NICOSIA – Cyprus will lodge a complaint with the United Nations over Turkey’s new financial assistance deal with breakaway Turkish Cypriots that demonstrates Ankara’s “complete control” over them, the president of the ethnically divided island nation said Monday.
President Nicos Anastasiades, a Greek Cypriot, told state broadcaster CyBC that he would also include in the protest letter Turkey’s move to designate the Turkish Cypriots’ unrecognized, main airport as a domestic flight route, effectively turning it into a Turkish one.
Many liberal Turkish Cypriots fear that both the financial deal and the airport designation are the clearest signals yet that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to eventually annex breakaway northern Cyprus.
“I will proceed with the complaint again with the United Nations relative to the airport which ... in essence is being integrated and considered a Turkish airport,” Anastasiades said. “Secondly, (financial) protocol clearly demonstrates Ankara’s complete control of the Turkish Cypriots.”
Turkish officials reportedly said the designation aims to make flights to and from northern Cyprus cheaper.
Hardline Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar on Monday dismissed Anastasiades’ remarks as “Greek Cypriot propaganda” ahead of presidential elections next year. He also hailed the financial agreement as of “great importance” to reinvigorate the Turkish Cypriot economy.
Turkish Cypriots declared independence in the island nation’s northern third nearly a decade after Turkey invaded in 1974 following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriots' independence. Numerous rounds of U.N.-facilitated talks over nearly a half century to reunify Cyprus as a federation composed of Greek and Turkish speaking sectors have led nowhere.
Turkish Cypriots fault a Greek Cypriot denial to equitably share power in a federated Cyprus. Greek Cypriots fear a Turkish Cypriot insistence for Turkish military intervention rights, a permanent Turkish troop presence and veto power for the minority Turkish Cypriots.
Citing the failed peace talks, Ankara and Turkish Cypriot leader Tatar say the only feasible way now to break the deadlock is an accord based on two sovereign states — something that Greek Cypriots reject as formalizing permanent partition of the Mediterranean island.
Many Turkish Cypriots are up in arms over the financial agreement, about 240 million euros worth of grants and loans this year, or about a third of annual revenues.
Although the north has always been dependent on Turkish economic aid, the peace group United Cyprus Now says this deal compels Turkish Cypriots to introduce measures curbing freedom of speech, making it easier for Turkish citizens to buy up property and cedes more power to religious authorities.
“These measures constitute a direct threat to the will, identity, culture, way of life and heritage of Turkish Cypriots,” the group said.
The leader of the leftist opposition Republican Turkish Party Tufan Erhurman called the deal a “protocol for the abandonment of the will” of Turkish Cypriots to govern themselves.