The opinion piece, “Hope for a peace settlement on Cyprus” by Ahmet Erdengiz is fundamentally flawed and littered with historical inaccuracies.
This past Sunday, July 20, marked Turkey’s 1974 brutal illegal invasion of the Republic of Cyprus. The invasion occurred in two phases. The first, July 20, was in violation of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, the UN Charter, the NATO Treaty, and customary international law. On August 14, three weeks after the legitimate government of Cyprus was restored, Turkey launched its second phase, grabbing another 33 percent of the island to expand its occupation to nearly 40 percent of Cyprus’s sovereign territory, which it continues to illegally occupy today.
Furthermore, the Annan Plan that was placed to a vote in 2004 was fundamentally flawed. The plan lacked the viability to provide a just and lasting resolution to the division of Cyprus. It also incorporated unacceptable last-minute demands submitted by Turkey. In democratic fashion, the Cypriot people—both Greek and Turkish—rejected the plan; not a solution.
In his opinion, Erdengiz seems concerned about the Turkish Cypriot community. If he truly has a concern about the community, it should be directed toward Turkey and its policies on Cyprus which have endangered Turkish Cypriots. For example, Turkey has brought illegally 180,000 Turkish colonists/settlers to Cyprus which has changed the demographics of the island and of the Turkish Cypriot community. This act is in clear violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949. Moreover, Turkey illegally maintains 43,000 occupation troops on Cyprus. In 2011, Turkish Cypriots protested Turkey’s austerity measures, drawing harsh criticism of the Turkish Cypriot community by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Evidently, Erdengiz fails to mention that Turkish Cypriots themselves have a problem with Turkey’s policies.
I also remind Erdengiz of the public statement made by Vice President Joe Biden during his historic visit to Cyprus in May. His strong affirmation that the United States “recognizes only one legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus, and my [the vice president’s] visit and meetings throughout the island will not change that…It is the position of the United States of America, and it’s the position of the entire world—save one country” can be viewed as the United States finally getting realistic with Turkey on a public stage. Unfortunately, the vice president’s statement went over the head of Erdengiz.
Finally, I could share Erdengiz’s optimism that a firm and lasting settlement is within reach, but this would only be the case if Turkey does not manipulate the settlement talks, but rather, play a constructive role. Turkey can start by removing its occupation troops and colonists from the island. Turkey can let the Cypriots themselves come to an agreement to reunify Cyprus. Turkey’s interests are not that of the people of Cyprus. Turkey’s interests are that of Turkey.
Larigakis is president of the American Hellenic Institute.