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Made in Cyprus

No distinction will be made between Turkish settlers who have been living in Cyprus for years now and ‘original’ Turkish Cypriots in the case of a solution, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci stated.

Responding to recent reports that all settlers would be sent back to Turkey in case of a solution as a result of the Cyprus negotiations Akinci said: “This allegation has long lost its credibility.”

He said “nobody is thinking about” sending them back to Turkey.

“There are people, citizens, who came to this land years ago, who have been living here for years, who consider this land as home, who had children here, who either got married here, or who came here as a married couple and had children, grandchildren here. It is not up to us to make a distinction between our citizens. It is up to nobody to make a distinction.”

The status of tens of thousands of Turkish settlers, who illegally settled in the northern part of Cyprus after 1974 and were given ‘citizenship’ has traditionally been one of the most contentious and controversial issues of the negotiations to reunify the island.

While some argue that the entire settler population including their descendants should be expelled as the transfer of population is a crime and a violation of international law, others state that individuals cannot be penalised for crimes committed by their home state.

“It is no secret that I objected to certain actions in the past,” Akinci said, referring to his well-known opposition to the decades-long Turkish Cypriot policy of granting citizenship virtually automatically to anyone who came from Turkey.

“I would oppose again if such actions were taken today. Thousands of people were granted citizenship in five minutes through a decision of the council of ministers… But we have left those days behind. Our community made these mistakes and learned its lessons.”

Proposals discussed at the UN-brokered negotiations suggest that the makeup of a future federal Cyprus’ population should be at a ratio of four Greek Cypriots to one Turkish Cypriot, including settlers.

During a press conference, Akinci stated that Turkish Cypriots would have the population and property ownership majority in the envisaged Turkish Cypriot constituent state in a future federation. “This is what we mean by bi communality and bizonality,” said Akinci. “This is very clear.”

He underlined that a rotating presidency is an indispensable part of the political equality of Turkish Cypriots in a federation, adding that there is no agreement between the sides on the issue yet.

Akinci stated that the freedom, equality and security of Turkish Cypriots are very important and should be safeguarded in a solution, but added that the rights of Greek Cypriots should also be considered legitimate if peace is to be achieved.

“It is my duty to defend the rights of Turkish Cypriots all the way,” said Akinci. “But I will also continue to say that the other community also lives on this land and that they also have rights. This is the road to peace.”

By Esra Aygin

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