim-majority states or those with a large Muslim population.