Turkey’s decision to lift the visa requirement for all EU citizens, including Greek Cypriots, as part of its migrant deal with the EU has caused a stir on the Turkish Cypriot side.
While some quarters see it as the Turkish Cypriots being sidelined and as a form of recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, the north’s ‘prime minister’ Huseyin Ozgurgun said it was not tantamount to recognition.
Ozgurgun said: “This issue is on the agenda for a very long time and now it was decided. It would be wrong to create the perception that with this decision ‘Turkey is recognising the south’,” he said.
“These are rights mutually recognised for citizens within the framework of an agreement between Turkey and the member states… for recognising a country establishing diplomatic relations with that country and the mutual opening of embassies is needed. There is no such decision here”.
People’s Party leader and former Turkish Cypriot chief negotiator, Kudret Ozersay was quoted as saying the north would be sidelined.
Ozersay argued that the Turkish Cypriot side and especially its leadership had the duty to explain to the Turkish officials that this was not just a simple “visa facility” and that it would bring the “erosion” of some political principles.
“We should explain that if we do not do this, at the other side of the negotiating table we will find an interlocutor who is controlling the situation instead of looking for a solution and who is being strengthened every day that passes,” said Ozersay.
With the decision all European citizens would not be able to enter into Turkey without a visa, while the Turkish citizens would not be able to enter into countries which are not participating in the Schengen Area, like Cyprus, the UK and Ireland.
“This situation annoys the Turkish Cypriots,” he added. “In short, we are facing the danger of some arrangements in which the Turkish Cypriots will not be included, they will be sidelined. It should be said that this possibility is worrying.”
Republican Turkish Party leader Mehmet Ali Talat said however that it was a good decision and a positive step towards Turkey’s EU accession, and an initiative that should have been taken by Turkey a long time ago.
Ali Erel a member of the “supervisory board” of the Cyprus-EU association and former chairman of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, said the move would automatically mean the solution of the Cyprus problem and the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus.
“Lifting visa requirement means the acceptance of the official documents of a state and thus the acceptance of this state”, Erel said, adding that with Turkey’s current policies, this is not possible to happen.”
A Turkish official has said that the move did not amount to “Turkish recognition of Cyprus”. The move is one of the 72 criteria required by Brussels for Turkey for the visa liberalisation.
“Right now, Greek Cypriots can already travel to Turkey, but we are issuing their visa on a separate paper. With this new arrangement they won’t need a visa. Accordingly, Turkish citizens will also be able to enter Greek Cyprus provided that they do not transit from the occupied area of Cyprus.”
In comments to Daily Sabah Turkey’s EU Deputy Minister Ali Sahin, said the visa liberalisation would create a positive atmosphere around the Cyprus issue and could positively influence Greece and Cyprus’ tourism.