‘APOLOGISE’

  Jul 10, 2023 10:30 am Ibrar Younas 11043
TRNC Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu says British High Commissioner Irfan Siddiq should say sorry over remarks.

‘APOLOGISE’
Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu speaking to Cyprus Today Editor-in-Chief Eltan Halil

EXCLUSIVE 

By ELTAN HALIL

 

THE British High Commissioner to South Cyprus, Irfan Siddiq, should apologise to the Turkish Cypriot people for comments he made at a public meeting in Çatalköy on June 27, Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu has said.

During the gathering with around 100 British citizens at the Olive Tree Hotel, Mr Siddiq caused uproar when he described the second phase of Türkiye’s 1974 Peace Operation as a “land grab” while also likening it to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He also accused the TRNC authorities of trying to “cause pain for anyone who is not adhering to or accepting their world view” that the TRNC should be recognised as a separate state, by making things “harder” for the British authorities on the island in terms of cooperation, such as on the issue of children taken from the UK to North Cyprus who are “potentially at risk”.

Mr Siddiq also tried to stop Cyprus Today from reporting what he had said at the public meeting, claiming that he had been speaking “off the record” and warned this newspaper of “consequences” if we did.

In an interview with Cyprus Today prior to the public meeting, Mr Siddiq also spoke on the issue of flights between the UK and North Cyprus.

He had said that direct flights could not take place without the approval of the Greek Cypriot side, and that the previous years-long practice of passengers being allowed to wait on the plane during the “touchdown” phase of the journey in Türkiye, which was ended in 2017, had been an “oversight” and “wasn’t actually related” to security issues at Ercan airport.

Responding to Mr Siddiq’s comments during an exclusive interview with Cyprus Today at his office at the Foreign Ministry earlier this week, Mr Ertuğruloğlu said it is a “mistake” to treat “someone who is a High Commissioner on the Greek Cypriot side, as if he is a High Commissioner in the Turkish Republic or Northern Cyprus as well”. 

“The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not a member country of the Commonwealth, and, as such, the British ambassador to South Cyprus can be labelled as the British High Commissioner, but only in South Cyprus,” he said.

“To us, he is just a British diplomat. Unfortunately, having read his remarks to members of the British [community] of North Cyprus, we are very disappointed, very upset. 

“And in fact, we feel insulted by the British diplomat in question. His remarks were totally unbecoming of a diplomat, especially a diplomat representing one of the three guarantor countries of the 1960 republic.

“A diplomat from a country that knows more about the details of the Cyprus problem than anyone else. And, perhaps in a sense, a diplomat from a country which instigated the Cyprus problem.”

Mr Siddiq is “either totally ignorant of the realities of the island of Cyprus or he is simply trying to be a spokesman, a representative, of the Greek Cypriot community,” Mr Ertuğruloğlu stated.

“I cannot label his remarks in any other way,” he said. “Because they are totally against the historical realities of the island. They are totally against what the Cyprus problem is all about.

“And Mr Siddiq believes, apparently, that the Turkish Cypriot people should not question the essence of the Cyprus problem, but simply accept the mistake that the United Kingdom and the rest of the international community has made, accept their mistake and try to secure bits and pieces of rights legitimising the mistake of the United Kingdom and the rest of the international community, led by the United Kingdom.

“To begin with, the Republic of Cyprus, as established in 1960, was a sue generis [Latin for of its own kind, unique] republic. 

“The constitutionality and the legitimacy of the Republic of Cyprus was based on the continuation of the partnership between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots on the basis of political equality, and neither of the co-founding partners was to have the right to oust the other partner and claim on their own to be the Republic of Cyprus. Yet, that’s exactly what happened. 

“The Greek Cypriots, by force of arms, rejected the Turkish Cypriots from all state and governmental machinery, monopolised the whole system and turned it into a purely Greek Cypriot state. 

“And, whereas the agreements prevented the recognition of such an entity as if it was the legitimate successor of the Republic of Cyprus, from day one the Greek Cypriots, led by the United Kingdom, were allowed to masquerade around the world as if they were the Republic of Cyprus and as such enjoyed the privileges of that recognition, presented the Turkish Cypriots as if we are a secessionist ethnic minority of the so-called Republic of Cyprus, and using the advantages of this recognition they have been allowed to impose all sorts of embargoes and restrictions on the Turkish Cypriot people.”

Referring to comments by Mr Siddiq made during his public meeting with British citizens that there are “competing narratives” on the island and a “contested history”, Mr Ertuğruloğlu responded by saying: “He has the audacity to say there are similar complaints on both sides of the island, as to the history of the Cyprus problem, as if the Greek Cypriots are just as entitled to complain about the history, and likewise the Turkish Cypriots, so . . . what he is basically saying is if both sides are complaining then the international community is doing something right. 

“Mr Siddiq prefers to overlook the advantages they have given to the Greek Cypriots internationally, allowing them to sit in the UN General Assembly as if they are the Republic of Cyprus, and at the same time are turning to the Turkish Cypriots and saying ‘negotiate with the Greek Cypriots to solve the Cyprus problem’, totally ignoring what the main Cyprus problem is all about. 

“The Cyprus problem is the recognition of the Greek Cypriots as if they are the Republic of Cyprus of 1960. This is the Cyprus problem.”

 

‘GRATEFUL TO AUDIENCE’ 

 

Asked to comment on Mr Siddiq’s comments during his speech at the public meeting that the first phase of the Turkish Cyprus Peace Operation, on July 20, 1974, was “arguably legitimate” while the second phase in August 1974 was a “land grab”, and the strong reaction to the latter remark from some members of the audience, Mr Ertuğruloğlu said:  “I am grateful to the audience for having reacted to this. So Mr Siddiq, basically is saying the first phase was acceptable, was necessary. Now, I don’t know if he is aware that that piece of [the] statement upsets the Greek Cypriots.

“I fail to see how anyone considers the first phase legitimate and considers the second phase as [an] occupation. If the British were so sensitive about what was happening on the island, back in 1963-1974, then why did the British government reject Türkiye’s offer for joint intervention?

“The Treaty of Guarantee gave the right to guarantor countries to act either jointly or unilaterally if the state of affairs as created by the 1960 agreements were threatened, were changed. 

“And as you may recall, Nicos Sampson, a well known murderer of Turks, at the end of the [July 1974] coup declared Enosis, declared union of the island with Greece. 

“And he was a puppet placed as the president of the so-called Republic of Cyprus, and he openly said that Enosis had been achieved. 

“Now, what happened in the first phase of the Turkish intervention? Turkish soldiers came to the island. We had a bridge-head west of Girne and a corridor from Girne to Lefkoşa. East and west of this corridor were Greek Cypriot soldiers and mainland Greek soldiers.

“What was expected of the Turkish army to do? To sit like ducks and wait for the Greek Cypriots and Greek soldiers to attack them, east and west?

“The second phase of the Peace Operation was just as necessary, both politically and militarily, as the first phase of the Peace Operation.

“The first phase, without the second phase, is totally meaningless. The first phase, without the second phase, was not going to achieve the result that the Peace Operation did achieve. 

“Because the Peace Operation – everyone should realise – was the last and final step to prevent the island from being a Hellenic island, from being united with Greece.

“The Peace Operation . . . put an end, for good, to any hope that the Greek Cypriots may have had for union with Greece as the whole island. 

“So whether Irfan Siddiq is aware of these historical details or not, to me, it’s totally irrelevant. He is not someone I wish to take seriously. He is a disappointment to British diplomacy. He is not fit to serve on this island, being so biased, so ready and willing to misrepresent the realities.

“The British are famous for their masterhood of diplomacy, yet I believe Siddiq is an exception. “He is definitely not worthy of being a diplomat of the United Kingdom, he is not fit to serve on the island of Cyprus either. He should shut up and start considering to apologise to the Turkish Cypriot people.

“Without an apology to the Turkish Cypriot people there is no way I will take him seriously in any way whatsoever.”

 

‘SHAMEFUL STANCE’ 

 

Referring to Mr Siddiq’s other comments as reported by Cyprus Today, Mr Ertuğruloğlu continued: “There are so many points, so many details in what he said that can be challenged that one needs to write a book challenging every shameful stance he has taken against the Turkish Cypriot people. . . He has also accused us of trying to cause ‘pain’ to the United Kingdom. . .

“Someone representing a country which is in fact causing ‘pain’ to Turkish Cypriot people, their [High Commissioner] accusing us of inflicting pain on them. 

“He is not aware he is inflicting pain on his own citizens who live in the TRNC. These are British citizens, they are elderly people, they travel frequently home and back and the inconvenience they have to go through, let alone the Turkish Cypriots, he is willing to allow his own citizens, as well, to go through these inconveniences just so that the Greek Cypriots are not upset.

“If the United Kingdom were to live up to its responsibilities to the Turkish Cypriot people, the Greek Cypriots will raise hell.”

Recalling how many years ago he once told the UK’s former special representative to Cyprus, David Hannay, that the UK was not acting fairly towards Turkish Cypriots, to which Hannay said “who told you there is anything called fairness in international politics”, the Foreign Minister continued: “That’s exactly what we’re experiencing. There is no fairness; that we know. “What we cannot appreciate is for the tables to be turned around and for the people who are discriminating against us turning around and accusing us of misbehaviour, accusing us of a lack of legitimacy, accusing us of a lack of statehood in their view. 

“So unfortunately, the encounter that the British diplomat had with the British Residents Society members is a totally shameful encounter. 

“I understand he also tried to threaten the journalist who was at the meeting not to write anything about what he had said [at the public meeting], otherwise, if he did, then there would be consequences. 

“So this individual is not even a diplomat. A diplomat should know the meaning of every word they utter. 

“A diplomat knows when to speak off the record and when to speak on the record. A diplomat cannot speak on the record to an audience and then turn around and ask a journalist not to print anything because he was speaking off the record.

“This is totally unbecoming of a diplomat. That is why I say again he should consider shutting up and apologising to the Turkish Cypriot people. He is not fit to serve on the island of Cyprus.

“If there is any other issue he is more aware of around the world, then perhaps London should send him there, but definitely not keep him here.”

 

TRNC ‘NO SAFE HAVEN FOR CRIMINALS’

 

On the accusation by Mr Siddiq that the TRNC authorities are deliberately not sharing enough information with the British High Commission with regards to British children in North Cyprus who could be “at risk”, Mr Ertuğruloğlu said: “He should be aware that TRNC officials are not interested in turning the TRNC into a safe haven for criminals.

“What he is saying, basically, is accusing us of turning the TRNC into a safe haven for criminals.

“I reject that outright, it’s a shameful statement, again, just as all the other things he said, this is also something he should apologise about to the Turkish Cypriot people.

“The advice we get from our legal authorities is that there is a certain law, privacy of the individual life, respect for the individual’s private life. 

“So, apart from telling anyone exactly where the alleged people are staying in the TRNC, we are willing to explain to whoever is questioning about what has happened, about the wellbeing of the individuals in question, but we cannot, by law, give out information we are not supposed to give out, thanks to that law that says respect for individuals’ private life. 

“This is not something that is difficult to appreciate. We cooperate with the British authorities, for example on any other criminal activity, cars that are stolen and brought here, any individual, British or Turkish Cypriot, that is involved in a crime back in the UK and is here, we cooperate with the British officials, we go through court cases here, we extradite the criminals back to the United Kingdom.

“So in short . . . we are not interested in turning the TRNC, our country which we are proud of, into a safe haven for criminals.

“We do our best to prevent criminals trying to impose that image on the country. 

“So I reject everything that Irfan Siddiq has said, not just about this case, but everything else. Everything else he has said is something he should be ashamed of. He is simply demonstrating his ignorance or his bias.”

 

POSSIBILITY OF JOINT STATE ‘LESS THAN NIL’

 

The TRNC’s Foreign Minister also spoke about the prospects of any solution in Cyprus, and explained the current policy of seeking recognition of the TRNC.

“The possibility of a joint state with the Greek Cypriots is less than nil,” he said. 

“We tried a common state in 1960, we were quite happy with that, the Greek Cypriots were not, they destroyed it. You gave all the advantages to the aggressor, Mr Siddiq, your country did, and continues to do so.

“So long as the international community, again led by the United Kingdom . . . continues to pretend as if there is a legitimate Republic of Cyprus with its legitimate government, there is no way that the Turkish Cypriot people will ever accept the Greek Cypriots as if they are the Republic of Cyprus. 

“There is no way that any negotiations, even if they were to take place, will produce a mutually acceptable settlement. 

“There is no way that a common state of Cyprus will ever be established. The reality will continue to be one island, two states, till eternity.

“Cyprus is not a state. Cyprus is the name of an island and this island has two states, whether Irfan Siddiq recognises it or not, it’s not up to him to recognise us or not.

“The most important country for us, the Republic of Türkiye, our motherland, recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Turkiye does not recognise the Greek Cypriot state calling itself the ‘Republic of Cyprus’.”

In response to Mr Siddiq stating in his interview with Cyprus Today that he stills sees an opportunity for “one final push” for a federal solution in Cyprus, Mr Ertuğruloğlu said the likelihood of such a settlement ended following the collapse of marathon talks in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana in the summer of 2017. “There is no likelihood of negotiations for a federation anymore. That story ended back in 2017 in Crans-Montana. 

“Greek Cypriots are not prepared to accept it, and Greek Cypriot supporters, led by Mr Siddiq, are trying to help the Greek Cypriots in that endeavour. . . No negotiations so long as the sovereign equality of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the equal international status are not officially recognised. . . There is no way the Greek Cypriots will accept the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus so long as the international community treats them as if they are the Republic of Cyprus. 

“So why should they accept Turkish Cypriot sovereign equality? And likewise, there is no way we will accept anything less than sovereign equality and equal international status.

“So we are at a point where both sides are at point zero. Neither side can take a step back. The Greek Cypriots can’t afford to take a step back so long as they are recognised as the Republic of Cyprus. 

“We are not going to take a step back so long as we are not recognised as a sovereign equal state. So, who can, in their right mind, expect negotiations as if nothing happened in Crans Montana. 

“The negotiations collapsed in Crans-Montana. The negotiations were not dropped temporarily in Crans-Montana so that one day we will pick up from where we left off. . . The likelihood of them being resumed is less than nil, impossible. 

“So both the Greek Cypriots and Mr Siddiq better realise this reality. They are in no way capable of making Turkish Cypriots a subservient community of a Greek Cypriot state and present it to the rest of the world as the settlement of the Cyprus problem, which is exactly what they are trying to do. . . Recognition [of the TRNC] is the only way out of the Cyprus conflict.

“Without recognition, there is no way negotiations can take place. There is no way a mutually acceptable future set-up of the island of Cyprus as two neighbouring states can be realised.”

 

UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTIONS ‘NOT BINDING’

 

On the issue of United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Cyprus, Mr Ertuğruloğlu said: “People keep talking about UN Security Council resolutions in Cyprus as if they are the ones that are going to show the way to the settlement of the Cyprus problem, when in fact the UN Security Council resolutions themselves are the problem of Cyprus.

“UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus are not binding resolutions, they are advisory resolutions.

“Countries have the right to chose whether they accept the resolution or don’t accept it, whether they are binding to it or opposing it. 

“And the perfect example is the Republic of Türkiye [which] is not in conformity with the UN Security Council resolutions [on Cyprus], yet you don’t hear of the United Nations taking measures and punishing the Republic of Türkiye for not being in compliance with the UN Secuirty Council resolutions. . . The international community has made a huge mistake on the island of Cyprus. It continues to make a huge mistake, expecting us to bow to this mistake, but we are even more determined to fight this mistake. 

“We have never been a minority of a Greek Cypriot state. The island of Cyprus has two states, two sovereign peoples, two sovereign equal states and the future will be two sovereign equal states living side by side, hopefully in good neighbourly relations.

“And Mr Siddiq should go and try to appease Greek Cypriots elsewhere, not on the island of Cyprus.”

 

UK A ‘PRISONER OF ITS BASES’

 

Mr Ertuğruloğlu also said the UK is a “prisoner of its own Sovereign Base Areas” which it has in the southern part of Cyprus. 

“Those Sovereign Base Areas are so significant for the interests of the United Kingdom [and] for the United States of America, that in order not to endanger the future of those Sovereign Base Areas, the United Kingdom cannot afford to upset the Greek Cypriots so that Greek Cypriots start a movement in South Cyprus demanding ‘British bases out of Cyprus’,” he said. 

“Not that the British will abandon the bases. But if there was such an activity in South Cyprus saying ‘British bases out’, obviously this will be a headache for the United Kingdom. 

“And the British see no reason why they should go, why they should have this headache for the sake of the Turkish Cypriots. 

“So they prefer to hurt and to punish the Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue the interests of the United Kingdom at the expense of Turkish Cypriots.”

 

NEW ERCAN ‘HUNDRED TIMES BETTER’ THAN LARNACA

 

On the new Ercan airport, which is expected to open on July 20, and the issue of the lack of direct flights and disembarkation in Türkiye for additional security screening, the minister had this to say: “There is an airport at Ercan now, which is a hundred times better, more secure, more technical, more modern, more up to date, than the Greek Cypriot airport in Larnaca.

“And Irfan Siddiq has the audacity to say it doesn’t matter if there is such an airport in the North, passengers travelling from Ercan to [the UK] must disembark in Türkiye before they go on to the United Kingdom. 

“Why? Don’t talk to me about the Geneva Convention, the Chicago Convention. What about Taiwan? What happens to all those conventions when it comes to Taiwan? 

“There is a systematic discrimination and intentional discrimination against the Turkish Cypriot people, not just by Mr Siddiq, but by the international community.”

 

This story originally appeared in the print version of Cyprus Today dated July 8, 2023



Comments

  • Gregory
    Gregory
    Oh dear
    11 months ago