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Europe, the US, Turkey and Azerbaijan recognize the “unrecognized” Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

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The past September 17 referendum in Transdnestr has vividly shown the wish of Transdnestrians to live freely. The overwhelming majority of them voted for the independence of Transdnestr Moldavian Republic and its further voluntary accession to Russia.

In no more than two months, on November 12, South Ossetia will also hold a referendum to answer just one question: “Do you want the Republic of South Ossetia to preserve its current status of independent state and to be recognized by the international community?” The will of the South Ossetian people is known, so, it is not hard to forecast the outcome.

The referendums in Transdnestr and South Ossetia are an urge for Russia to make a serious choice. If it tries to keep silence about these historical events once again, it will face negative consequences. At the same time, some Russian experts say that, if Russia recognizes the results of the referendums — not mentioning the “unrecognized” republics themselves — it will face serious problems on the international arena and will suffer serious political and economic losses.

So we can more easily understand this hard situation, we should draw parallels, i.e. consider the processes developing in other unrecognized states. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is classic example of a state unrecognized by the international law but de facto existing for over 30 years already.

Formation of TRNC

After the proclamation of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960 and before Dec 1963, when the first inter-communal Greek-Turkish clashes broke out, Turks and Greeks were equally involved in governance. In 1964 the Turkish community began isolating themselves from the Greeks and, when in 1974 Turkish troops occupied the northern part of Cyprus, the island broke into two geographical and ethnical parts. On February 13, 1975, the leaders of the Turkish community proclaimed the so-called Turkish Cypriot Federated Republic, which was renamed into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on November 15, 1973.

International-legal status of TRNC

TNRC is in international-legal isolation, which is proved by the following factors:

1. There are a number of UN Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, particularly, 541 (1983) and 550 (1984), which say that all members of the international community should not recognize any Cyprian state other than the Republic of Cyprus, should recognize its sovereignty and territorial integrity and should not provide any support to TRNC.

2. The Government of the Republic of Cyprus decreed that the border check points functioning in the territory of TRNC are illegal as they are beyond the control of the Cyprian authorities. The Cyprian authorities demand that foreign citizens should arrive in Cyprus exclusively through the border checkpoints controlled by the Republic of Cyprus. Since 1974 all the sea and airports in TRNC have been considered as closed for international communication. Any attempts of foreign citizens to enter the Republic of Cyprus from the north will be followed by arrest and prosecution for illegal entry.

3. The international legal norms (the EU legislation) and the Cyprian national law have worked out a mechanism for protecting the rights of ownership of Greek Cypriots to the property and land left in the north of Cyprus, even though, after the 1974 tragic events and the 1975 Population Exchange Agreement, most of them left the northern part of the island.

Thus, the international-legal norms say that there is no and cant be any Cyprian state other than the Republic of Cyprus. If an official of any country visits the northern part of Cyprus without preliminary permission of the Nicosia authorities, he should be generally condemned and punished. Any thought about purchasing any property in that part of the island should be given up as this property might have belonged to Greek Cypriots before 1974. All these measures must have put TRNC in an unbearable international isolation. But how is the situation de facto?

De facto status of TRNC in the world

De facto TRNC has long been recognized by Turkey as an independent state and has state-level relations with Ankara. The world is not very angry (only Greece and the Republic of Cyprus protest) and Turkey is actively developing bi- and multilateral relations with TRNC. The Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan (Azerbaijan) has also recognized TRNCs independence, but Azerbaijan has yet refrained to officially support this decision. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has given TRNC the status of a part of federative state and observer. TRNCs priority is to develop relations with the West and European structures, first of all, with the European Commission, whose President (Jose Manuel Barroso) received TRNC President Mehmet Ali Talat in Brussels on Feb 14 2005.

The TRNC leaders are making active efforts to overcome the international isolation. The EU leading countries, first of all, the UK, and also the European Commission have actively supported these efforts. On July 7, 2004, the EC suggested a draft statute on direct trade between the EU and TRNC. In Feb 2006 the EC adopted a statute for provision of $139mln economic assistance to Turkish Cypriots. The discussion of the second statute on direct trade has been put off because of the protest of the Republic of Cyprus. Nicosia blocks the UK-initiated EC proposals for liberalizing trade TRNC saying that the opening of sea ports and airports in the northern part of the island is contrary to the principles of the European and international law.

In Sept 2005 the Turkish Cyprian Commerce Chamber opened its representation in Brussels. The Chamber is recognized by Europe as an authority issuing certificates for goods produced in northern Cyprus that are valid in the territory o the EU.

The European Parliament also has contacts with TRNC. European MPs visit the republic, officially meet with the local leaders in official places.

On Sept 29 2005 the European Parliament decided to form an 8-member “high level contact group” for establishing direct contacts with the Turkish Cypriot community. The group is to monitor the implementation of the measures proposed by the EC on July 7 2004 (statutes on direct trade with TRNC and provision of financial assistance to the republic), which have not been approved by the EU. The European Parliament has instructed the group to establish contacts with “the political representatives of the north of the island, with its elected representatives.”

The other leading European organizations, especially the CE, PACE and European Human Rights Court, are also intensifying their relations with TRNC. In June 2004 their leaders gave a benevolent ear to Talats urgent request for fully involving Turkish Cypriot representatives in their work. Turkish Cypriots welcomed the Oct 2004 decision of PACE Bureau permitting two Turkish Cypriot representatives to take part in the work of all PACE structures and to speak at PACE plenary sessions. TRNC MPs first appeared at PACE in Jan 2005. In 2004 the heads of a number of Turkish Cypriot municipalities took part in the Congress for Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.

TRNC has strengthened its relations with the Organization for the Islamic Conference. The biggest foreign political success of the Turkish Cypriots was the decision of the 31st session of the OSC FMs (Istanbul June 14-16 2004) to raise their observer status from “community” to “Turkish Cypriot state.” During its 8th Summit (Dushanbe September 2004) the Central Asia Economic Cooperation Organization also raised the observer status of the Turkish Cypriots.

TRNC bilateral relations with world states

Turkey is the key “window into the world” for TRNC. Ankara has officially recognized the republic. In Oct 1990 TRNC and Turkey signed a declaration on cooperation and support in politics and economy. On July 20, 1997, Turkey and TRNC announced measures for economic and financial integration and partial integration in defense, foreign policy and security. On August 4, 1997, Turkish and Turkish Cyprian FM signed an agreement on association.

In 2002 TRNC got even closer to Turkey. The sides signed agreements on cooperation in coast protection, sea navigation, air communication, joint search and rescue activities. TRNC citizens enjoy equal rights to live, get jobs and education and buy property in Turkey.

On August 8, 2003, Turkey and TRNC signed a framework agreement on customs union. Now, they are considering building a communication complex to allow Turkey to supply electricity and communication to TRNC. In October 2005 the Turkish Government decided to build a 78 km water pipeline via the Mediterranean bottom.

TRNC is actively developing its ties with the US and the UK, who actively support the new Turkish Cypriot leadership in defiance of the rigid international-legal measures to isolate the republic. In May 2004 the US received Talat, where he had official talks with high-ranking officials, particularly, with US Secretary of State Collin Powell. In June 2005 Talat visited the UK and met with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

After the de facto failure of the Apr 2004 referendums on the “Annan plan” for resolving the Cyprian conflict, the Americans and British began demonstratively visiting the TRNC president and FM and inviting the TRNC representative to Turkey to receptions given by their embassies in Turkey.

The actions of Washington and London openly show that they de facto recognize TRNC. A group of representatives of US companies in Turkey, led by the US embassy commercial attaché visited TRNC in Feb 2005; US congressmen in May 2005; and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Jan 2006. Straw had meetings with the TRNC leaders and ignored the strong protest of Nicosia. US citizens are buying hotels in Northern Cyprus.

In TRNC the UK has an office of its embassy (in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus). The office camouflages as a cultural center but provides consular services too. In London TRNC has a representation and offices of all of its key political parties.

The UK has active trade and economic relations with TRNC. It is the key sales market for Turkish Cyprian citruses and potato. A number of British light industry companies get semi-products from TRNC. In exchange, the UK actively exports mass consumption goods.

The UK is the key supplier of foreign tourists to TRNC 40,000 people — over half of annual inflow, even more that Turkey. The UK-based Northern Cyprus Tourism Center Ltd “presents TRNC at various tourist fairs.”

From the northern Cyprian port of Famagusta ships sail to the British port of Harwich, from the Timbu (Ercan) airport planes fly to London, Glasgow, Manchester via Turkish airports. The flights are carried out by Turkish-Cyprian Airlines and Eurosun.

Recently Germany has got a significant place in the system of foreign ties with TRNC. The German Foreign Ministry has permanent contacts with the TRNC leaders on a Deputy FM level. Almost 15,000 German tourists visit Northern Cyprus every year (3rd place after the UK and Turkey). There is a charter flight from TRNC to Frankfurt via Turkish airports.

Israel also cooperates with TRNC in tourism and is implementing a number of investment projects there.

The current period of relations between TRNC and Azerbaijan has been termed by Western media as “the era of love and mutual understanding,” while the first TRNC President Rauf Denktas has thanked Azerbaijan for “opening its brotherly arms for Turkish Cypriots.”

As a result of the recent development of contacts between TRNC and Azerbaijan, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said that he was going to start charter flights from Azerbaijan to TRNC, to open offices of Azeri private companies in TRNC and to recognize the TRNC passports. He did it. The first experimental flight was carried out from Baku to Ercan and back in July-Aug 2005. The Azeri authorities were not embarrassed by the angry protest of the Republic of Cyprus, who tried to block Azerbaijans cooperation with the EU and who raised this issue at ICAO and other international organizations. In early Oct 2005 an official Azeri delegation paid a visit to TRNC. They opened an Azeri Center of Economy, Culture and Cooperation and Days of Azeri Culture.

On October 19-22, 2006, a delegation of Kyrgyzstan (23 people, including 15 MPs and 3 deputy ministers) visited TRNC. The head of the delegation said that the objective of the visit was to continue the efforts initiated by Tajikistan and Azerbaijan for lifting TRNC isolation. The sides signed protocols on cooperation in education, culture and sport. Jan 21-22 2006 TRNC Foreign Minister Serdar Denktas led a parliamentary delegation to Bishkek.

In Apr 2005 the son of the first TRNC President Rauf Denktas Serdar Denktas, who is now TRNC Foreign Minister, visited Saudi Arabia, where he first met with representatives of the Secretariat General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and the Islamic Development Bank. For the same purpose, in early May 2005 Denktas visited Qatar and met with the local FM.

In its foreign policy TRNC tightly cooperates with Turkish Foreign Ministry and Turkish embassies. TRNC has representations in Azerbaijan, Belgium, the UK, the UAE, Pakistan and the US (in Washington and New York).

The Turkish Cyprian authorities have begun more tightly cooperating with diplomats of foreign countries in the Republic of Cyprus, particularly, through the offices of the embassies of Australia, the UK, Germany, the US and through the French-Turkish-Cyprian Cultural Association.

TRNC representatives are admitted to almost all international tourism exhibitions and to show their sights there,

TRNC universities are developing their contacts with their counterparts abroad. A number of US universities have tight relations with higher schools in TRNC. Turkish Cyprian universities have many foreign students, mostly, from Albania, Iran, Jordan, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, Sudan and other Arab and CIS countries.

TRNC passports

The internal passports of TRNC citizens have quite an interesting status. Turkish Cypriots have the right to get a TRNC passport at the age of 11. When going abroad a TRNC citizen uses a passport of Turkey. He can get it if he has a TRNC passport. The UK, France and the US have recognized the TRNC passports and apply the “limited international recognition” status to them without facing any international legal sanctions. TRNC passport is enough for a person to get a special loose leaf where the consulates of the above countries put an entry visa. In 2005 Azerbaijan also recognized the passports of TRNC and established a visa-free regime with the republic.

TRNCs policy to gain international recognition is logical and effective. Now that Russia is facing the choice of how to develop its relations with unrecognized post-Soviet republics, it should use the existing precedents of other countries and international organizations relations with “zones of transitional statehood” in Europe, Asia and Africa. What Russia will choose is a matter of its own freedom.

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