London, Thanasis Gavos

The popular London radio station LBC devoted an hour of its program to the Cypriot issue on Wednesday night, on the occasion of the Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar’s five-day visit to the British capital.

The presenter of the show Ian Dale, a well-known journalist and political commentator in Britain, initially hosted Mr. Tatar in the studio, whom he introduced as the “President of Northern Cyprus”, but hastened to clarify that he leads an entity that is not recognized internationally except by Turkey.

Mr. Tatar presented his well-known positions, as he referred to “two sovereign peoples” on the island of Cyprus and co-owners of the Republic of Cyprus. He blamed the Greek Cypriots for rejecting the Annan plan and said that the Turkish Cypriots have “their own sovereignty and their own state”.

As he continued, his proposal concerns two states that will coexist side by side and cooperate in a number of fields. He characterized the two-state “solution” as crucial for the existence and well-being of the Turkish Cypriots.

When asked if the solution of a single state is “dead”, Mr. Tatar replied that the Turkish Cypriots “have suffered a lot in the past because of the pursuit of union with Greece”.

Ian Dale intervened to comment that this is not the case today and the Turkish Cypriot leader countered that the solution must be “practical, functional and realistic”.

To the British journalist’s remark that many consider the illegal entity a puppet of Turkey and that such a thing cannot be wanted by an independent state, Ersin Tatar replied that he wants cooperation with the “motherland” homeland because it has sacrificed a lot for the Turkish Cypriots. “Through Turkey we can survive with independence and with our dignity. We will never accept being a minority,” he said.

Mr Tatar hit back at the presenter’s repeated use of the word “invasion” for 1974, saying the Turkish Cypriots called on Turkey to intervene to protect them.

Afterwards, Ian Dale had a telephone conversation with the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cyprus in the United Kingdom, Andreas Kakouris, who clarified for the audience of the show who may not know the details that “the island of Cyprus is divided due to the ongoing Turkish occupation after the invasion of 1974”.

As he said, the new President of the Republic of Cyprus wants to return to the negotiating table and noted that the goal is a solution based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality.

When asked why the Greek Cypriots voted against the Annan plan, the Cypriot diplomat replied that the plan did not solve the Cypriot problem, specific issues such as the presence of Turkish troops, etc.

As Mr. Kakouris pointed out, what has changed is the Turkish attitude, which is now outside the framework agreed between the sides and defined by the resolutions of the Security Council.

“The Turkish side does not want to work for the reunification of the island,” said the High Commissioner, adding that the two states will not be accepted and that the international community also has a clear position on this.

He stood on the role of the United Kingdom and also on the increased role of the EU that President Christodoulidis seeks and expressed the hope that after the elections in Turkey, the negotiations can be resumed from where they were interrupted in Crans Montana in 2017.

Mr. Kakouris also said that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are the same Cypriot people and gave the example of the peaceful coexistence of the two communities in London.

Asked if he was optimistic about a solution within the next decade, he said that at one time no one believed the Berlin Wall would come down or that peace would be achieved in Northern Ireland. “The Turkish side needs to sit at the table realizing that the axiom that the strongest is right is not valid,” concluded the Cypriot High Commissioner.

The show ended with telephone interventions by listeners from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in London.

Mr. Tatar has been visiting London since Monday and had meetings with some British MPs, journalists, officials and members of the Turkish Cypriot community.

On Wednesday night he spoke about his positions at an event at King’s College, outside which a protesting crowd of Greek Cypriot students had gathered.

His visit ends on Friday.