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AN INTERVIEW WITH H.E. SADETTIN TOPUKCU

His Excellency Sadettin Topukcu, Representative of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in Islamabad is a very energetic, dynamic and prolific personality. He is person of unassuming disposition who pragmatically looks to the peaceful resolution of Cyprus conflict. Born in 1956, he completed his secondary education in Cyprus and later graduated from the Bosphorus University in Istanbul. He served as First Secretary and Deputy Representative in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Islamabad, from 1987 to 1991 and as Consul General of Northern Cyprus in Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He also served the Ministry as Director, Economic Department and Director, Consular and Minority Affairs. He is well-versed in English language and serving as Ambassador of Turkish Northern Cyprus at Islamabad since August 01, 2002. Meanwhile, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is presently making endeavors to join EU alongside Republic of Greek Cyprus as a unified country. In fact, European Union (EU) has been facing tremendous inconvenience in handling the expansion of the EU since 1990s. Cyprus remained divided between Greek and Turkish Republics. EU was unlikely to admit Greek or Turkish Cyprus as member states due to the long standing tension between Greece and Turkey with Greece opposing the entry of Turkey too, in the EU. Therefore, the admission of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus in the EU remained problematic. The crux of matter is that Greece is already part of EU while Turkey has been experiencing difficulty in becoming a member on one or the other count. The battle of wits goes on unabated. Let us see how the worthy Ambassador explains the emerging scenario in Cyprus and what he has to say about it, in his interview to South Asian Pulse. I wish him all the success. Rana Abdul Baqi, Editor.


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Q. There is growing perception in South Asia that the European Union unfairly continued to address the Greek Cypriot administration as the ?legitimate government of whole Cyprus? even though the Greek Cypriots rejected the UN plan in a referendum in April, 2004, which was duly endorsed by Turkish Cypriots. What is your opinion about this perception?

As is known, after long negotiations between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot representatives under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, a text had been reached that not only the two parties on the island but the entire international community agreed upon. This point was a window of opportunity to bring about a settlement to the Cyprus issue and also stability to the region. This opportunity was missed due to Greek Cypriot side?s intransigent stance. In his remarks to the Greek Cypriot people on television before referenda, which was so revealing, the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr. Tasos Papadopoulos, stated ?If the sovereign people reject the Plan by their vote, the Republic of Cyprus will become a full and equal member of the European Union. We would have achieved the strategic goal we have jointly set, i.e. to upgrade and shield politically the Republic of Cyprus?. The fact that the Turkish Cypriot side has always claimed that the main reason of the unsettled Cyprus issue was the unjust treatment of the Greek Cypriot side as ?the government of Cyprus?, has been proven by the remarks of the Greek Cypriot leader. In 1999 at Helsinki Summit, the EU rendered a very unfortunate decision that the settlement of the Cyprus issue was not a pre-condition to the membership of the Greek Cypriot side. Being fully aware of the fact that its membership was guaranteed, the Greek Cypriot side did not feel any compulsion to engage genuinely in negotiations. In short, the main motive lying behind the unresolved Cyprus issue has always been the wrong diagnosis of the international community about Cyprus question. The international community by recognizing the Greek Cypriot administration as the ?government of Cyprus? has entrenched the status of the Greek Cypriot administration, which led it take uncompromising stance.


Q. As per the UN record, the Greek population overwhelmingly rejected the UN plan, earlier negotiated by Greek political groups with their counterparts i.e. Turkish political groups. What was the reason behind this glaring rejection, whereas the Turkish Cypriot endorsed the plan with a thumping majority?

The Turkish Cypriot side has always participated, in a constructive manner, in all the processes of negotiations with the sole purpose of achieving a dignified agreement on the island. However, the Greek Cypriot administration has done the opposite due to reasons known to all concerned. What are these reasons?

The Greek Cypriot side is recognized as the ?sole government of the whole Cyprus?
Whether the Greek Cypriot people voted YES or NO, they would, without any hindrance, become a member of the EU.
The ?Annan Plan? did not entail the total surrender of the Turkish Cypriots. To the Greek Cypriot side, a possible agreement must envisage a system so that Turkish Cypriot people will be assimilated.

The Turkish Cypriot side believing in attaining a peace on the island viewed the ?Annan Plan? as a means to get rid of the decade long isolation imposed on them. In spite of their affirmative vote, the international community, particularly the EU, which was supposedly founded on values and principles, has not yet fulfilled its pledges that they had given to the Turkish Cypriot people because of their compromising attitude.


Q. The earlier history of Cyprus too speaks off Greek Cypriots breaking the long-standing political partnership between the Greek and Turkish ethnic groups in 1963 unilaterally, leading to massacre of Turkish Cypriot population and destruction of their property. Would you like to elaborate the factual position?

As you know, the Greek Cypriot leadership had first launched terrorist activities to the British colonial power and then to the Turkish Cypriot people with the sole aim of materializing the idea of annexation of the island into Greece. With a view to ending the Greek Cypriot atrocity against the defenseless Turkish Cypriot people, the international community brought all concerned to the negotiation table to find a peaceful solution, which culminated in the establishment of the 1960 Republic of Cyprus based on two equal partners. The parties negotiated and signed three international instruments, being Treaty of Establishment, Treaty of Guarantee and Treaty of Alliance. The existence of the partnership Republic lies in the joint participation of the two equal partners. However, Greek Cypriot side under the guidance of Archbishop Makarios, the then President of 1960 Republic of Cyprus, whose supreme duty was to protect and preserve the Republic, had viewed the establishment of the Republic as a stepping - stone for its main objective of annexing the island into Greece. To this end, the Greek Cypriot leadership proposed the amendment of some articles of the 1960 Constitution whereas these articles proposed for amendments were guaranteed by the Constitution itself as un-amendable. When the Turkish Cypriots strongly rejected the proposals, which would relegate the Turkish Cypriot to minority from an equal partner, the Greek Cypriots launched armed attacks against their partners, namely Turkish Cypriots, and ousted them from all organs of the state thereby monopolizing the whole state machinery. Consequently, from 1963 to 1974, the Turkish Cypriot people were compelled to flee from their houses to live in enclaves; many of them were maimed and wounded. About 25 % of the Turkish Cypriot population were rendered refugees; some of them were abducted and never heard of again, while their 103 mosques were totally destroyed by the Greek Cypriot thugs. In view of the aforementioned historical facts and the legal background, the partnership Republic could have only existed with the joint participation of the two parties. However, it is unfortunate, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 186 in March 1964, which enabled and still does the recognition of the Greek Cypriot administration as ?the government of Cyprus?.


Q. Do you think, timely intervention by the United Nations or the Government in Turkey could have possibly saved innocent lives and property in Cyprus?

I deem it necessary to state that the UN force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was deployed to the island by virtue of Resolution 186, as mentioned above. It means that the UN force was in Cyprus between 1963 ? 1974 when the Greek Cypriot continued attacking the Turkish Cypriots. Therefore, It is difficult to say that the UN Force was able to protect the lives and properties of the Turkish Cypriot people. It was due to the timely intervention of Turkey that saved the lives of the Turkish Cypriot people following the military coup staged by the Greek ? Greek Cypriot duo. Turkey dispatched its troops to Cyprus in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Guarantee and by doing so, Turkey also protected the lives of the Greek Cypriots who were being murdered by the Greek Military Junta.


Q. What do you think is the solution to the current impasse? Should not the United Nations as well as European Union recognize the sovereign rights of Turkish Cypriots, since the Greek Cypriot side has rejected the UN plan for a meaningful political partnership between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots?

The recently proposed action plan of Turkey, which has still been at the table, is a very constructive and genuine initiative in order to overcome the impasse into which the Cyprus question has been thrust. The package of proposal does not only meet the expectations of the international community but also would pave the way for the resumption of the negotiations. In this regard, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) believes that international community, particularly EU, should pay heed to this proposal, which is in line with the EU?s expectations from Turkey on the Cyprus issue as part of the accession negotiations and also conforms with the EU?s decision to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot people. The TRNC now asks the EU to examine this constructive action plan with an unbiased point of view in order to contribute to a settlement in Cyprus, which will serve to the interests of the two peoples in Cyprus. The TRNC has made it clear on numerous times that this plan is not a substitute to a settlement but rather a vehicle to a settlement. In any future agreement, the acknowledgement of the sovereign rights is matter of sine quo non. Finding a mutually acceptable agreement in Cyprus continues to seem the best option. However, the Turkish Cypriot people must not be held hostage to the uncompromising stance of the Greek Cypriot side. Given the Greek Cypriot?s unchanged stance towards a cooperative one, it is obvious that the Turkish Cypriot people have to consider to put another option into action.


Q. Considering the current state of political affairs in Cyprus, do you really think the TRNC enjoys the requisite economic feasibility to exist as an independent state in the comity of nations?

The island of Cyprus is located at the crossroads of three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe. This geographical location of Cyprus benefits the island economy very much. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has two strategic free port zones and the prices of the services at these zones are very competitive. The zones are suitable for manufacturing and storage. This is an important matter that we can take advantage of. It is very well known that the economy of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is service-oriented. The invisible earnings are the most important earnings making up the balance of payment deficit. The two leading sectors are tourism and higher education. The TRNC hosts around 25,000 foreign students in its six universities, which enable our country to emerge as a center of higher education in the Middle East. The number of the tourists visiting the TRNC is increasing day by day. The number of tourists visiting the TRNC in 2004 stands at 500,000, which is a very important number when compared to the population of our country. The tourism sector will be further strengthened once the direct flights to and from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus starts operating and the other isolations on the TRNC are removed. The main obstacle in the way of further developing the economy of TRNC has been the embargoes that we have been enduring for decades. After the referenda, the UN Secretary General called on the member states of the United Nations to find the means and ways to eliminate the restrictions that have the effect of impeding our economic development. It is true to say that in spite of its small scale, it has potential to generate earnings for the prosperity of its people. It is very remarkable that the per capita income In the TRNC has increased from 4,500 US dollar in 2003 to 9,000 US dollar in 2005.


Q. Currently, I had the opportunity to talk to some South Asian students who happened to study in the TRNC educational institutions. They spoke off high standard of education in your country. Could you guide us, in which disciplines the South Asian students can benefit from TRNC institutions?

An important factor that has to be stated is that the six universities of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are the members of the Association of the International Universities and are recognized by the concerned authorities in the world. The universities have signed numerous protocols with many other universities in various countries ranging from USA to UK, Pakistan, Philippines, Central Asia, Middle East and many other South Asian and South East Asian countries. The medium of instruction in all universities is English and they have highly educated teaching staff from various countries, such as from USA, UK, Turkey, Pakistan etc, and their libraries have huge collection of books. All the faculties, except medicine, are available in our universities and the fees of the faculties offering high standard of education are comparatively low if one compares them with the fees of the universities in Europe and USA.


Q. Do you have trade and commerce facilities with South Asian States? Would you like to share information about the nature of your imports and exports to these countries for the benefit of South Asian traders?

The trade and commerce relations between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and South Asian countries are not very sound. As I mentioned above, the TRNC has two strategic free port zones that may serve the South Asian traders in exporting their products to Europe. In agriculture sector, the TRNC, as a Mediterranean country, supplies very good quality of olive and olive oil. With their developed technologies, the firms located in the TRNC produce high quality olive oils with reasonable prices. The South Asian businessmen has the opportunity to invest in textile, agriculture and many other fields since there is very friendly atmosphere and liberal regulations for foreign investment. The Pakistani businessmen nowadays display great interest to invest in the TRNC, some of whom have invested in greenhouses, textile and restaurant business. The major export commodities of the TRNC include clothing, citrus, citrus concentrates, olive oil and dairy products. The major import commodities of the TRNC are transport equipment, telephone appliances, electrical households, electronic goods, refrigerators, vehicle parts, tea and fuels.


Thank you Ambassador for your very thoughtful interview.

Posted on Mar 14, 06 | 1:57 pm