Akinci increasingly isolated over federal fixation

Cavusoglu and Anastasiades have met a number of times to discuss a more relaxed federation and new ideas

The rift between Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Ankara over the nature of a Cyprus settlement has escalated in recent weeks with the two sides exchanging increasingly barbed messages in the media.

In a recent interview with the Greek Cypriot daily Politis, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu laid bare his disagreement with Akinci.

Describing federation as the Turkish Cypriot leader’s “personal opinion” he stated that the Turkish Cypriot ruling coalition and Turkish Cypriot people should also have a say on the issue.

Speaking to several Turkish media outlets during the past week, Akinci, in a clear response to Cavusoglu, insisted that no realistic alternative to a federal solution in Cyprus exists.

“At the end of the day, I am accountable to my community,” said the Turkish Cypriot leader. “These people voted for me by 60 per cent to lead this process.”

Since the failure of the Cyprus conference in Crans-Montana in July 2017, there has been an evident divergence between Akinci, who is standing his ground for a federal Cyprus, and Cavusoglu, who has been arguing that other alternatives should also be discussed.

The relations between the two were badly damaged during Cavusoglu’s visit to northern Cyprus last April, when Akinci told him that he would rather resign than table any model of solution other than a federation. Akinci’s public call on Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades to start negotiations within the framework outlined by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, shortly after this confrontation with Cavusoglu, served as the death blow to their relations.

“Cavusoglu is clearly not happy with Akinci’s unfaltering insistence on federation,” said professor Niyazi Kizilyurek of the University of Cyprus. “But to downgrade the position of an elected leader to a ‘personal opinion’ is politically and diplomatically very inappropriate and extremely disrespectful. It is disrespectful of the leader and disrespectful of the community.”

During the last round of negotiations in 2017, Akinci took a number of bold steps despite Ankara’s objections, like increasing the percentage of areas that would be subject to territorial adjustments and giving maps before securing political equality, a source close to the issue said on condition of anonymity. His argument was “that this is the final push for a federation and we have to give it all we can.”

In fact, on the day talks collapsed in Crans-Montana, Akinci stated that this was the last effort by his generation and it had been unsuccessful.

“But then, he returned to Cyprus and continued to insist on a federation,” the source said. “Ankara feels deceived.”

One exchange in the Turkish media last week is particularly telling.

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