HomeWorldOne tiny mistake could turn Cyprus into a new Gaza

One tiny mistake could turn Cyprus into a new Gaza

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Greek Cypriots want to see the island united under the flag of the Republic of Cyprus. That would involve Turkey giving back the northern territory it seized during what Turkish Cypriots call “the intervention” in response to a Greek military coup and attempted union with Greece in 1974.

The Greek Cypriots regard the TRNC as a rogue state and say the tens of thousands of Turkish troops who are stationed there must leave the island. The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not recognised by any country other than Turkey.

“I will spare no effort to realise the common dream of reunification,” Nikos Christodoulides, the president of the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, said recently.

That plan is backed by Britain, the former colonial power, as well as the UN, the United States and the EU, all of whom have spent decades trying to bring the two sides together for negotiations.

But Mr Tatar, who was elected in 2020, dismissed such efforts as a “waste of time”.

“That’s all past. All those opportunities have been exhausted,” he said.

“How can you unite an island like this after so many years? You cannot possibly unite Cyprus. You have to face the facts and accept reality.”

Two-state solution

The only option now is a two-state solution in which TRNC is accepted as an independent state, said Mr Tatar, a hardline nationalist who is close to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the authoritarian leader of Turkey.

“Since 1974 we have had two states, two regions, two sovereign powers in Cyprus living side by side, coexisting. The only way forward is a two-state solution,” he said.

“Recognition might take time but as time goes by, we consolidate more.”

He suggested that Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Bangladesh may soon recognise the TRNC as an independent country.

At stake is peace on the island of 1.2 million people, where the British army has two key military bases under UK sovereign control, RAF Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

The bases provide the UK with a permanent presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and offer a staging post for military and humanitarian operations.

Greece and Turkey are also both members of Nato.

Recent clashes

Although the island is considered safe to travel around, there have been incidents of violence recently.

In February, a group of eight Turkish Cypriot students were allegedly attacked with sticks and stones by Greek Cypriots during a trip to the Troodos Mountains in the south.

Last August, several UN peacekeepers, including British soldiers, were injured in a clash with Turkish Cypriots who were trying to build a new road to a village in the buffer zone that divides the island.

“We don’t want a clash and they [Greek Cypriots] shouldn’t want a clash,” said Mr Tatar.

“They have five million tourists visiting them each year, especially from the UK. If there is a bomb going off – pop! – not one tourist will come. They will go bankrupt.”

Cyprus has become one of the world’s most intractable diplomatic problems, with each side blaming the other for the failure to find a settlement.

Amid decades of animosity, the two sides argue over how they will share the huge reserves of offshore oil and gas in Cypriot waters as well as the future of Varosha, the once glamorous beach resort that was abandoned by Greek Cypriots and occupied by the Turks during the war in 1974.

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