Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Tugrul Turkes, has torpedoed hopes for a settlement on the Cyprus problem after publically stating that his country will not budge on its request for four freedoms for the entire island.
Turkes – who had travelled to Geneva earlier this month to meet with Turkish Cypriot negotiator Ozdil Nami – said that the four freedoms should also apply “for the Turkish nationals” of the island on an equal basis with EU citizens, until Turkey’s EU membership.
His comments came hours before President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci were set to resume talks on the island for the first time since the Conference on Cyprus earlier this month.
He added that should Turkey’s request not be accepted, then the four freedoms rights should be stripped for Greek nationals – a comment political pundits say has seriously hampered efforts for a settlement.
The ‘four freedoms’ of the EU are the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders. These key principles lie at the heart of the EU and underpin the single market, originally known as the common market.
Should the four freedoms be extended to both sides in a potential post-settlement Cyprus, then it would effectively open the floodgates for people from Turkey into Europe.
“Turkey has requested something of significance in the on-going talks. We said that the four freedoms should be extended to the Turkish side. The free movement of workers and so on. We said ‘implement this issue’ but they were unmoved.”
“So we offered a second proposal. If they cannot be implemented for us, then they should not be implemented for the Greek nationals. We want a solution based on equality.”
And Turkes didn’t stop there.
Speaking at the Economic and Social Researches Centre in Turkey, he also disputed figures of the population within the Turkish Cypriot community saying that the 220,000 is wrong and that the actual figure is 300,000. He also said that that figure should also stretch to the thousands of expatriated Turkish Cypriots around the world – mainly in Britain, Canada, Australia and Turkey.
In Britain alone, there are an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Turkish Cypriots.
“We will address the issue of security and guarantees when those that need to be first settled are settled. There are five chapters that the two sides are currently negotiating,” said Turkes. “Even if there were no Turkish Cypriots on the island, Turkey would still be interested in Cyprus as it is of strategic importance for our country.”
It is not the first time that a Turkish official has spoken of the four freedoms of the EU being extended to Turkish nationals.
Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, “The EU should not stay outside of these talks. They cheated the Turkish Cypriots in 2004 (Annan Plan Referendum). We told them not to do it this time. If there is going to be a solution, if Turkish and Greek Cypriots will jointly be members of the EU, then the EU should take four-party freedoms into consideration.”
He added that Turkey would also seek the right to the free movement of its people and its goods in Turkish Cyprus in order to continue Turkey’s access to the united island. “This would also stand as an example of our accession to the EU,” he said.