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Rare interview for northern Cyprus leader


Rare interview for northern Cyprus leader


Mehmet Ali Talat calls himself “president”. But his “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is not recognized. Just a few days before the European Commission publishes its report on Turkey, diplomatic pressure is mounting to end the division of Cyprus. The Finnish EU-presidency offers a possible end to the embargo of Famagusta port in Northern Cyprus. The port could be administered by EU officials, so Turkish Cypriots could export their goods to EU countries directly from Famagusta, which they cannot today. But Turkish Cypriots want more: they demand embargoed Ercan airport be reopened for international flights. Part of the Finnish package deal includes the empty “ghost town” of Varosha. It should be given back to the Greek Cypriots who fled south during the war. Thousands of refugees could, maybe, return to the North.

Euronews: What is your reaction to the finnish proposal? – Can you accept giving back Varosha, (to the Greek Cypriots), against direct trade through the port of Famagusta? Is this an acceptable deal for you?

Mehmet Ali Talat: Actually, for Turkish Cypriots, lifting our isolation is very crucial, and we do not believe that we have to give something in return for getting rid of isolation. Because the European Council on 26 of April 2004, decided to lift the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots, they did not mention any bargain, any “give-and-take” process. But now, in return for only a limited lifting of isolation, which is direct trade through the port of Famagusta, they are asking us to hand over Varosha to the United Nations. We are ready to negotiate on Varosha, that’s right. But in the case of lifting isolation and just a punctual lifting of isolation, of course, it is not fair to ask to give back Varosha.

Euronews: “What is your perspective? Can the Greek Cypriot refugees go back to their homes?

Mehmet Ali Talat: Refugees, you said refugees… But, I mean, after thirty-and-more years most of them are rehabilitated and living elsewhere. And they are not refugees any more. But you are right, there are dislocated people, actually, and some of them, and really a considerable number of them will find that opportunity to come back.

Euronews: The South is saying they wouldn’t accept direct trade through Turkish Cypriot Airports. What is your reaction to this?

Mehmet Ali Talat: Actually, that’s a good answer. Actually we are asking for inclusion of direct flights from our airports into the proposed package deal, and exclusion of Varosha. Direct flights, financial aid and direct trade regulation through the European Union regulations – they are not related with a comprehensive solution, but they are related with lifting the isolation. So, for us, actually, the inclusion of Ercan airport for direct flights is a very important issue.

Euronews: Is the opening of the northern airports a condition you are putting forward?

Mehmet Ali Talat: I do not want to use those words “condition”, “precondition” et cetera, but it is very important. The Finnish proposal as it stands now is not fair, it is not balanced.”

Euronews: Why not send back the Turkish soldiers occupying this territory here. Are you not feeling safe here?

Mehmet Ali Talat: Just imagine: Cyprus being in the European Union, while Turkey is out of the European Union! Turkish Cypriots will not feel secure in such an environment. I am speaking about Greek Cypriots hostile stands. Even now, they are trying to strangulate the Turkish Cypriots in every aspect of life. So, with this hostility, we are definitely afraid, particularly of the Greek Cypriot military.

Euronews: How could the German Presidency of the European Union break this deadlock about Cyprus, maybe, next year? What is your proposal?

Mehmet Ali Talat: The European Union promised Turkish Cypriots to lift the isolation. If the European Union follows that promise, if it keeps the promises, then Turkey will not hesitate to open its ports to Greek Cypriots.

Euronews: Is there not a window of opportunity closing down slowly? There are elections in Turkey next year and it will be quite difficult to find a deal actually, on Cyprus. Maybe it will take 10 or even 20 more years – in case a compromise is not found right now?

Mehmet Ali Talat: Actually if we cannot find a solution to the Cyprus problem, you are right. – But I do not think that the efforts of the United Nations in particular, which is the only framework where we can find a solution, where we can reach a solution; it is not possible for that process to stop for 10 years.

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