Jul 12 2018

Erdoğan received a chilly welcome in northern Cyprus

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not receive a warm welcome during a post-inauguration tour to northern Cyprus Turkish Cypriots demonstrated his presence on the island, the Irish times reported.

Erdoğan was met at the airport by Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı and welcomed by a 21-gun salute in northern Nicosia, the capital of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet in the north of the island that only Turkey recognises.

During his brief visit on Tuesday, Erdoğan met members of the Turkish Cypriot government, dined with Akıncı, and took part in a press conference, before returning to Ankara.

However, elsewhere in the north of the island, there were protests against Turkey’s transformation to the executive presidential system and Erdoğan’s policies which, according to Turkish Cypriots, aim to convert them into conservative, devout Muslims through the building of mosques and religious schools, the Irish times said.

Particularly, a ceremonial opening of the newly built $13 million Hala Sultan mosque during Erdoğan’s visit was at the centre of demonstrations and politicians and officials threatened to boycott the event. In contrast to the modest mosques that are common on Cyprus, the Hala Sultan mosque with its four minarets is a scaled-down version of monumental Ottoman mosques in Turkey. The mosque is the centre piece of a string of Turkish-funded projects in the same area, including an Islamic high school, several universities and housing projects for students, the Daily Mail said on Monday. 

"This mosque symbolises the Islamist mentality, the Sunni Islam mentality and also an imperialist mentality," Şener Elçil, head of the Turkish Cypriot Teachers Union, told AFP at his Nicosia office.

İzzet İzcan, a former member of parliament and founder of the socialist United Cyprus Party said Erdoğan’s intention was to transform Turkish Cypriot identity, which according to him has a lot in common with Greek Cypriots, and Armenians and Maronites. "What Erdoğan is trying to do is to annex the north, to build another identity ... They are trying to make us good Muslims for their way of life, and pure Turks as they wish to see us,” İzcan said. 

Erdoğan’s visit also coincided with the UN efforts to relaunch reunification talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders. According to the Irish Times, Erdoğan made it clear he was the ultimate decider for the Turkish Cypriots and would not permit open-ended talks and allow Turkish Cypriots to be harmed by a peace deal or reduced to a minority in a Greek Cypriot majority state.

Cyprus is split between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus following Turkey’s invasion of 1974. Turkey does not diplomatically recognise the Republic of Cyprus in the southern part of the island and is the only country to recognise the Turkish Cypriot republic.