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Octogenarian retired Turkish diplomat Ýlter Türkmen, who was appointed Turkey's Foreign Minister following the 1980 coup in that country, was interviewed recently by two Turkish Cypriot journalists, Hasan Hastürer and Aral Moral. This article based on the interview appeared in the Turkish Cypriot Havadis newspaper on 7 July 2009. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

Do not hope in vain

Turkey’s former Foreign Minister and former Ambassador, Ýlter Türkmen, has stated that there is no possibility of the TRNC gaining recognition.

Türkmen, expressing the view that the TRNC would not be recognised by the EU or the USA, said that recognition by a number of African states would not bring any benefit whatsoever.

Türkmen, replying to HAVADÝS’ Hasan Hastürer and Aral Moral’s questions, noted that a great opportunity for solving the Cyprus problem was lost in The Hague in 2003.

Türkmen, saying that he had supported the Annan Plan, voiced the opinion, “The Annan Plan had various flaws and was difficult to implement. If the plan could have been shown to be unworkable our basic aim of two states could have been achieved more easily, because it would have been necessary to find a formula within the EU. Just as Czechoslovakia was divided into two it would have been possible to divide Cyprus into two separate states."

Türkmen, who considers the foreign policy which Turkey has lately been following with respect to the Cyprus problem to be exceptionally successful, noted that at a meeting which he attended in the USA following 1974 a proposal was made by American senators for the creation of an independent state in the north in return for Varosha.

Türkmen went on to say that the chief reason for the establishment of the TRNC was the ending of Rauf Denktash’s term in office.

“I supported the Annan Plan, because…”

In response to a question as to whether he was hopeful about the ongoing talks between President Talat and Greek Cypriot leader Christofias, Türkmen said that a settlement was far more problematical than it was in 2002-2003.

Türkmen, stating that the Greek Cypriots’ EU accession in the name of the whole of Cyprus has had a significant effect on the Cyprus problem, said, “We have to see this reality. These will be difficult negotiations.”

Türkmen, pointing out that a great opportunity was lost in 2002 and 2003, said that if the Annan Plan had been accepted at that time the Greek Cypriots would also have been obliged to accept it.

Türkmen, saying, “Mr Simitis was also delighted upon learning that Mr Denktash would not sign the plan at the last minute. Indeed, at that time Hellenism achieved a successful high point. He said that henceforth in the EU there were two Hellenic states,” made the following interesting comments with reference to the Annan Plan:

"Following Turkish Cypriots' accession to the EU, the Annan Plan had various flaws and was difficult to implement. If the plan could have been shown to be unworkable our basic aim of two states could have been achieved more easily, because it would have been necessary to find a formula within the EU. Just as Czechoslovakia was divided into two it would have been possible to divide Cyprus into two separate states. You will recall that I was also a staunch supporter of the Annan Plan with such points in mind."

“The TRNC will not be recognised”

Türkmen, pointing out in the 24 April referendum the right of Turkish Cypriots to self-determination was confirmed, said, “Henceforth there will be no solution that is unacceptable to the Turkish Cypriot people.”

Ýlter Türkmen, saying that following the referendum more opportunities have arisen for the Turkish Cypriots to open up to the world, stated that the Turkish Cypriots had gained in legitimacy but were not recognised as a state.

Türkmen, saying, “There is no chance of recognition”, stressed that recognition by a number of African states would not bring any benefit whatsoever.

“In Cyprus the human component is important”

Asked what Turkey’s policy was towards Cyprus, Türkmen said, “There are two components. First, strategic importance. Second, the Turkish Cypriot people.”

Türkmen, pointing to the importance of the human component in Cyprus, continued as follows:

“When the UK annexed Cyprus, a consul was sent here from Turkey. This was because at that time there was no such thing as a Cyprus problem in Turkey. The Turks on the island were supposed to return to Turkey. Thus a consul was sent to simplify these procedures. It shows how different the vision was in those days.”

Independence in return for Varosha.

Türkmen, stressing that he considers the foreign policy which Turkey has lately been following with respect to the Cyprus problem to be exceptionally successful, said, “1974 was massive. I came to Cyprus in 1965. The community at that time was destitute.”

Türkmen said that the failure to settle the Cyprus problem immediately after 1974 was Turkey’s greatest mistake.

Ýlter Türkmen furthermore said that at the time an independent state could have been achieved by giving up Varosha.

Türkmen continued as follows:

“We were also presented with opportunities. There were interesting dialogues between Helmut Schmidt and Ecevit in 1978. Greece was still trying to accede in those days. Schmidt told Ecevit, ‘I do not support Greek accession to the European Community without a settlement of the Cyprus problem. If you give me something then I will block this for you. Give me Varosha.’

Naturally, Greece’s EU accession was a great handicap for us in the Cyprus problem. Ecevit and I attended a meeting with US senators. One of the senators of Greek origin said, ‘Give up Varosha and we will not care about the Cyprus problem.’ We lost a great amount for the sake of certain compromises. At that time Varosha alone was enough; now it is not.”

“In hindsight, I would not support the creation of the TRNC; I think it was a mistake on my part”

Replying to questions concerning former President Rauf Raif Denktash, Türkmen stated that Denktash’s vision was for the creation of a separate Turkish state in Cyprus.

Türkmen, saying that for Denktash the Cyprus problem ended with the proclamation of the TRNC, explained that, “The proclamation of the TRNC was criticised in Turkey. There was a debate as to whether it would be more correct to retain the status of a federated state.”

Ýlter Türkmen, stressing that he himself had supported the creation of the TRNC continued as follows:

“Later I began to question the wisdom of this. It was said that if I had not supported the TRNC certain things would have been easier.”

Türkmen, explaining that the chief reason for the establishment of the TRNC was the ending of Rauf Denktash’s term as president, said, “The prospect of a Cyprus campaign without Denktash troubled us.”

Türkmen, saying that Denktash’s capacity to lead was superb and at that time the wish was for him to continue as leader, explained that, “We also knew that this would lead to so much difficulty later.”

Türkmen’s bitter joy

Ýlter Türkmen experienced great emotion at the naming of a street in the area of Nicosia known as Dereboyu after his brother Güner Türkmen who, in the 1959 plane crash in London which befell the Turkish Prime-Minister of the day, Adnan Menderes, was on the delegation and lost his life.

Ýlter Türkmen informed us that his brother was a Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Clerk at the time when he lost his life at the age of 27.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton