Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides has been going all out on a preemptive diplomatic strike aimed at garnering support in Brussels, Washington, and the international community to stop Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from revealing “surprises to the world” during a scheduled visit to the island on July 20.
Appearing Sunday as a guest on The Greek Current, a podcast by the Hellenic American Leadership Council in collaboration with Kathimerini, Christodoulides said it was critical that Erdogan be stopped from making “more provocative and illegal actions” that would negatively affect the interests of the United States, the European Union, and the international community.
Erdogan has been talking up his upcoming visit to the northern part of Cyprus, assigning special meaning on July 20 as “Peace and Freedom Day” for Turkish Cypriots, the very same hot summer day in 1974 viewed by Greek Cypriots in the south as an invasion when Turkish troops landed on the island in response to a Greek-inspired coup engineered by Athens.
While it is expected that statements about Varosha, an abandoned ghost town in the north set to reopen, would draw strong reactions from Greek Cypriots in the south, there were other rumors on social media that could have raised the alarm in Nicosia.
Erdogan said he would make a big announcement on July 20, prompting political pundits on social media to wonder whether recent visits to the north by Pakistani dignitaries could signal an attempt by the Islamic Republic to establish diplomatic relations with a Turkish Cypriot administration currently recognized by no other country except Turkey.
“We are using all available means, which are diplomatic, political, and legal means in order to stop Turkey,” Christodoulides said.
The Cypriot minister, who was in Brussels on Monday, held discussions with many of his counterparts including from France, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, but also Egypt and Pakistan’s foe India on the sidelines of the Foreign Affairs Council.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, citing a diplomatic source, it was “particularly important for Cyprus to organize the working breakfast for the EU Foreign Ministers, with the Egyptian Foreign Minister as a guest,” adding that the Egyptian minister “praised the role of Cyprus in the region, while he referred to his interventions in the destabilizing role of Turkey.”
Cairo has been at odds with Ankara since 2014 after Erdogan questioned in a speech at the UN General Assembly the legitimacy of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, an army general back in 2013 when he overthrew the government that had wide support from the Muslim Brotherhood, a group favored by conservatives in Turkey.
Christodoulides, a former career diplomat, also argued that if Turkey went ahead with its plans during the Varosha visit, other actions by Ankara could negatively influence the Middle East as well as the interests of the EU, US, and the international community.
“If the international community is perceived by Turkey as weak or [in]decisive in its response, Ankara will see no reason to backtrack from implementing its planning in relation to Varosha,” the minister said.
“So what’s important now is to act [pro]actively before Mr Erdogan comes to Cyprus, before July 20, in order as I told you to stop Mr Erdogan from proceeding with more provocations,” the minister told the podcast.
Christodoulides said he also replied to a letter by US President Joe Biden and spoke on the phone with State Secretary Antony Blinken, stressing his main message that “we act now, preventatively, so as not to find ourselves before a situation that is irreversible.”
“We cannot allow Mr Erdogan to deliver on his promises to announce, as he called it, ‘surprises to the world’ during his upcoming illegal visit to the occupied part of Cyprus.”
Christodoulides called on allies to join the effort, saying the only way to do so would be “to send now a clear message of decisiveness from the international community.”
Cyprus has been divided for decades between a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south, which also functions internationally as the Republic of Cyprus.
Multiple efforts at reaching a settlement collapsed one after the other, with the south insisting on a federal solution and the north wanting to part ways, with Turkish Cypriots accusing Greek Cypriots of not being sincere or ready to share equally the administration of the island. [Kathimerini Cyprus]