Turkey piles on the pressure (The Cyprus Weekly, 20 February 2016)
By Esra Aygin
The relations between Turkey and the north turned sour once again during the past week after the Turkish government mounted pressure on Turkish Cypriots to accept its terms for the operation of water from Turkey whilst also repeating its demand that some 10,000 Turks living on the island to be naturalised.
Following tense negotiations in Ankara over the management of water reaching the island through a trans-Mediterranean pipeline, Turkish Cypriot “prime minister” Omer Kalyoncu implied that the water will not be delivered unless Turkey’s terms are accepted, and complained of the oppressive treatment of his “ministers” during the meetings.
“Turkish Cypriot ministers had to deal with Turkish deputy undersecretaries who sat opposite them. This is a problem. The treatment we were faced with in Ankara indicates why this process did not lead to a positive conclusion,” said Kalyoncu.
The draft agreement reached in Ankara, which envisages the operation of the water by a private company, has once again been rejected by the CTP party assembly, as well as many political parties and non-governmental organisations in the north mainly on grounds that it bypasses municipalities.
In a separate development that added fuel to the flames, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly lambasted visiting Turkish Cypriot officials for not naturalising some 10,000 Turks, who have gained the right to apply for and receive Turkish Cypriot citizenship.
“Why are you not granting the citizenships? You have to take the necessary steps,” Erdogan was quoted by Turkish daily Milliyet as saying.
Under the current Turkish Cypriot citizenship law, anyone – who has been living in the northern part of the island legally for at least five years – is entitled to apply for and receive citizenship.
However, The Turkish Cypriot administration has halted the granting of citizenships except for births and marriages since Republican Turkish Party CTP came to the “government” as the major coalition partner in 2013.
This is not the first time the citizenship issue was raised by Turkish authorities.
During his visit to the north in December, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reportedly asked citizenships to be granted to some 26,500 Turks.
It is understood that Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party AKP, which held an election campaign in the northern part of Cyprus too ahead of the November general elections in Turkey, made a promise to the Turks on the island that their citizenship problem would be solved.
The reiteration of this demand prompted Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to make a public statement.
“I have never approved the mass granting of citizenships and there is no harm in saying this,” said Akinci. “There is a negotiation process that I am carrying out based on the formal citizenship data. These data include all our citizens. I cannot keep changing the data on the table.”
It remains to be seen how the latest standoff between Turkey and Turkish Cypriots will end. The Turkish Cypriot administration has limited room to manoeuvre however, as it economically depends on Turkey.
“Unfortunately as Turkish Cypriots, we have an unhealthy relationship with Turkey,” said CTP “parliamentarian” Armagan Candan. And this fact, which arises from being economically dependent on Turkey, slaps us in the face especially during sensitive times as these.”