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Our View: The Turkish side is determined to change the status quo

Unficyp soldiers in the buffer zone (CNA)

The ultimatum issued to Unficyp by the ‘government’ in the north is another attempt to set in motion some kind of recognition process. There have been several such attempts over the years, all of which have proved unsuccessful. The Cyprus foreign ministry often likes to take credit for defeating attempts aimed at the so-called upgrading of the status of the ‘TRNC’ by preventing foreign officials from having contacts in the north or blocking the participation of representatives of the regime in international conferences.

That the north has made little progress in securing recognition since the unilateral declaration of independence in 1983, is down to the international community, particularly the Western powers, which are flatly opposed to secessionist movements and the setting up of breakaway states. This position of the international community has always been the real barrier against recognition of the north.

Now, it appears, Turkey has decided to go about securing recognition gradually. A couple of weeks ago a Turkish newspaper announced there had been an agreement for direct flights from Moscow to Tymbou (Ercan) airport and these would start in November. Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus denied there was any truth to the report but relations between Ankara and Moscow have become so close that the possibility cannot be completely ruled out despite the assurances.

In another move aimed at building the case for recognition, the Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar presented the UN Secretary-General at a meeting in New York last month, his preliminary ‘status of forces of agreement’ (SOFA). If Unficyp did not sign an agreement with the ‘TRNC’ about the presence of peacekeeping troops, then it would have to pull out these troops from the two camps it has in the north; it has been given a month to do so. It is unclear whether the lack of an agreement would bar Unficyp from entering the occupied area. The aim is to make things more difficult for Unficyp.

After all, the Turkish Cypriots have the occupation troops to offer them security and would happily live without the peacekeeping troops. This is not the case for the Greek Cypriots who value the security, real or theoretical, provided by Unficyp and would do anything to keep the peacekeepers on the island. Aware of this, the Turkish side may have reasoned that the Republic would not object the signing of an agreement between the ‘TRNC’ and the UN.

We doubt the Cyprus government would ever give its approval to this, but it should brace itself for more such manoeuvres from the Turkish side which seems determined to change the status quo on the island.

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