Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar praised 2022 as an important year for the north’s foreign relations and vowed that he will work decisively towards bolstering them further in 2023.

He also dubbed 2023 as the year of Varosha, promising that the entire town will be reopened.

Tatar centred his message on the north building the infrastructure for further relations abroad, telling ‘state’ broadcaster Bayrak (BRT) that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s speech at the UN was historic. Erdogan had called for an end to the international isolation and embargo of the north.

“[In 2022] we managed for the first time to become part of an international organisation under our constitutional name – the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” he emphasised, referring to the ‘TRNC’ being accepted as a member state with an observer status at the Organisation of Turkic States.

The Republic’s foreign ministry said the move was “meaningless” and merely playing with words.

The organisation consists of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

As for the Cyprus problem, Tatar said that communication with “Southern Cyprus” continued throughout 2022 and reiterated that formal negotiations cannot begin until the north’s claim of sovereign equality is accepted.

He explained that the demand was tabled in April 2021 and last July he proposed confidence building measures.

Tatar was emphatic on the status and his policy towards Varosha, telling Kibris in an interview that by reopening the town they have proven that it lies within the ‘TRNC’s’ sovereignty.

“[Previously it was] that on the one hand it’s within our jurisdiction and on the other that we won’t govern there, that policy no longer exists,” Tatar said.

He added that the town will be entirely reopened in phases, explaining that this was done firstly on a pilot basis whereby a zone was demilitarised and rezoned to civil authority.

Tatar further said that all the parks, public spaces and the beach are open to the public – saying that the coming years will bring more developments, stating that this is positive for both their economy and the Cyprus problem.

Asked how feasible any further upgrading of the north’s status really is, Tatar reasoned that it would be an important development for themselves, Turkey, the Islamic and Turkic communities, “and indeed for all those who sincerely want a settlement to the Cyprus problem”. He also stated that it would help develop the east Mediterranean, Greek-Turkish relations, EU-Turkish relations and US-Turkish relations.

“They must look at the Cyprus issue with fresh eyes,” he added.

Elsewhere, Unal Ustel, the north’s ‘prime minister’, praised Tatar’s and Turkey’s efforts towards a two-state solution, referring to Ankara’s continued support on that front.

Ustel also emphasised the importance of having signed a new deal with Ankara for economic support, stating that their partnership has positively contributed towards overcoming all difficulties.

That deal in April saw Ankara pledge some €270m for the year under certain conditions.

He also praised the government’s work on having built the new general hospital in Kyreneia, bolstering the road network and digitalisating government services.