Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had two goals when he announced on Tuesday the plan to partially open Varosha, in the occupied city of Famagusta in the north of Cyprus, “with respect for property rights.”
The first – but not the most important – was to entice some Greek Cypriots with significant property in the area to act unilaterally and seek compensation for their assets, by transacting with and thus recognizing the authority of the occupation forces.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades saw through him and directly accused Erdogan of attempting to cause division among the Greek Cypriot community. He went on to express the belief that no Cypriot from Famagusta will become an accomplice.
The Turkish president certainly expected that his announcement would provoke an immediate reaction from the permanent members of the UN Security Council, as had already happened before the extraordinary convening of the Council, under the presidency of France. However, he did not hesitate to go through with his announcement because, it has been estimated, Erdogan’s intention is to increase the “risk” associated with the 47-year-old Cyprus issue, thus triggering the immediate involvement of the major powers to ensure “stability” in the Eastern Mediterranean.
As a starting point for negotiations, Erdogan is promoting the recognition of a two-state solution for Cyprus, seeking to achieve the “sovereign equality” of the two communities, within the framework of a bi-communal confederation.
The Turkish president believes that he has consolidated his country’s position in the region so as to lead developments in the direction that he wants. Apparently, Erdogan bases his assessment on the fact that since the Turkish invasion in 1974, and after the end of the 1967-1974 dictatorship in Greece, the direct or indirect intervention of foreign powers has often worked in Ankara’s favor.
The big difference today is the personal dislike that American President Joe Biden and his administration have for Erdogan, though not for Turkey, whose strategic importance to Washington and the EU remains very high.
Athens and Nicosia remain committed to the path of legality; Ankara has introduced the illegal projection of power in Cyprus; and the great powers are dealing with the issue according to their wider interests: We are entering a new phase.