President of TRNC talks to DNA and Centreline
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Dr. Dervis Eroglu President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus gave an exclusive interview to Editor DNA/Centreline Ansar Mahmood Bhatti during his recent visit to TRNC. North Cyprus happens to be the only divided capital of Europe. In 2004 the United Nations supported a referendum for the re-unification of the Island. TRNC people voted in favour of the then UN secretary General Kofi Annan’s plan however Greek Cypriots rejected the plan. The UN once again has decided to hold fresh round of talks for the re-unification of the island. Republic of Cyprus (Greek Cyprus) is a member of European Union since 2004 while TRNC is only recognized by Turkey. Pakistan also recognized TRNC but it had to withdraw its decision following UN embargoes on TRNC. Nevertheless, TRNC representative in Islamabad enjoys ambassadorial status and as a special arrangement, his designation appears as ‘ambassador’ in the foreign office book Diplomatic Corps. We would try to take version of the other side as well in order to help readers form their own opinion about the Cyprus issue. Here are excerpts from the interview of TRNC president.
Dr. Dervis Eroglu President of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has said Pakistan is a great country and a sincere friend of Turkish Cypriot people adding TRNC is looking forward for forging even deeper ties with Islamabad.
The President of North Cyprus further said, “We are thankful to Pakistan for granting special status to our representative that makes us so happy. Pakistan’s this gesture shows proximity of relations between the two countries”. He further said, he would love to visit Pakistan and meet with the people of Pakistan. Our former President Mehmat Ali Talat visited Pakistan once and I can say the visit was fruitful. He hoped reciprocal visits will certainly contribute greatly towards building even stronger linkage between the two sides.
Dr. Dervis added, Pakistan was among the first countries that showed willingness to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. “Pakistan happens to be our best friend and I can say Pakistan is included among those Muslim countries from where support for us has always been forthcoming”, he added. He said, Turkish Cypriot people have great love and affection for Pakistani people, which is growing with the each passing day. “There are a number of Pakistani students studying in TRNC universities apart from a good number of Pakistanis employed in various departments here. These people in fact serve as a bridge between the two sides’ he added.
“We have some son-in-laws from Pakistan as well who are married to Turkish Cyprus girls. That is another plus point that brings us further close.
To a question about OIC’s role vis a vis Cyprus issue, the President said, the OIC is good for only discussions. It is quick in adopting resolutions but unfortunately when it comes to implementation of the resolutions, it fails to act. Of course, we expect an enhanced role from the OIC. It has to do something proactively in order to lift embargoes on North Cyprus. Unfortunately, so far the OIC countries have not done enough towards this end.
Giving a brief account of his recent contacts with the UN special envoy on Cyprus Alexander Downer the President said the UN has prepared draft of a joint statement, which we have accepted with a little bit of modifications. However, the Greek Cypriot side has rejected the said draft and instead they have prepared their own draft.
For last two months we have been exchanging the draft and so far we have not been able to reach a consensus on it. We had a meeting with Alexander Downer recently in which we submitted a draft and told him that it is going to be the last draft from our side.
The President said, we have proposed to the Greek side that we should sit on the negotiating table without the joint statement in order to seek a solution but our proposal has not been entertained by the Greek side. Talking about the failure of the Annan Plan, Dr. Dervis Eroglu said ostensibly it was the Greek Cypriot side that rejected the Annan Plan by saying no to referendum held in 2004 under the aegis of the United Nations.
Unfortunately the then leadership of Greek Cyprus spearheaded the “No” campaign due to which the Annan Plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriots and thus all efforts to unite the island went down the drain. “As you know the Turkish Cypriots had accepted the Kofi Annan Plan with a big ‘Yes’ vote, which manifested their strong desire for re-unification of the island”.
To a yet another question President Dervis Eroglu said, a breakthrough may be achieved in March, April next year because we have been discussing this issue for decades now. In next year the Cyprus problem shall be 50 years old and we think there has to be a solution of this issue now. Six chapters are currently under discussion and a threadbare discussion has already been held by the both sides on these chapters, expect security and guarantees issue. “This issue can be resolved in three months provided there is a will from the Greek Cypriots side”, he added.
He said, people are gradually becoming wary of the situation and if the issue remains unresolved it might create problems in the coming days. The delay in resolution of the issue in fact is adding to disappointment of masses and they may lose their patience and confidence if this issue is allowed to linger on.
When asked to comment what is the first preference of the Turkish Cypriot people and what would happen if the talks are collapsed again, the President said, this is of course a matter of concern because if we are failed to reach an agreement then people may think about other options. This is going to be a last chance towards re-unification of the island, he added.
“This is a fact that there is a state in the South and there is a state in the North so if we cannot reach an agreement the two states would continue to exist. People of TRNC, as you might have observed, are committed to guarding their state and will continue their journey towards progress and prosperity in any case”.
To a question about Greek side’s fears about the re-unification the President said the Greek side cannot see Republic of Cyprus turning into a partnership state. And second issue is that Turkey’s status as a guarantor power will remain in place.
“There was a clause in the Annan Plan that the presence of Turkish troops on the island will gradually be decreased and will be brought to 650 troops in 18 years of time period. Even there might a complete withdrawal of Turkish troops at the end of the day if everything goes well.
When asked what exactly the Turkish Cypriots wanted, a confederation or a federation, the President said, “we obviously want a federation based on bi-communal and bi-zonal arrangement. When we say a federation, it will be a mix of Swiss and Belgian models’. To a question about European Union role, Dr. Dervis said the EU of course did not fulfill its promises. He said former UK foreign minister told me once that we had committed mistake by admitting the Greek Cypriots into the European Union after they rejected the Annan plan in 2004.
The then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had submitted a report to the United Nations that after the referendum there was no reason to keep Turkish Cyprus under embargoes therefore the UN embargoes should immediately be lifted. However Russia vetoed that resolution.
Dr. Dervis Eroglu: a profile
Dr. Derviş EROĞLU was born in 1938 in the village of Ergazi, in the district of Famagusta.
After completing his primary and secondary education in Cyprus, he continued his education at Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine and graduated in 1963. He completed his internship at Ankara General Hospital and went on to specialise in urology.
He worked at Famagusta State Hospital from 1972 to 1976.In the 1976 general elections in North Cyprus, he was elected member of parliament for the National Unity Party (UBP) in Famagusta. He served as Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport between 1976 and1977.
Between 1977 and 1983, he served as leader of his party for the District of Famagusta.He was chairman of the Turkish Cooperative Bank for the Famagusta District from 1972 to 1982.
In 1983, he became one of the members of the Constituent Assembly for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.In December 1983, he was elected Chairman of the National Unity Party.
He was elected Member of the TRNC Legislative Assembly in Famagusta in 9 consecutive general elections between 1981 and 2009.
Following 1985 general elections, he became Prime Minister and remained in this position until 1993.After the general elections in 1993, he continued his political life as the main opposition party leader.
On 16 August 1996, he once again became Prime Minister in the coalition government of the National Unity Party and the Democrat Party until December 1998.
He found himself once again Prime Minister, after the general elections of 6 December 1998, of the coalition government of the National Unity Party and the Communal Liberation Party from 31.12.1998 – 8.6.2001, and continued to serve as Prime Minister in the coalition government of the National Unity Party and the Democrat Party between 8.6.2001 and 13.01.2004.
He was re-elected Chairman of the National Unity Party on 29 November 2008. When early general elections were held on 19 April 2009, having secured the majority with 26 seats in Parliament, he once again became Prime Minister and formed the National Unity Party Government under his leadership.
On 18 April 2010, he became the third President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. He is married with four daughters and five grandchildren.=DNA