Muscat: Despite all difficulties created by our isolation, we are determined to work hard and create better conditions for the future of Turkish Cypriots, the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Dr. Derviş Eroğlu told Times of Oman, in an exclusive interview.
"With the help of Motherland Turkey (as one of the Guarantor country), we have accomplished significant progress in important fields such as tourism, higher education and services sector and hope to continue forward for an amicable solution," he said, ahead of the 29th Anniversary of the TRNC on November 15.
The TRNC, currently recognised by Turkey, is a full-fledged state where the rule of law prevails and the universal principles such as democracy, human rights, freedom of speech are all enshrined in the Constitution. In a candid interview, President Eroğlu explained in detail the current status of the issue. Excerpts:
Can you explain the current status of TRNC?
The TRNC is an independent sovereign Republic which was proclaimed on November 15, 1983 and was promptly recognised by the Republic of Turkey. Although some other Islamic countries wanted to formally recognise the TRNC, they were prevented from doing so by major powers through their authorities and lobbies.
In spite of this, the TRNC has an Observer Member status in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and has 22 embassies and representations in different world capitals. Some countries maintain offices in the TRNC, such as the US, the UK, Australia, Germany and others. Turkey has a full-fledged Embassy in Lefkoşa (North Nicosia).
What role do you expect the GCC countries as well as the OIC to be playing?
The role that the GCC could play in the process is to put into practice the resolutions of the OIC expressing its solidarity and support for the Turkish Cypriot State, as it is referred to in these resolutions, by establishing concrete links with the TRNC in diplomacy, trade, tourism, education and culture.
Does an ordinary Turkish Cypriot feel let down by the European Union?
Yes. After the referendum of April 2004 on the UN Plan for the Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus problem, which was rejected by the Greek Cypriot side while accepted by the Turkish Cypriot side, the EU had passed a decision on April 26, 2004 to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.
This decision has not been duly implemented and the promises that had been made to the Turkish Cypriot people before the referenda have not been kept. These promises include economic, cultural and greater political integration with the international community.
In a recent rally in Brussels, Turkish Cypriot civil society organisations protested the EU's failure to honour its commitments to the Turkish Cypriots, by appearing in ghost costumes to indicate that the EU treats the Turkish Cypriots as "invisible citizens."
How do you expect to bring about an end to isolation?
We expect to end the isolation and ultimately end it by intensifying our efforts to integrate with the international community in all fields. We have the full help and support of the Republic of Turkey in our efforts and we are aspiring to get greater assistance from the Islamic countries in our endeavours.
We are also making representations with the EU member states as well as other countries and international organisations to help lift the isolation.
What steps are being taken to develop the country's trade, tourism and ICT sector?
The government provides incentives for investors in the tourism industry and we are trying to improve our transportation and communication sectors with the full backing of the Republic
What initiatives is TRNC trade and industry taking to woo the GCC nations?
Our authorities are in contact with the relevant authorities and business circles in the GCC to bring in investment from these countries and to develop trade relations with them. We also export dairy products such as hellim (a kind of local cheese), to some GCC states and we believe there is considerable room for closer ties in all spheres of life with the GCC states.
What new initiatives can be taken to breathe a new life into the stalled talks?
The talks can be revitalised if a time-table is introduced culminating in a multilateral meeting involving the other actors, that is Turkey, Greece and the UK, in addition to the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides.