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Does Hardliner’s Victory Signify End of Peace Talks in Cyprus?

Ersin Tatar casting his vote in the recent elections in occupied northern Cyprus. Credit: Facebook/Ersin Tatar

The victory of Ersin Tatar in the presidential election for the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus on Sunday has analysts predicting further strain with the Cypriot government and a likely end to reunification talks.

Tatar, a hardliner, is Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s favorite for replacing incumbent president Mustafa Akinci, who has been a moderate, supporting reunification. Akinci’s relations with Ankara had not been particularly friendly, but he nevertheless lost the election by just a close margin, as his opponent won with a little less than 52 percent of the vote.

Akinci even made mention of Ankara’s intervention in the election. The incumbent won the vote of the majority of the Turkish-Cypriots who live in other parts of the island, while Tatar’s win was mostly due to the vote of the settlers living in the occupied northern area.

Tatar thanked the Turkish president for his support while vowing, “They will never break the ties between us and Turkey,” in a clear manifestation of his Ankara-based agenda.

For his part, Erdogan congratulated Tatar in a Tweet and declared likewise that Turkey would protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also Tweeted: “We will protect the legitimate rights and interests of (the Turkish Cypriots) in the eastern Mediterranean all together.”

The new president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — a pseudo-state not recognized by any other country on earth other than Turkey — has openly spoken of two separate Cypriot states in the past. Therefore his stance is making him an Ankara favorite, as Turkey seems to be aiming for the goal of having two separate states within the island.

Turkey’s current stance on the matter was clearly manifested in the failed United Nations-mediated peace talks in Crans-Montana in 2017.

That nation’s new policy consists in rejecting the proposed bi-zonal ,bi-communal federation and the search for a “new formula” for the Cyprus issue, i.e., a confederation or a two-state solution. Both Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu have recently repeated this position.

This new election victory opens the path for Turkey and the new Turkish Cypriot leader to claim division of the island — and likely the taking of additional actions within the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Cyprus watchers believe that the arrival of additional Turkish oil and gas research and drilling rigs in parts of the Cypriot EEZ appears to be on the horizon.

 

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