Very little is being said and done on the international stage over the islamization of the north, President Nicos Anastasiades said in an interview, days before Turkey goes to the polls for presidential and parliamentary elections.
Speaking to Lifo.gr, a Greek publication, Anastasiades said the crux of the matter in Turkey’s is that whoever is elected, the rhetoric needs to be changed.
“The question is whether (the new president) is willing to change the current status quo which does not benefit his country and more specifically, does not benefit Turkish Cypriots.”
At the moment Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has a rhetoric which poses danger, Anastasiades said.
“If his version is the revival of the Ottoman Empire by 2023 then we’re speaking of dangerous games here. However, I believe rhetoric is one thing and political action is another.”
In the interview, Anastasiades said a lot would depend on the relations Erdogan maintains with Europe, the US and Russia.
Anastasiades said he was gravely concerned over policies islamizing the north, for instance how imams are appointed “is a direct intervention in the interior matters of the Turkish Cypriot community.”
Additionally, more mosques are being built in the north, new religious schools keep cropping up and this is a course of behaviour Turkish Cypriots never did.
“They completely identified with a secular state and although they are Muslim, they were always moderate without being fanatic. So all of these facts are worrying.”
Asked by the journalist John Pantazopoulos to comment on a lack of international reaction over the north’s apparent islamization, Anastasiades said it was “unfortunate”.
“Russia’s policy is to distance Turkey from allies, Europe has economic interests, it has investments and also the risk of refugee flows. The US do not want to lose a strategic partner. Turkey is currently taking advantage of this.”
However if Turkey ploughs on with its current policy to attack and experiment with alliances, “this will create a negative climate for Turkey” Anastasiades said.
Asked to comment if an opportunity had been lost during the talks in Crans-Montana last year, the President re-iterated what he has always said that for the first time, parameters set forth by the UN secretary general had been accepted.
The talks were led to an end due to Turkish intransigence, Anastasiades said.
Cyprus’ fate should be set by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and to that end “we wanted an end to guarantees, intervention rights,” and the troops that would remain even within the timeframe of their withdrawal.
“The efforts sunk so that Cyprus wouldn’t turn into a protectorate of Turkey.”
Nonetheless, Anastasiades said it was unacceptable at the moment to consider a solution other than a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
Over natural gas, the President said at no point in time had they said it all belonged to Greek Cypriots but to everyone legally residing in the country – including Turkish Cyprios.