Dinsdagmiddag ontving de Cypriotische ambassadeur in Nederland, Kyriákos Kouros, een handvol verslaggevers, van Bloomberg, BNR, NRC en het FD, voor een briefing over de nieuwe ronde vredesbesprekingen op het Mediterrane eiland voor de kust van Turkije en Libanon en de resultaten van de economische hervormingen na de komst van de trojka bijna een jaar geleden. Ook de rol die minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Frans Timmermans had van boodschapper tussen Nicosia en Ankara kwam ter sprake. Daarover blogde ik vanochtend. De ambassadeur reageerde meteen met een brief. Kouros snijdt gevoelige onderwerpen aan, zoals de vraag hoeveel Turkse Cyprioten er zijn.
I want to repeat my warm thanks for your interest in Cyprus because it gives me also the opportunity to clarify things in regard to perceptions about the prevailing situation back home. Some of my remarks here below were the result of reading your blog-text more carefully.
For example, you mention somewhere in your text about 300.000 Turkish Cypriots. It is not possible this figure to be correct. According to the only official census contacted on the subject prior to the 1974 invasion, they were about 120.000. During the 40 years since the start of the occupation, lots of them travelled abroad in search of work and nowadays the numbers of the remaining Turkish Cypriots are estimated around 98.000-99.000. Most of them, have crossed over into the government-controlled areas of the Republic of Cyprus after the island’s accession into the EU in May 2004 and asked for EU status which they got because they had every right to it. We have issued around 98.000 passports and id cards to Turkish Cypriot since then. This means that the rest habitants in the occupied areas are illegal settlers from mainland Turkey.
Moreover, I noticed that during your trip in the whole of the island of Cyprus brought to your attention the notorious argument about the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. It is nothing new to me. From the contacts I have been holding with a number of officials and others from all walks of life in the Netherlands and worldwide, I have noticed misconceptions regarding the crossing of goods and persons through the ceasefire lines which divide my country.
However, since Cyprus joined the EU, the whole of the island is considered as part of the EU with the EU laws are being suspended in the occupied part until a solution is reached. However, the Turkish Cypriots are EU citizens. And therefore a legal instrument exists to facilitate their individual needs. About 10.000 Turkish Cypriots are crossing every day the ceasefire lines in search of work in the areas under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus.
I am submitting you the enclosed letter I have requested and obtained from the Cyprus chamber of commerce and industry as well as a copy of the “green line” regulation 866/2004 of 29 April 2004 – Dutch, which sheds some light on the matter. The “green line” regulation which took its name from the way we describe the buffer zone which divides my country, provides a regulatory framework for the export of goods from the Turkish Cypriot community in a manner consistent with international and EU laws. It has been put in place to primarily assist the economic development of the Turkish Cypriots and unfortunately shows that a regime of self-imposed “isolation” of the Turkish Cypriots exists as the result of the political choice of not using the existing regulatory framework. The subordinate administration of Turkey in the occupied part of Cyprus prefer the Turkish Cypriots to suffer instead of cooperating with the internationally recognized authorities in the island!
I hope the attached material is helping you to clarify a bit an aspect of the situation on the island.
On a personal note, I would like to share the following on the semantics as food for thought; and nothing more. I would like to make clear that I am not the ambassador of a “greek” Cyprus or a “south” Cyprus. I am the ambassador of the whole of Cyprus and when a Turkish Cypriot citizen needs my consular services, I am obliged by law to offer them. There is no such terms in the international relations dictionary. There is the only legitimate entity on the island, that of the Republic of Cyprus; and an illegal one, the so-called “TRNC” which is considered illegal by the UN and the rest of the world. This “TRNC” is a subordinate administration of Turkey in the territory of cyprus under military occupation. Turkey is paying the bills every year for this illegal entity to exist; and it is the Turkish army which controls this territory! For every 2 turkish cypriots, there is one turkish soldier on the occupied part of Cyprus. However, due to the complexities on the ground, life cannot stop from going on in both parts of Cyprus. Therefore, many enterpreaneurs from Turkey are taking foreign companies in the occupied part of Cyprus because businesspeople are always seeking opportunities, especially in conflict areas like “sharks who smell blood”. This is life. We make demarches to governments and the private community but at the end of the day vested interests and morality also count.
Personally, I originate from the northern part of the island. My childhood as my family’s properties lies there! As about one third of the displaced population of greek cypriots who found themselves refugees in our own country. The on-going negotiations might be taking too long to reach a viable compromise but the fact remains that describing Cyprus as divided to a greek and turkish one is problematic. As a diplomat I have understood over the last 20 years I am dealing with the subject that various interlocutors prefer to keep safe distances from the conflict by trying to find words to satisfy both sides. That is why now we talk about areas under the control of the government etc instead of Turkish-occupied areas. But next time think how I feel when you describe the part of my origin as a “Turkish” Cyprus or a “northern” Cyprus. at the core of the problem, what we experience is Cyprus is a parabolic battle between might and right. Guess who is who.
I am always open for discussion on the subject.