It seems as if the new Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar is bent on adding insult to injury since he was elected in October. To what end, when new negotiations are supposed to be on the horizon, is anyone’s guess.
So far this week the Turkish side has renamed the main thoroughfare in the fenced-off town of Varosha from John Kennedy Avenue to Semih Sancar Street. Sancar was the chief of the general staff of Turkey from 1973 to 1978 and was at the helm of the Turkish army during the 1974 invasion.
On Wednesday, Tatar announced that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side would not stop “until every square metre” of Varosha was reopened, another unnecessary poke at Famagusta refugees.
Both of these things came on top of a visit by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on November 15. He had threatened to have a picnic in the fenced-off town and was only stopped by the weather. Again, why a picnic? Wasn’t the visit provocation enough?
These kind of pronouncements and behaviours are deliberately provocative, utterly gratuitous and unbecoming of any head of state self-styled or not. What message does Tatar think he is sending ahead of any negotiations? Basically, that he is not interested in talks, reconciliation or reunification.
It’s not that this was unexpected but surely it was something that should have been done at the negotiating table, diplomatically like grownups. Tatar and Erdogan are acting like the class bullies … in a kindergarten.
Not that the Greek Cypriot side hasn’t made numerous mistakes and taken its own missteps when it comes to the talks which would fill enough international debates for another 50 years and have enough blame to go around. But what Tatar is doing is the equivalent of President Anastasiades renaming the Ledra Street crossing after Dimitrios Ioannidis, the de facto leader of the Greek junta in 1974. How insulting would that be to Turkish Cypriots?
Tatar may be trying to provoke Anastasiades into some sort of reaction he thinks might help him achieve the two-state solution he wants, but all he is doing with such gratuitous insults is rubbing salt in the wounds of ordinary Greek Cypriots, which will create hostility between people in the two communities after 17 years of building up acceptance and communication at a grassroots level.
With the closing of the Ledra Street crossing due to the pandemic, people on both sides, other than those in bicommunal groups, are already retreating into their respective communities and getting on with their lives as best they can with no possibility of socially connecting in the same way as before. Tatar’s rhetoric and actions are only going to make it worse.
UN envoy Jane Holl Lute is due any day now. We wonder if she should even bother. There are much more urgent issues for the UN to deal with in the world right now than a country that hasn’t been able to get its act together for 60 years.