TRNC President rules out new Cyprus talks until Turkish Cypriot equal status is recognised

Turkish Cypriots will not return to the negotiating table until their sovereignty and equal status is recognised, Ersin Tatar, the President of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, told reporters at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum on Sunday.

In an interview with French news agency AFP, President Tatar explained why he was against talks without a positive development for Turkish Cypriots:

“We are saying, after all these years, and all these fatal negotiations, which proved nothing, we are only able to resume or to restart negotiations if our sovereign equality and equal international status is reaffirmed or acknowledged. Otherwise, we are not going to sit at the negotiating table again, because there is no point.”

His comments follow recent efforts by the United Nations to explore if any common ground exists for a new round of talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. There have been no substantive talks since the collapse of those involving President Tatar’s predecessor Mustafa Akıncı back in 2017.

Those negotiations brought the then TRNC President Akıncı and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades to within touching distance of a deal. The pair and their teams attended a major conference in Crans Montana, Switzerland, that was hosted by the UN and also attended by the three Guarantor Powers (Britain, Turkiye and Greece), with the aim of thrashing out the remaining elements that would lead to the reunification of Cyprus.

With the Crans Montana talks progressing positively, the Greek Cypriot leader chose to walk away, with some claiming Anastasiades feared it would scupper his re-election chances in 2018 if he presented his electorate with a bi-communal, bi-zonal deal, just as Greek Cypriots had rejected a similar plan voted in a referendum in 2004.

The current Greek Cypriot leader, Nikos Christodoulides, was a key aide to Anastasiades and was present at the 2017 Crans Montana Conference. Christodoulides was among those who had urged Anastasiades to drop the 2017 talks.

Three years after the collapse of Crans Montana, Ersin Tatar was elected with a mandate to pursue a two state solution in Cyprus. Tatar had campaigned in the 2020 TRNC Presidential Elections on the need to drop, after 43-years, the tried and failed formula of seeking a bi-communal, bi-zonal federal Cyprus.

“Because in the past there have been many attempts where we sat again at the table, and at the end of the day the table collapsed – they walked out as the Republic of Cyprus and we just stayed as a community with no gain whatsoever,” the TRNC President explained to AFP on Sunday, before adding, “And every time we sit (at the talks) we lose something. That’s how we feel. So, unless we get our sovereignty right, the acknowledgement of our sovereignty, we are not going to get involved in any negotiations.”

The president also poured cold water over the idea that reunification could happen in the near future: “There is no hope for reunification”, President Tatar said, stressing that he was only interested in talking about “a two-state solution” as the Turkish Cypriot side was done with pursuing “fruitless negotiations”.

With Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis due to visit Ankara in May, President Tatar was asked by AFP what he hoped a Turkish-Greek rapprochement could bring to the island. He replied that he hoped Greece would tell Greek Cypriots that, “Enough is enough, let’s wake up to the reality of Cyprus that there are two peoples and the states”, adding that “the best way forward after all these years is cooperation of the two states, so that we can have prosperity and enjoy the resources of the eastern Mediterranean.”

The TRNC was unilaterally declared in 1983 – twenty years after the Greek Cypriots violently seized control of the power-sharing Republic of Cyprus, removing the veto rights of Turkish Cypriots in a bid to turn the island into a purely Hellenic state.

To date, only Turkiye formally recognises the TRNC, but the small Eastern Mediterranean state is seeing its international profile and relations grow through Turkiye’s diplomatic efforts.

Touching on this, President Tatar told AFP: “Obviously we have difficulties, but we have no alternative.

“The alternative is to give up, and we will never give up because giving up sovereignty and being basically amalgamated into a pure Greek republic would mean that that would be the end of us.”