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This stark assessment of the Cyprus problem was published on 1 November, 2007 in Afrika, the only Turkish Cypriot daily newspaper to argue that Turkey is an occupying power on the island.
Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

We are back where we started

by Arif Hasan Tahsin

Mehmet Ali Talat says that the he will solve the Cyprus problem next year.

How will he do this?

Will he find a solution at the negotiating table?

He will sit at a table with a representative of the opposite side and reach agreement with the opposite side and put an end to this affair.

So, what is he going to propose to the opposite side in order to achieve an agreement?

What are we referring to by the “opposite side?”

The Greek-speaking people of Cyprus who, when bi-communal armed conflict broke out at the end of December 1963, usurped the state mechanism of the Republic of Cyprus which we, thinking this to be the chance of a lifetime, had abandoned; and who have achieved worldwide recognition as the representatives of the Republic of Cyprus.

I mean, we left the Republic of Cyprus State in which we were equal partners but the result was not as we expected. And the Republic of Cyprus continued to exist with one partner, and still does so.

Why did we leave the Republic of Cyprus?

No sooner had it been founded than Mr Denktash conveyed a clear message to Turkey’s first Ambassador to Nicosia, when he and his friends paid a visit. He more or less said, “The Greek Cypriots will destroy the Republic of Cyprus in the name of Enosis. This will result in partition. You came as an ambassador, and will go as a district governor.”

***

Whatever.

What we refer to as the “other side” is the UN-member Republic of Cyprus.

As such, in legal terms we are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus who live in the territory belonging to the Republic of Cyprus that is occupied by the Turkish armed forces.

In the face of this reality, who actually are the parties to the Cyprus problem?

The Republic of Cyprus and the Republic of Turkey…

In other words, the real parties to this affair are the Republic of Cyprus, which is the legal owner of Cyprus, and the Republic of Turkey, which is occupying 36% of the territory of Cyprus.

Under these circumstances, just what is Mehmet Ali Talat’s legal status?

He is an individual from within a community living in territory occupied by Turkey. On top of which he is a puppet in Republic of Turkey military and civilian hands.

In the face of this reality, it is Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus who need to sit at a table and settle the problem known as the “Cyprus problem”.

So, what about the failure of the two communities to reach agreement?

Its name implies that it is a problem between the Cypriot communities.

This means that first Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus will come to an agreement, then a cure will be sought for the mutual animosity harboured by both sides.

Under such circumstances, at this stage Mehmet Ali Talat has nothing to contribute towards finding a settlement.

***

This state of affairs makes seeking a settlement at the negotiating table an exercise in futility.

Why?

This is because Turkey has assumed ownership of that part of Cyprus which she occupies; she considers it to be hers. This is true at a governmental and military level, and also that of the man in the street. And Turkey keeps transferring population to Cyprus to consolidate her occupation.

With reference to this stance by Turkey, have the great powers said to Turkey, “What right do you have to do this? Desist.” They have not. Nor has the UN.

What does this mean?

It means that America and Britain, in particular, do not wish for Turkey to leave Cyprus, at least at this stage.

However, Russia and China voice no objection to Turkey’s stance on Cyprus, either.

This means that for the time being the status quo in Cyprus is accepted by the great powers as a solution.

***

Let us, for the sake of argument, remove Turkey from the equation. Will it be easy for Cypriots to settle the problem at a table?

What has been bothering the war rich in the past few days?

Is it not people shopping in the South?

Forget external influences. This was the main reason for the war between the two communities. The refusal of our people to shop with Turkish merchants.

Why did they refuse to do this?

The reason was that Turkish merchants insisted on selling to people at higher prices than Greek or Armenian merchants.

This was why the fight was started; why roads were blocked, the people were herded into a camp and mercilessly bled dry for 40 years. This is how the wealthy class of which Denktash dreamed was created. Turkish shopping districts also emerged.

This is why these war rich will not easily consent to a settlement that will unite the two communities.

Even then, this means that war will be back on the agenda.

We will realise that we have taken a circuitous route only to end up where we started.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton