jeudi 3 janvier 2008

Turkish Cypriot foreign relations take major leap despite isolation

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Since Avcı was appointed as foreign minister and deputy prime minister 14 months ago, northern Cyprus has forged stronger relations with the world, especially with countries in the Middle East. In 2004 the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) referred to northern Cyprus as the “Turkish Cypriot state” in one of its resolutions. Since then, northern Cyprus has been participating in OIC meetings and hosted a visit by OIC officials in February 2007
Reeta ÇEVİKNICOSIA - Turkish Daily News

The European Union's approach to Cyprus – by maintaining the isolation of northern Cyprus and by closely following the Greek Cypriot line – is blocking the way to a solution of the Cyprus problem, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of northern Cyprus said.

“The EU has not kept the promises it made in 2004 after the majority of Greek Cypriots turned down the United Nations-sponsored peace plan. The isolation of northern Cyprus continues. The EU allows itself to be pressured by Greek Cypriots. Because of this, the EU is losing its credibility in the eyes of Turkish Cypriots. In fact, with this behavior, the EU is blocking the way to a solution,” Professor Dr. Turgay Avcı told the Turkish Daily News.

Lifting the embargo the only way:
As long as the EU persists in its current stance, there will be no solution to the Cyprus issue, Avcı said. “Greek Cypriots will not come to a just and equal solution as long as the EU continues its current approach. As long as the EU gives Greek Cypriots all its support, Greek Cypriots will demand to define Turks as a minority, which we will never accept. This is why the EU is the one blocking a solution,” Avcı said.

The only way for the EU to show support for a solution on the island is to lift the embargo on northern Cyprus and allow direct flights between northern Cyprus and EU member states. This will enable the northern Cypriot economy to grow freely, Avcı said. “These are the things the EU should do if it sincerely wants a solution in Cyprus. Only the EU's change in policy will push Greek Cypriots to a solution.”

Lack of knowledge ‘alarming':
Accepting Greek Cyprus as a member of the EU despite the Greek rejection of the Annan plan in April 2004 was a major mistake by the EU, said Avcı. “The Annan Plan was supported by the United States, the EU and the U.N. as well as the rest of the world. The EU told Turkish Cypriots that if we voted yes, the isolation of northern Cyprus would be lifted. Whilst we voted yes, Greek Cypriots rejected the plan. However, it is now us who are being pressured and the Greek Cypriots prized for their behavior,” Avcı said. “When you give one side everything and the other nothing, why should the one who has everything sit down and start sharing?” he asked.

In Avcı's view, the EU approach shows a fundamental and alarming lack of knowledge by many EU politicians. “Most EU parliamentarians who vote on issues relating to Cyprus are not familiar with the realities of Cyprus. Most of them only visit Greek Cyprus and think it is enough to comprehend the issues at stake. But this is not the case. As long as EU lawmakers close their eyes to the reality of both sides of the island, they will fail to comprehend the problem. With an approach like this, there can be no equality, and consequently, no solution,” he said.

The EU approach to land ownership:
Avcı also argued that the attitude of EU authorities toward land ownership on the island is discriminatory. To date, only some 30 million of the 258 million euros promised by the EU as financial aid to northern Cyprus has materialized. Avcı said the main reason for this is the insistence of EU authorities on land ownership issues in northern Cyprus. “The reason why much of the promised investments have not materialized is because EU authorities are always questioning what land the investment will take place on, saying they will have to ask the Greek Cypriot owners if they allow the investment. However, the same authorities are not interested if Greek Cyprus makes an investment on land that belongs to Turkish Cypriots such as the land of Larnaca Airport,” Avcı said.
If EU authorities were sincerely concerned about land ownership on the island, they would also ask Turkish Cypriots for their permission when using Larnaca Airport because the real owners of the land of the airport are Turkish Cypriots, Avcı said. “As long as EU authorities maintain this disparity in approach to issues of land ownership, they are not accepting Turkish Cypriots as equals. If EU authorities will not accept us as equals, Greek Cypriots will never do that either. And as long as we are not accepted as equals there will be no solution,” Avcı added.

Foreign relations take a leap:
Since Avcı was appointed as foreign minister and deputy prime minister 14 months ago, northern Cyprus has forged stronger relations with the world, especially with countries in the Middle East. In 2004 the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) referred to northern Cyprus as the “Turkish Cypriot state” in one of its resolutions. Since then, northern Cyprus has been participating in OIC meetings and hosted a visit by OIC officials in February 2007.
“The arrival of OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu and his team, representing 57 member states of the OIC, to northern Cyprus through Ercan Airport in February was an important opening for us,” Avcı said.

In May, Avcı also participated in the 34th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Islamabad, Pakistan. At the conference, the OIC decided to strengthen bilateral relations between the OIC and northern Cyprus. The OIC has also decided to support northern Cyprus by organizing a tourism forum here in early 2008.

The most recent evidence of the closer ties between the OIC and northern Cyprus is the visit of president of the OIC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Saleh Bin Abdullah Kamel, who flew directly from Dubai to northern Cyprus on his private jet in November.

Avcı noted that the Greek Cypriot administration has actively protested to the OIC secretariat and various Arab countries about their deepening cooperation with northern Cyprus. “Greek Cyprus is trying to prevent northern Cyprus from having relations with the outside world and convince the OIC and Arab countries not to have relations with us,” Avcı said.

Relations with Syria:
An important recent development was the opening of a ferry route from Famagusta to Latakia in Syria in late October. The sea route was revived after a hiatus of 30 years. “The [ferry] link is very important to northern Cyprus because it is not just a ferry but it is also a bridge between northern Cyprus and the Middle East,” Avcı said.

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis voiced her opposition to the ferry run during her visit to Damascus in early November. “Greek Cypriots have protested against this boat connection on all possible levels. But the [ferry] link has not broken down, and I believe it never will,” Avcı said.

Italian support:
Northern Cyprus has also made major strides in Europe. In September, the deputy leader of the Italian Transnational Radical Party, Marco Perduca, and party deputy, Maurizio Turco, took up northern Cypriot nationality and provoked a discussion of the Cyprus issue among Italian politicians. By becoming citizens of the Turkish Republic of northern Cyprus, Perduca and Turco wanted to support the northern Cypriot state and to protest the EU's failure to keep the promises it made to Turkish Cypriots after the Greek Cyprus rejection of the EU-backed Annan Plan.

“Both Perduca and Turco visited northern Cyprus last summer. They were surprised to see a place full of development, technology, universities and infrastructure because they had thought that northern Cyprus is underdeveloped and full of military troops,” Avcı said. “During their visit Perduca and Turco gained an understanding of the reality of the Cyprus issue: The isolation and the unfair treatment of Turkish Cypriots.
On my trip to Italy in September, I gave them northern Cyprus citizenship and held a press conference inside the Italian parliament,” Avcı said. In Italy, Avcı met Emma Bonino, the Italian minister for international trade and European affairs, and Famiano Crucianelli, the undersecretary of foreign affairs. Avcı also gave a live interview on Italian state-run TV channel RAI. This cooperation culminated in the opening of a representative office of northern Cyprus in Rome late December. “I thank Italian authorities for accepting us and giving us the opportunity to talk. I call on other EU countries to do the same because a solution can be found only if both parties accept it,” Avcı said.

Network of representative offices to grow:
In 2008, northern Cyprus will open new representative offices abroad. In 2007, the northern Cypriot government opened representative offices in Rome and Doha, Qatar and received permission from the governments of Kuwait and Oman to open offices in Kuwait City and Muscat. “We expect to have representative offices in all countries in the future. This is feasible because we already have representative offices in Washington, New York, Brussels, London, Rome, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. No country should hesitate in this regard as we already have offices in the EU, the United States and OIC countries,” Avcı said.

Northern Cyprus is also making efforts to have its passport accepted at all international borders. “We can now travel with our passports to the United Kingdom and the United States, to France, to Azerbaijan, to Kyrgyzstan and to a number of Middle Eastern countries. Why not to other countries also?” Avcı said. “The countries that would open the door to us would not be the first.”
Dogan Daily News Inc.

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