By Esra Aygin
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have reached an understanding that no more ‘citizenships’ should be granted in the north for the next 10 months.
Akinci raised the issue with Erdogan in a meeting the two had on the sidelines of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit in Istanbul and explained that a move to grant further Turkish Cypriot naturalisations would compromise the solution process in Cyprus, a well-informed source said.
There was widespread concern that the right-wing National Unity Party UBP and Democrat Party DP coalition in the north would bow to pressure from Turkey to grant Turkish Cypriot naturalisations to some 25,000 people – 40,000 with their families – who have resided on the island for at least five years.
The outgoing Republican Turkish Party CTP had resisted repeated requests from Turkish officials including from Erdogan himself, to grant ‘citizenships’. Under Turkish Cypriot ‘citizenship’ rules, anyone who has been living in the north for at least five years is entitled to apply for and receive naturalisation.
The Turkish Cypriot leader’s spokesperson Baris Burcu refrained from confirming the understanding between Akinci and Erdogan, but said nevertheless that Akinci has discussed “with all the relevant actors the seriousness of the citizenship issue”.
“I am very pleased to say that all actors have comprehended the sensitivity of the issue and the soundness of Akinci’s approach. I hope the newly-formed coalition does not take any steps that would unsettle the current situation,” Burcu added.
The issue of citizenship is very sensitive since it is directly related with who will or will not be entitled to become citizens of a possible future federal Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides have shared with each other their citizen and population figures within the framework of the negotiations.
The sides have agreed that the population of a federal Cyprus on the very first day of a solution will carry a four Greek Cypriots to one Turkish Cypriot ratio, and adding 40,000 extra Turkish Cypriot citizens would be a spoiler.
The sides have also agreed that Turkish citizens, just like Greek citizens, will have the right to free entry, free movement, establishment and property ownership in a federal Cyprus.
However, these freedoms will also follow criteria that would regulate the ratio between the two mainlands to 4:1.
That is, for each Turkish national making Cyprus home; there would be four Greek nationals, so that a 4:1 balance would not be disturbed.