The foreign minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has called for turning the UN peacekeeping mission on the island into a civilian mission.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Kudret Ozersay, who held meetings with UN officials and diplomats in the U.S., said the military mission was no longer necessary, adding the “changing circumstances” required a revision of the current peacekeeping forces on the eastern Mediterranean island.
Ozersay travelled to New York on Jan. 7 to express the TRNC’s views to the UN and members of the Security Council, where the issue is expected to be discussed by the end of January.
Underlining that the presence of the roughly 800 UN forces on the island was costly, the minister stressed its role as a deterrent against armed confrontation could be achieved by a civilian mission at half the current cost.
“We believe there is no need for a [military] operation that costs nearly $22-23 million in one year,” he said, adding that $54 million is expected to be spent for the UN presence on the island in 2019.
The minister said there is a general opinion in the UN that the functions, powers and number of UN peacekeeping troops on the island need to be revised, even if their mandate is extended in February.
- Drilling in Eastern Mediterranean
Touching upon the current dispute on hydrocarbon extraction in the eastern Mediterranean, Ozersay noted that the issue could become an opportunity for dialogue between the two sides.
He underlined that in the absence of bilateral agreement on drilling rights, companies could lose resources and time, and tensions could escalate in the region.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying Turkish Cypriots also have rights to the resources in the area.
- Bilateral cooperation over federation
Suggesting that a partnership based on cooperation may be more feasible between the north and the south of the island, Ozersay said the Greek Cypriots’ reluctance to share power and wealth made a federal model “impossible.”
"If you do not want to share governance and wealth you cannot make a federal partnership,” he said, adding that cooperation in energy and fighting terrorism and organized crime could lead to interdependency between the two sides and “ultimately lead to a comprehensive solution to the dispute."
By Kasim Ileri in Washington