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Ambitious and proactive: Ozersay steps into limelight

Kudret Ozersay (right) with Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu

The split at the top of Turkish Cypriot politics deepened this week as new moves by Kudret Ozersay, who is the deputy head of the new ruling coalition, further isolated Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and challenged his authority.

Observers say the passiveness of the pro-solution powers like Akinci has left a vacuum

The storm caused by the revelation of a secret dinner held on June 4 between Ozersay and Nicos Anastasiades cascaded when Ozersay, on the same day announced the ruling coalition’s decisions to establish a team of experts to carry out an inventory study in the fenced-off town of Varosha as well as initiating the process of allowing Maronites to return to their villages in the northern part of Cyprus.

“I will not accept certain people being patted on the back and placed on stage with a totally different agenda,” wrote a furious Akinci, who had been kept in the dark about all these developments on his social media account. “Turkish Cypriot people are proud of their democratic, secular, tolerant character and do not have a culture of submissiveness.”

On Friday, in a 1.5-hour long press conference Akinci said the Turkish Cypriot people, who gave him the authority to handle the Cyprus problem, would never accept moves to “by-pass” him. As the only internationally recognised official, Turkish Cypriot leader is traditionally responsible for handling Cyprus negotiations and all issues related to the Cyprus problem.

He was referring to the widespread conviction that Ozersay is supported and promoted by Ankara, which is openly critical of Akinci’s handling of the Cyprus problem. With the collapse of the former four-party coalition and the establishment of a new two-party, right-wing National Unity Party UBP – People’s Party HP coalition earlier this month, Akinci is now the only Turkish Cypriot politician in power, who still supports a bi-zonal bi-communal federal solution. Many argue that the collapse of the four-party coalition was orchestrated by Turkey in a bid to see in power parties aligned with her policies on the Cyprus problem and other issues.

UBP and HP, in their coalition manifesto, have openly excluded a federal solution.

“The negotiation processes that have been going on for more than half a century have essentially shown that the federal partnership model, which is based on sharing power and wealth, has been exhausted and that under the current circumstances federation is not a realistic solution model,” reads the manifesto.

“New and much more realistic and feasible ideas including two states within the EU, should come to the table.”

At a time when Anastasiades too is alleged to be exploring the idea of a two-state solution, the two men have not been able to convince Cypriots on either side of the divide that the dinner was of purely social nature and there was no substantial discussion. Ozersay’s comment that unofficial and secret  “dialogues are often more constructive than official meetings” as well as the statement of the dinner’s host Yiannakis Moussas that he takes such initiatives when he knows “people, acquaintances and friends who can affect the course of things in the country” added to speculation.

“The fact that this dinner was not publicised for two weeks means that there was a decision to keep it secret,” said Akinci during the press conference. “Informal dialogue should not be secret and it should only serve to take us closer to sustainable peace. Otherwise, it would only serve to entrench separation and division.”

The passiveness of the left, pro-solution political powers, their failure to think out of the box, be creative and do anything substantial with regard to reconciliation and reunification of Cyprus, as well as their lack of dialogue with relevant circles have created a gap, which is now being filled by a proactive, ambitious Ozersay, according to some political commentators.

“Akinci and political parties who should have been active in the Cyprus peace process have lately been inert,” wrote journalist Cenk Mutluyakali in the daily Yeniduzen. “They froze with the negotiations… You cannot pursue an active policy on peace by blaming the Greek Cypriot leadership every once in a while and…touring festivals. There is need for creativity and dynamic, persistent, diligent efforts. You cannot build peace by taking the easy way out and pursuing the blame game. Nature doesn’t allow for vacuums. A day will come when the vacuum you create is filled by those, who are padded on the back for different agendas. And all you are left to do is to cry out.”

On Varosha, which was one of Akinci’s main election promises in 2015, the coalition has decided to form team of experts to conduct a scientific inventory to study its land registry records, the condition of its movable and immovable properties, the identification properties and environmental risks. After much speculation about how and when Varosha would be opened, Ozersay clarified on Friday that there is not yet a decision on what the next steps would be. On the issue of the return of Maronites to their villages in the northern part of Cyprus – also originally Akinci’s project – the coalition is moving to remove current residents living in the village of Karpasia to allow the Maronites to return.

Some analysts suggest that the Varosha and the Maronites moves, as well as the recent exchange of suspects between the two sides in which Ozersay played a role, could have been timed to overcome widespread criticism he has received for partnering up with UBP, which has come to symbolize the corrupt system in the northern part of Cyprus. Many analysts believe that Ozersay’s main objective is to challenge Akinci in the April 2020 elections and become the next Turkish Cypriot leader.

“Ozersay is not concerned with a federal or comprehensive solution,” said political scientist Bilge Azgin. “He is trying to show Turkish Cypriots that things can be done in the absence of a comprehensive solution. He is trying to show that he can do things that Akinci cannot do. Regardless of what the calculation or agenda behind his moves are, these initiatives will have his name next to them. He wants to be the leader, who offers solutions to Turkish Cypriots in the absence of a solution… At a time when Akinci is on bad terms with Turkey and with the Greek Cypriot leadership, Ozersay is engaging with everyone, being proactive, utilising his good relations with Turkey, and getting things done.”

“Akinci on the other hand will probably build his election campaign on defending the modern, secular, democratic Turkish Cypriot society against Ankara. He wants to be the leader who stands tall and defends his community against Turkey,” added Azgin.

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