The Cypriot Caveat: Why Erdogan Shouldn't Call Russia Out on Crimea?
16:53 GMT 22.09.2021 (Updated: 10:52 GMT 24.01.2023)
© REUTERS / Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPOTurkish President Tayyip Erdogan reviews a guard of honour with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar before he daparts from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakway state recognized only by Turkey, in northern Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2021.
© REUTERS / Murat Cetinmuhurdar/PPO
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, has said Ukraine’s territorial integrity should be respected and claimed Crimea had been “annexed” by Russia.
On Wednesday, 22 September, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy thanked Erdogan for describing Crimea's reunification with Russia as "annexation" in his UN General Assembly speech.
A statement on Zelenskyy’s website reads: "The head of the Ukrainian state thanked the leader of Turkey for his firm position in relation to the non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.”
© Sputnik / Alexey DruzhininWorking trip of the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin to the Republic of Crimea
Working trip of the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin to the Republic of Crimea
© Sputnik / Alexey Druzhinin/
Turkey was also one of the first countries to support the Crimean Platform, Kiev’s new diplomatic initiative initiated by Zelenskyy and designed to increase pressure on Russia and reverse the secession of Crimea. Both moves expectedly shrugged off as "unfriendly" by Moscow but also laying the Turkish leader himself open to accusations of hypocrisy by those who are familiar with Turkey's very own history.
The 'Other' Cyprus
In the very same speech to the 76th general assembly of the UN, Erdogan criticised the UN for refusing a platform to Ersin Tatar, the president of the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) as he referred to the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities as “co-owners of the island''.
© AP PhotoTurkish troops arrive onshore during the 1974 invasion of Cyprus
Turkish troops arrive onshore during the 1974 invasion of Cyprus
© AP Photo
Cyprus became independent from the British Empire in 1960 but the Turkish Cypriot minority felt increasingly alienated by the new republic’s government in Nicosia.
On 15 July 1974, encouraged by the junta of nationalist Greek colonels in Athens, the Greek Cypriot rabble rouser Nikos Sampson saw his opportunity and staged a coup in Nicosia.
He sought to push through “enosis” - the unification of Greece and Cyprus - and also talked of getting rid of the island’s Turkish Cypriots.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots are actually closely related and share a lot of food and culture but the former speak Greek and are Orthodox Christians while the latter tend to be Muslim and speak Turkish.
Turkey responded to the threat of enosis with a military invasion, which was so humiliating for Greece that it led to the fall of the junta on 23 July 1974.
No Sanctions on NATO Member
No sanctions have ever been imposed on Turkey, which is a NATO member, despite the fact that Turkish troops still “occupy” about a third of the island of Cyprus while Turkey remains the only state to recognise the Republic.
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 353 in July 1974, ordering Turkey to withdraw its military from the island.
Numerous other resolutions against Turkey over Cyprus have been passed and ignored by Ankara. A UN force now separates the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) - where thousands of Turkish troops are stationed - from the Greek Cypriot-dominated Republic of Cyprus, which is a member of the European Union and is recognised by almost every nation in the world as having jurisdiction over the whole island.