WASHINGTON: The foreign minister of the Turkish Cypriot government in northern Cyprus on Thursday attempted to pour cold water on renewed hopes for a breakthrough in UN-backed talks to reunify the island.
In an interview with AFP during a visit to Washington, Tahsin Ertugruloglu declared that the “ongoing negotiating process is obviously a failure” and urged a new approach.
The minister’s position flies in the face of the optimism shown by his own Turkish Cypriot president, Mustafa Akinci, who hopes to agree on a road map for reunification before the end of the year.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pledged his support to reaching a settlement in the coming weeks or months as one of the last acts of his mandate at the head of the world body.
And US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a message issued Thursday to mark Cyprus’ Independence Day, said: “I truly believe that a reunified Cyprus is finally within reach.”
Akinci, a social democrat, has led the negotiations and is a long-standing advocate of efforts to reunite Turkish northern Cyprus with the Greek south, ending a four-decade old dispute.
But Ertugruloglu, a member of conservative Prime Minster Huseyin Ozgurgun’s government in the unrecognized northern entity, is much more skeptical and came to Washington to warn against the deal.
“I have serious doubts as to the capability of the process to produce a mutually acceptable negotiated result,” he told AFP.
If Akinci and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades agree on a plan to reunite the island as a federation, it would have to be put to simultaneous referendums in both entities.
And, judging by Ertugruloglu’s stance, there would be some political opposition in the north to any deal that failed to recognize Turkish Cypriot sovereignty and close ties to Turkey.
“Do we see eye-to-eye with our president? No,” he told AFP.
“Does that mean that he’s trying to secure an end for Turkish Cypriots that we don’t accept? No, I’m not saying that either.
“He in his own political world, believes that what he is doing is going to help the Turkish Cypriot people.
“And what we’re saying is that you can keep hoping that it will, but that’s not going to get us anywhere,” he said, accusing Greek Cypriots of refusing to accept Turkish Cypriots as equals.
“As long as they continue to enjoy international recognition there is no way they will have any incentive to share anything with people they don’t see as their equals,” he declared.
“That’s where we part our ways with the president.”
For Ertugruloglu, the entire UN-backed negotiating process was doomed to failure from the outset, since it treats Greek Cyprus as a sovereign state and Turkish Cypriots as a secessionist minority.