Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call Sunday for a two-state solution for the divided island of Cyprus and vow for Turkey to continue drilling for hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean has sparked fresh controversy and poured cold water over excited chatter of a “reset” in Ankara’s relations with the West.
Speaking on the 37th anniversary of the declaration of independence of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized solely by Turkey, Erdogan insisted that a two-state solution for the Mediterranean island needed to be negotiated “on the basis of sovereign equality” because there are “two separate peoples and states” on the island. Erdogan, who traveled to Northern Cyprus with his informal coalition partner, far-right leader Devlet Bahceli, added that Turkey would continue drilling in contested waters around Cyprus and the Greek islands “until a fair settlement” was reached.
Turkey’s deployment of drill ships escorted by Turkish navy frigates to the Eastern Mediterranean has escalated tensions with Athens and the internationally recognized government of the Republic of Cyprus, and prompted sharp rebukes from Washington and the European Union. The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Ankara unless it pulls out the ships. It is set to weigh such action during an EU summit that is due to be held in December. Erdogan’s comments suggest he doesn’t take the threats seriously, and history has borne him out so far.
Erdogan’s talk of a two-state solution, however, ought to be treated seriously, warned Mustafa Akinci, the moderate former president of the self-styled Turkish Republic, on his Facebook page. “One of the states will be the Republic of Cyprus run by the Greek Cypriots; the other will be the Republic of Turkey on which Northern Cyprus will become even more dependent,” he contended. Akinci appeared to be suggesting that Ankara’s control over the north would become total and complete.