Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar says he would give up his Republic of Cyprus documents if there was a way, following new political controversy over citizenship on the divided island, with the newly-elected chief clarifying there were many reasons why his constituents in the north use passports issued in the south.
Earlier this week, Tatar denounced statements made by President Nicos Anastasiades during his Easter Sunday address, when the Greek Cypriot leader made references to Turkish Cypriots as citizens of the Republic of Cyprus.
Tatar traded barbs over the issue with Anastasiades, whose terminology included nuances about fellow citizens of the Republic of Cyprus as both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Anastasiades said he was surprised by the criticism, daring Tatar to answer whether 97 thousand Turkish Cypriots ought to be ashamed for having Republic of Cyprus citizenship and passports and also enjoying all the things that Cypriot European citizens enjoy.
The Greek Cypriot leader further insinuated that associates of the Turkish Cypriot leader also had Cypriot documents issued by the Republic of Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot leader also argued that having Republic of Cyprus documents did not mean Turkish Cypriots were citizens in the south
“And how much more shame his associates should feel for having a Cypriot ID card or Cypriot passport?” Anastasiades wondered.
A day later it emerged in Turkish Cypriot media that Tatar had a document issued by the Republic of Cyprus, with the Turkish Cypriot leader admitting he had a birth certificate issued in 1960, adding that was the order of the day back then.
But according to reports, Tatar failed to confirm or deny whether a passport had been issued to his name by the Republic of Cyprus some two decades ago, before checkpoints opened between the two communities, daring instead anyone claiming the Turkish Cypriot leader had an RoC passport to point out when and where was the last time he had used it.
Tatar went on to accuse Anastasiades of “hiding the real reasons” why thousands of Turkish Cypriots would obtain passports issued by the Republic of Cyprus.
The Turkish Cypriot leader went on to argue that Turkish Cypriots were excluded from the workings of the Republic’s administration after the events of December 1963, adding that his fellow constituents lived under conditions of isolation, embargos, and no freedom to travel.
“It is well known that many of our citizens received their passports issued by the Republic of Cyprus to overcome embargos and isolations, to travel and manage health problems or study abroad and for many other purposes,” Tatar said.
Greek Cypriots reject the narrative about isolation, while further arguing that Turkish Cypriots left their positions within the administration in order to start an ethnic uprising.
Passport versus citizenship
The Turkish Cypriot leader also argued that having Republic of Cyprus documents did not mean Turkish Cypriots were citizens in the south.
“This is an end product of the imposition of the Greek mentality, and an attempt is being made now to use this mentality for political purposes,” Tatar said, adding “this is an unacceptable situation.”
Other politicians in the north reportedly came out stating clearly they did not have documents issued in the south, including former challenger Kudret Ozersay.
Ozersay, who said there was no issue for Turkish Cypriots in the north having citizenship from elsewhere, told an online show that it was “neither wrong nor peculiar.”
Passport instrumental, not political
The former chief negotiator also said there was no political value in obtaining an RoC passport other than people wanting to make their travels less difficult or pay lower college tuition abroad, adding it was neither an issue of recognition between north and south.
“People form their own political position. I personally did not think it was appropriate to have such a document,” Ozersay added.
Another politician, Tahsin Ertugruloglu, who oversees foreign matters in the north, also denied Turkish Cypriot reports in the media that published an actual ID number, saying he had received an RoC number when he was a child but he had never used it.
Ertugruloglu also responded on Twitter saying he only had two passports with both having the star and crescent.
Referring to the Greek Cypriot leader’s statements on Easter Sunday, Ertugruloglu said he had told Anastasiades face-to-face back in 2008 that he did not have an RoC ID, when the then-Dysi chairman brought it up during his visit at the National Unity Party in the north.
But Ertugruloglu took things a step further, accusing Greek Cypriots of carrying out clandestine “fifth column" activities over the passport discussion in the Turkish Cypriot press.
Tatar refers to the late Denktash
Tatar says he has been a victim of a political campaign that targeted himself, his associates, and Turkish Cypriots in general, while also referring to another former Turkish Cypriot leader, the late Rauf Denktash, whose grandson also applied for a passport in 2004.
The Turkish Cypriot leader quoted Denktash who referred to people applying for passports in the south as “a way to protect their rights and take advantage of EU rights blocked by Greek Cypriots.”
Denktash reportedly said there was no way to stop Turkish Cypriots from applying for passports in the south.
Currently, only Turkish Cypriots who can prove citizenship on the island are eligible for passports in the south, including those born on Cyprus and those with Cypriot parents.
Immigration practice guidance also blocks Turkish Cypriots from eligibility if they are children born on the island by Turkish nationals or have a Turkish parent.