Sunday 8 May 2016

Akinci and Erdogan agree on Citizenships (The Cyprus Weekly, 29 April 2016)

Esra Aygin

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have reached an understanding that no further citizenships should be granted in the northern part of the island for the next 10 months.

Akinci raised the issue with Erdogan in a meeting the two had on the sidelines of the 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit in Istanbul earlier this month and explained that a move to grant further Turkish Cypriot citizenships would compromise the solution process in Cyprus, a well-informed source has said speaking on condition of anonymity.

There was widespread concern that the incoming right-wing National Unity Party UBP and Democrat Party DP coalition in the northern part of Cyprus would bow to pressure from Turkey to grant Turkish Cypriot citizenship to some 25,000 people – 40,000 with their families – who have resided legally 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 the citizenships. Under the 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.

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, based on both sides’ figures, that the population of the federal Cyprus on the very first day of a solution will carry a four Greek Cypriots to one Turkish Cypriot ratio, and 40,000 extra Turkish Cypriot citizens is likely to become 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.

The sides, who aim to find a federal solution to the Cyprus problem within 2016, are currently working mainly on the property issue to further bridge some of the remaining differences and move on to put on paper the agreements, the disagreements and the convergences under this topic.

The negotiations will proceed to the territory issue when “adequate progress has been reached in property” said Burcu. “Likewise, the sides will pick up the issue of guarantees and security when there is adequate progress in territory.”

It is understood that major elements in governance and power sharing, property, territory and guarantees will be taken up interdependently at the final give and take phase of the negotiations.

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