A visit to Cyprus by members of the Royal Family has been criticised by the President of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) after their itinerary only included meetings in the southern part of the island and on the British bases.
TRNC President Ersin Tatar was again deliberately kept in the dark by the British High Commissioner about Prince Edward and his wife Sophie’s trip to the island. The Turkish Cypriot leader only found out via the Greek Cypriot press last week.
He quickly extended an invitation to Earl and Countess of Wessex to also visit North Cyprus during their three day visit, which starts today, Monday 20 June. However, the invitation was declined, while a meeting between the royal couple and the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades is set to go ahead.
The decision not to meet with President Tatar or to cross over to North Cyprus is the latest in a series of snubs to Turkish Cypriots by British dignitaries.
There was an outcry from Turkish Cypriots in February of this year after Sir Lindsay Hoyle also rejected President Tatar’s invitation. The British Speaker of Parliament only met with a handful of Turkish Cypriots, handpicked by the British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie, none of them members of the National Unity Party (UBP) despite them being the largest party in the TRNC Parliament, for a few minutes at a drinks reception at the British High Commission. In contrast, Sir Lindsay spent three whole days with Greek Cypriots.
This latest slight prompted the TRNC Presidency to issue a critical statement on the eve of the royal visit. Using diplomatic language, the TRNC Presidency expressed its disappointment with the royal couple’s rejection of President Tatar’s invitation and commented on the UK’s pro-Greek Cypriot bias at the expense of Turkish Cypriot equality:
“Unfortunately, from the reply we received yesterday (June 18), we note with regret that the United Kingdom is politicising this visit by ignoring the Turkish Cypriot people, as well as ignoring the elected President, and embroiling the British Royal Family in politics.”
The TRNC White House emphasised that it would “react critically” to any action “that ignores the equality of the Turkish Cypriot people”, calling it “unacceptable” for “Prince Edward [to be] only meeting Mr. Anastasiades” and to behave as if “elected [Turkish Cypriot] officials do not exist.”
The TRNC Presidency underlined the importance of “impartiality” for Britain, which is one of Cyprus’s three Guarantor Powers, while also challenging the UK’s commitment to finding a solution to the decades-old Cyprus Dispute given its uneven treatment of the two Cypriot sides.
“As we question the sincerity of the United Kingdom in resolving the Cyprus Dispute, we also find it useful to repeat once again our expectation that both parties should be treated equally and in accordance with the principle of impartiality.”
The visit of two senior members of the Royal Family would have been planned with guidance from the Foreign Office, which means it is the British Government which would have advised the Earl and Countess of Wessex not to visit North Cyprus or meet with Ersin Tatar.
Such a blatantly anti-Turkish Cypriot policy begs the question, if the British Royal Family, which is expected to be ‘politically neutral’ and a positive, unifying force, is now actively discriminating against Turkish Cypriot members of the Commonwealth and undermining their political equality by failing to meet with their elected leaders, is there any role left for the UK in Cyprus?
Main photo, top, of Prince Edward and Countess of Wessex, Stockholm, 2013. Photo © Frankie Fouganthin – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Commons Wikipedia