The decision of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to open a new part of the “Marach” or “Varosha” area on the island sparked angry reactions from Cyprus, Greece and international parties, which heralds the possibility of a new crisis between them and Ankara, and indicates Turkey’s adoption of a new vision for solving the Cyprus issue. .

Turkey saw that its intervention on the island protected the people of its Turkish Cypriot race from being liquidated by a Cypriot coup, influenced by the coup in Greece and wishing to upset the political balances that existed on the island since the establishment of the state between the Greek and Turkish races.

frozen case

Turkey's intervention in Cyprus in 1974 under the name "Cyprus Peace Process" was an exception to Turkey's foreign policy and a breach of the rule of "peace at home, peace in the world" that had remained a slogan of the self-proclaimed Turkish foreign policy for decades.

Turkey carried out the operation - despite the objections of its Western allies - and in doing so, it endured years of US sanctions because it viewed the crisis from a national perspective, as a threat to its national security, which could break the existing equations with Greece since the end of the First World War.

Turkey saw that its intervention on the island protected the people of its Turkish Cypriot race from being liquidated by a Cypriot coup, influenced by the coup in Greece and wishing to upset the political balances that existed on the island since the establishment of the state between the Greek and Turkish races.

Since then, the issue is still without a radical solution to restore the island's political unity and societal cohesion.

One of the main stations seeking to resolve the Cyprus crisis was the United Nations plan in 2004, which bore the name of its former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The plan called for the unification of the island in a state with a federal system and included a popular referendum for the island’s residents in its northern Turkish and southern Greek/Rumi parts.

Contrary to traditional trends, most Turkish Cypriots (about 65%) voted in favor of the plan and unity, while most Greek Cypriots (over 75%) voted against them.

The European Union's acceptance of Cyprus' membership despite the failure of the referendum/plan contributed to the intractability of a solution to date, by missing one of the most important elements of pressure on the Rumi side.

Therefore, the two parties and the three guarantors (Britain, Greece and Turkey) have not reached a final solution or even come close to it until today, despite a number of initiatives and rounds of dialogue, after nearly half a century of crisis.

new steps

After the Turkish intervention and with the delay in a final solution to the Cyprus crisis, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared in 1983, and Turkey was the only one to recognize it, usually as the "sonous homeland" or the "small homeland" while the rest of the world, led by the European Union, recognizes Cyprus represented by its Greek Cypriot leadership.

The political stalemate has been broken by the Northern Republic, backed by Turkey, recently and with gradual steps, and the title is Marash (in Turkish) or Varosha (in Greek) on the island.

It is a famous tourist area located in the buffer zone between northern and southern Cyprus, and was closed after the Turkish intervention and then turned into a closed military area, and remained so until last year.

In October 2020, during a visit by the Turkish president, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus announced the opening of a part (about 2 km) of the coastal strip of the Mara region and a back avenue close to the coast for the use of civilians.

The Turkish-Cypriot move provoked condemning reactions from several parties, led by the European Union, the United States, Greece and Cyprus, but this did not affect the decision and the course.

The second step came at the end of last July, on the anniversary of the Turkish military operation on the island and also during Erdogan's visit at the head of a high-ranking Turkish delegation to the island. Erdogan himself was the first to announce this second step.

He said that the process of opening Maras continues, and that the Turkish Cypriot authorities will soon announce the opening of an additional part of the area (about 3.5%) to the public, stressing that the process of opening the area will continue in a deliberate and gradual manner.

Background and prospects

In sum, it seems as if both Turkey and Turkish Cyprus are working on gradual symbolic steps on the island, specifically in Marach / Varosha, despite the objections that were repeated this time as well from various parties.

In the background, the official Turkish discourse refers to a conviction that has been established in Ankara that a federal solution is no longer possible on the divided island for decades, and that the solution should be based on two states, one for the Turkish Cypriots and the other for the Greek Cypriots.

This radical change in the position of Turkey, and with it the leadership of Turkish Cypriot, is apparently driven by two main factors, the first is the stagnation of the solution regarding the issue and its stagnation without a clear future horizon, and the second is the gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara says that the federal solution lost its opportunities after the Greek Cypriots rejected it in the 2004 referendum, and did not provide any real indications to change their opinion. Others may be more practical, such as the two-state solution.

As for the second factor, it is the intense Turkish search for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean, which is a contentious matter with Greece, which wants to capture most of the areas - and therefore the region's wealth - according to its vision of demarcating exclusive economic zones by halving between Turkey and the small Greek islands, while Turkey calls for the logic of fairness and not categorization, i.e. taking into account the huge differences between it being a large country on land and the small Greek islands splintered in the sea.

Ankara has sought to meet the Greek demands through the agreement it concluded with the Libyan Government of National Accord at the end of 2019, and is still seeking something similar with Egypt.

In the event that Northern Cyprus becomes an independent state, this will enable it to demarcate the maritime borders directly with it and to a large extent neutralize Greece and Greek Cyprus, giving it a great advantage over them in the region.

Perhaps what gives Turkey additional boldness and impetus is that the new president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Arsen Tatar, is close to it and agrees with it on the political track, unlike former President Mustafa Akinci, who was known for some critical statements about Turkey and the various policies with it.

In the evaluation, it can be said that the last step is largely symbolic and seeks to move the file rather than to overthrow it.

Turkey's response to the international, American and European criticism of the move focused on it being a simple administrative and executive step aimed at benefiting from the area closed for decades, but without changing its legal status or implementing any population replacement or depriving the Greek Cypriots of their property.

Therefore, the narrative of Turkish diplomacy focuses on the fact that Security Council Resolution No. 550 of 1984 was not violated in the last step and that preceded it, a resolution that rejected any demographic change or demographic replacement and called for the region to be transferred to a UN administration.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also stresses the continuation of the work of the Real Estate Committee, which is responsible for accepting requests from Greek Cypriots to recover, exchange or accept compensation for their property and real estate.

In conclusion, the Turkish move seems to move the Cyprus issue with a stronger pressure card than before, throwing the ball into the Greek-European court, implicitly saying that their rejection of the two-state solution - which Ankara calls for - should push them to activate and accelerate the real path of the federal solution.

In other words, the mentioned Turkish-Cypriot step did not and will not change much in the facts related to the Cyprus crisis, but it indicates a Turkish determination not to accept the freezing of the file and to keep the case waiting for additional decades without any tangible progress.

On the other hand, there is a high probability that Turkey's desire to bring about a radical change in the "paradigm" solution to the Cyprus issue is real, and that its call for a two-state solution stems from a conviction that it recently crystallized due to political stalemate and potential wealth.

But this will open a new path that is not accepted by the other parties, in which Ankara has only the cards of the field force and support for the current Turkish Cypriot leadership, while Greek Cyprus is armed with international, European and American support, which will make the idea of ​​​​transitioning towards a different vision of the solution very difficult, unless Cyprus changes as well. her opinion.

Thus, Ankara has succeeded so far in attracting attention again to the Cyprus issue and Greece's intransigence towards its solution, but the outcomes of this new path do not seem clear or likely towards what Ankara wants, which means that it is a new file added to the controversial files between Turkey and the European Union and a new Turkish negotiating paper with him.