Current Turkish Cypriot member of ‘parliament’ and son of former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Ongun Talat has hit out at the north’s ‘foreign minister’ Tahsin Ertugruloglu, saying the latter’s “failures” led to the Greek Cypriot side joining the European Union alone.
In a televised interview, Talat specified that it was Ertugruloglu’s failure to sign a Kofi Annan-backed proposal for a federal solution to the Cyprus problem in 2002 – a precursor to the Annan Plan which went to a referendum in 2004 – that led to the EU accepting the Republic of Cyprus in its current form into the bloc.
The deal was supposed to be hashed out at a summit in Copenhagen in late 2002, where a summit of the EU’s then 15 member states plus the ten which were set to join the bloc in May 2004 was taking place.
Late UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was also invited, as were the leaders of both Cypriot communities, Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash. Denktash was unable to attend having recently undergone surgery, and as a result sent Ertugruloglu in his place, in the first of four total stints as ‘foreign minister’, to Copenhagen.
According to reports at the time, Ertugruloglu arrived an hour late to the decisive meeting with then-UN Cyprus envoy Alvaro de Soto and late attorney general Alecos Markides and did not sign the framework put forth to him.
As a result, as Talat explained, the Turkish Cypriot side received most of the blame for the eventual stalemate in Copenhagen, and the EU insisted on allowing the Republic of Cyprus, united or not, into the bloc in 2004.
“We said no to the framework agreement … A great opportunity was wasted there,” he said.
“If the Turkish Cypriot side had signed that framework agreement that day, the Greek Cypriots would not have been able to enter the EU on their own… because at the 2004 referendum, the Greek Cypriots would have been required to enter the EU together [with us], so when they rejected the plan, they would also reject the EU,” he said.
He added “although we did not make any moves to prevent the Greek Cypriots’ EU accession process, which started in 1990, we could have prevented it with a signature. That day, we were presented with an opportunity on a silver platter.
“While we were saying not to waste this opportunity in those days, the rulers of the time told us ‘the sun will rise again and set in the west’. They said ‘don’t make a big deal out of it’. Now, the same people are telling us ‘the Greek Cypriots entered the EU alone. The EU is a Christian club. The blame lies on their shoulders”.
Talat’s statements come hot on the heels of an article written about the same time period by former British foreign secretary Jack Straw.
Straw had written that Cyprus should never have been allowed to join the EU and accused Greek Cypriot negotiators of “serious duplicity” during the Republic’s application process.