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Turkey’s vision for peace in Cyprus

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Turkey is ready to support the entire island as long as Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will be politically equal partners.

Cavusoglu laid out Turkey’s vision for Cyprus in an op-ed in The Washington Times, saying his government envisions a bicommunal, bizonal federation where Cyprus would be transformed into a “bastion of peace, cooperation, and economic prosperity.”

The foreign minister said a peace settlement would bring along his country’s friendship and cooperation, with many benefits for all people on the island, including fresh water from Turkey, as well as gains from commerce, shipping, and natural resources.

Cavusoglu pointed to tense Greco-Turkish relations, citing they would benefit greatly from a solution on the island.

“Coupled with a settlement’s positive impact on Turkish-Greek relations, these developments will usher in a new era of cooperation and prosperity in our region. There will be no losers here; it will be a textbook case of a win-win situation,” Cavusoglu said.

But the foreign minister warned that Turkish Cypriots are weary of a recent attempt by Greek Cypriots to introduce ‘Enosis Day’ in state schools, where teenage students in the south would honour the 1950 plebiscite that sought union with Greece.

Cavusoglu wrote that the Cyprus problem is complex, citing the island’s unique history and political fallout in the 1960’s when the partnership state was dissolved.

“They were and still are two distinct peoples with different religions, cultures and ethnicities,” said Cavusoglu, adding that the two communities had managed to live together for centuries but only for three years after independence in 1960.

Cavusoglu blamed Greek Cypriots in those times for breaching the founding treaties and constitution of Cyprus, which prompted the United Nations to intervene in 1964 and help start peace talks in 1968.

The foreign minister believes that the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, which is essentially in effect to this day, enabled Turkey to stop the consequences of a military coup that was engineered by Athens in July 1974.

The Republic of Cyprus says the security guarantee agreements have outlived their purpose, and President Nicos Anastasiades has campaigned in Europe and beyond in trying to get rid of what he calls an ‘antiquated system’.

But Cavusoglu’s op-ed shows the Turkish side views security as essential in keeping the peace on the island.

“Opinion polls in northern Cyprus clearly indicate that the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots will not accept a settlement that does not entail Turkish guarantees,” he said.

Cavusoglu said Turkey and Turkish Cypriots are determined to reach a settlement in Cyprus.

“The time has come to go the extra mile, which is the hardest mile of all,” Cavusoglu said.

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