Erdogan will preside over the reunification of Cyprus, whether he wants to or not

Rami Rayess

Published: Updated:

The recent news that Turkey is talking to Armenia to improve relations is indicative of the panic setting in for Recep Erdogan. He knows better than most that his national and regional clout is fast diminishing.

The emnity between the two nations means they currently have no diplomatic relations or open borders between them.

The situation's genesis dates back to the slaughter of thousands of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War, and was not helped when Turkey supported Azerbaijan against Armenia during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Then came the rebuff of Erdogan’s offer to assist Kazakhstan to quell civil unrest during violent public protests. Nur-Sultan instead reached out to Russia for help, and Moscow sent in a peace-keeping force.

Aside of these issues, it had been going rather well for Erdogan and Turkey for a while.

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The Organization of Turkic States, comprising Turkey, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, allows Ankara to extend its sphere of influence.

His core support has been happy with his governance, including his handling of the Kurds, but that was then. It’s becoming very different now.

The President reshuffled the country’s constitution and granted himself enormous prerogatives, making him the uncontested autocratic leader of the country. As such, the buck stops with him.

Reviving the old Ottoman dream is but one dimension of his policies. The empire once described as the sick man of Europe is becoming ill once again.

The Kremlin’s intervention in Kazakhstan was in harmony with a mandate from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, led and dominated by Moscow. The Organization is on an opposing side to the Organization of Turkic States.

Several of the members of both are the same. Nur-Sultan’s decision to request help from Moscow is a blow to Ankara and Erdogan himself.

The Central Asian Republics are in Russia’s backyard, and all have strong relationships with Moscow.
Contrary to what many might think, for Turkey to preserve whatever political influence it has left in the region, Erdogan must go.

People take part in a protest in the northern part of Nicosia, the capital of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), on Novemver 10, 2020 against the interference of Ankara, days before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit. (Stock image)
People take part in a protest in the northern part of Nicosia, the capital of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), on Novemver 10, 2020 against the interference of Ankara, days before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit. (Stock image)

It’s that simple. And it’s only a matter of time before this realization makes it happen.

Many point to the fact that he’s a Machiavellian street fighter who has ruled the country with an iron fist, constantly overcoming significant problems in the past.

With Turkey’s economy in freefall, the value of the Lira plummeting, and inflation soaring, it’s clear that Erdogan isn’t an outstanding economist. It’s his policies that are in play, after all.

Compare this to the economic recovery policies that helped him build his popularity over the years, and you’re left wondering if he applied a financial strategy formed elsewhere, but claimed as his own.

He waged a so-called “war of economic independence,” saying that he rejected policies that weakened Turkey. He was committed to focusing on investment, production, employment, and exports. It hasn’t worked.
Of all the woes, Erdogan faces the one that will give him sleepless nights in Cyprus.

In parallel to his regional power around his borders diminishing, in the annexed region of northern Cyprus, all is not well with the Turks.

The state, which only Ankara recognizes, is being impacted heavily by the failures of Erdogan’s economic catastrophe. Protestors have taken to the streets, calling for a detachment of Northern Cyprus’s currency away from the Turkish Lira.

The total dependence of the north of the island on Turkey’s economy has led to a situation where the proclaimed republic barely has any potential for survival. It is internationally isolated, and its only thoroughfare to the world is through Ankara.

Turkish Cypriots in a 2004 referendum favored the reunification of the divided island. It has been 38 years since the Turks invaded and proclaimed the northern part as an independent state.

In November 2021, Erdogan visited Northern Cyprus and said: “There are two peoples and two separate states in Cyprus. Talks are needed for a solution based on two separate states.” He has consistently refused a federal solution, but the island’s reunification is inevitable.

For Turkey, at the national level, repression continues and only exacerbates the severe financial crisis. At the regional level, the influence retreat is evident on several fronts. Ankara attempts now to reduce tensions with neighbors around Arabia, including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

From everything that’s impacting Turkey, the Cyprus situation is one that most concerns Erdogan. His 19-year rule isn’t over yet, but his legacy is inevitably going to be as the President who oversaw Cyprus’s reunification.

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