Greek Cypriot politicians and media have not been very kind to the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. He is referred to as the ‘occupation leader’ and the ‘appointee of Ankara,’ among other things, which apart from being demeaning are not factually accurate. Akinci has publicly stood up to the autocratic President Erdogan on more than one occasion, as a result of which he has been out of favour with Ankara for some time now.
What ‘appointee of Ankara’ would have publicly argued that the Turkish Cypriots should be independent of the mainland, made concessions in negotiations without the approval of the Turkish government and criticised Turkey’s military actions? What ‘occupation leader’ would have been as committed as Akinci to a settlement of the Cyprus problem that would have ended the presence of Turkish troops on the island?
It would be no exaggeration to say that of all Cypriot politicians nobody is as wholeheartedly or as sincerely committed to a bizonal, bicommunal federation that would re-unite the island as Akinci. Perhaps this is the reason for his unfailingly negative reception by the Greek Cypriot media and politicians, who insist on presenting him like another Rauf Denktash or Dervis Eroglu.
What Turkish Cypriot leader, two months before ‘presidential’ elections, would take a clear public stand against plans to open the fenced-off area of Famagusta, plans that have the full approval of the Turkish government? Yet in a statement about the matter on social media on Sunday, Akinci said “the correct thing for the Varosha issue is to discuss it in a way that is in line with international law, the UN and contributes to a solution.”
He also accused rival candidates – ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay and ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar – of trying to turn Varosha into an ‘election issue’. Although opposing the opening of Varosha might lose him votes and antagonise Turkey, he still made his position clear because he knows that such a move would eliminate the slim hopes that might still exist for a settlement. Would any Greek Cypriot presidential candidate have backed a position that would have cost him votes for the sake of a settlement?
We doubt it. In election campaigns, as a rule, all the candidates become more hard-line on the Cyprus problem because they calculate this improves their chances of winning. Our current president was no exception to this rule. What a great shame it would be if Akinci loses October’s elections in the north, because with him will go the very slim hopes left for a reunified Cyprus.