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15 June, 2024
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Cuellar's Ankara meetings highlight shift in Turkish policy

Strategic discussions in Turkey signal Cyprus diplomatic push

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

Maria-Angela Olguin Cuegiar embarked on a diplomatic journey to Turkey following her visit to Athens, marking a pivotal step in her ''go-and-return'' diplomacy initiative, which she launched after her stay in Cyprus.

This trip holds paramount importance in her endeavors to break the deadlock in Cyprus. Of particular significance is Ankara's stance, especially that of Erdogan, towards Cyprus, as Turkey's approach to the issue underwent a significant shift after 2017. Since then, Ankara has staunchly advocated for the recognition of two states in Cyprus, a position echoed by Turkish Cypriot leadership, emphasizing the principle of sovereign equality as a prerequisite for resuming negotiations.

Remaining resolute in her stance, Olguin was graciously received in Ankara by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan. Notably, Fidan had previously held discussions with the self-styled Foreign Minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Tachsin Ertugruloglu, indicating a coordinated approach between Ankara and the occupied territories ahead of the Secretary-General's envoy's visit. The outcomes of her meetings reaffirmed Turkey's unwavering position on Cyprus, publicly articulated since 2017, following the breakdown of talks in Crans-Montana. Turkey's stance rests on three pillars:

1. Firm assertion of the existence of two states in Cyprus since 1974.
2. Advocacy for "sovereign equality" as a precondition for negotiations, aiming to alleviate the perceived isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community. This strategy, coupled with a blame-game approach, currently attributes the failure to find a solution to the Cyprus issue to the Greek Cypriots, highlighting events such as the rejection of the Annan Plan (2004) and the collapse of talks in Crans-Montana.

As of the time of writing, Olguin had not yet met with Turkish President Erdogan, nor was there a scheduled meeting for Friday, January 9th. Erdogan is presently touring cities in southeastern Turkey, commemorating the anniversary of the devastating earthquakes of February 2023 and engaging in internal AKP processes for the upcoming municipal elections in Turkey on March 31st – a focal point for the Turkish presidency.

Expectations for the current phase do not anticipate a shift in Turkey's position, given that the upcoming municipal elections in Turkey (scheduled for March 31st) currently dominate Erdogan and AKP's focus, particularly in major urban centers. Whether there will be any change in Turkey's stance on the Cyprus issue remains to be seen in the coming months, closely intertwined with a broad array of tactical and strategic factors, including Euro-Turkish and US-Turkish relations.

Furthermore, Olguin is anticipated to visit London and Brussels in the coming days to conclude her tour, with Cyprus as the primary focus, before returning to Cyprus in early March. The subsequent steps and, more importantly, the approach she will adopt to seek a political breakthrough for the gradual resolution of the deadlock, will become clearer during her time there.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  Cuellar  |  UN  |  Turkey  |  Ankara  |  government

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