Jerusalem Online 

 By Rachel Avraham

Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Ozdil Nami in an interview with Jerusalem Online stressed that his country seeks cooperation with Israel and that people to people relations between Israel and Northern Cyprus are good. He called on Israel not to take a side in the Cyprus conflict, so that relations between the two peoples can “develop.”

Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Ozdil Nami in an interview with Jerusalem Online stressed that despite the fact that the negotiations with the Greek Cypriots have collapsed, the Turkish Cypriot side remains committed to a negotiated settlement to the Cyprus conflict: “We hope the current stalemate is a temporary situation. We fully support the initiatives undertaken by the new UN advisor to the UN Secretary General. Our determination to bring about a comprehensive settlement based on a bi-zonal bi-communal federation is still there. We strongly urge the Greek Cypriot leader to come back to the negation table as soon as possible without delay.”

The Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister is highly critical of any unilateral steps taken on the oil and gas issue: “The natural resources of Cyprus belong to all Cypriots—Turkish and Greek Cypriots alike. In the negotiations so far, this has been registered as an agreement. Unilateral steps are not helping the efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the Cyprus issue.”

He noted that a united Cyprus “will be able to make use of infrastructure that already exists in Turkey to export the hydro-carbons to the markets in the region, which is Europe. The most economic rapid risk free way is to transfer these resources with a pipeline to Turkey and use that infrastructure to send them to Europe. The Turkish alternative costs around 2 billion dollars, whereas all of the other alternatives will cost around 10 billion dollars plus. So there is not only a political obligation to undertake these ventures together with Turkish Cypriots but there is also an economic logic behind it as well.”

The Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister is presently attending an energy conference in Israel, where he is a keynote speaker. While in Israel, the main message that he hopes to deliver to Israelis is that Turkish Cypriots seek to cooperate with them and that Israel should not take sides between Turkish and Greek Cypriots when it comes to the resolution of the Cyprus issue: “The Turkish Cypriots have long established good relations at the people to people level with Israelis and we want that to develop and continue. We are aware of the difficult situation Israel is undergoing with Turkey. However, that’s a matter for the current political leadership of both countries to resolve. Turkish Cypriots expect fairness in our own right and not to be victims of what we hope is only temporary setbacks in Turkish-Israeli relations.”

“Therefore, recent initiatives by the Israeli government to form an alliance with the Greek Cypriot administration, which does not represent Turkish Cypriots, should be pursued with caution; furthering relations with that part of the island should not be to the detriment of Turkish Cypriots,” he stressed. “Turkish Cypriots have their own state in Northern Cyprus. In 1960, we established a joint republic with the Greek Cypriots. We were pushed out of our own government in 1963 by the Greek Cypriot armed forces. We currently seek reunification talks with the Greek Cypriot side. We have our own identity, our own administration and our own institutions. We invite all Israelis to visit North Cyprus more frequently and to see the situation for itself and the opportunities it offers for collaboration. We have a parliament, a prime minister, a president, a political system which stands on its own right and it is distinct from Turkey. It is true that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus depends on assistance from Turkey and we are grateful for the financial and political support.” Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Nami emphasized that he wants for Northern Cyprus to have good relations with all its neighbors.

Foreign Minister Nami believes that if Israel were to adopt a more balanced approach towards Turkish Cypriots, it has the potential of contributing to efforts towards “building better relations with Turkey. However, let me stress again that Turkish Cypriots expect to be treated on their own merit. Israel as an important country in the region should be able to understand the predicament of the Turkish Cypriots. Israel knows very well that Turkish Cypriots voted for reunification in 2004. Since then, we have done our outmost for peace and reconciliation on the island. We don’t deserve to be isolated. Israel as one of the key actors in the region can play a leading role in the process of ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.”