Frustrated by a stalled process to reunite Cyprus, the TRNC, which has run the north for almost four decades, says it is considering asking fellow Islamic states for formal recognition.
It is a move that would infuriate the Greek Cypriot administration, a European Union member that describes the north as being under illegal military occupation since a 1974 Turkish military intervention. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided ever since, with only Turkey so far recognizing the north as a sovereign state.
The Turkish Cypriot side say their first choice would be to negotiate reunification with the Greek Cypriot south, but that after decades of inaction it could not take forever.
Following the discovery of large amounts of hydrocarbons off the south side of the island, tensions have mounted. The TRNC has accused the south of making deals with foreign companies and selling drilling rights without any reference to the north. It also says that it wants a share of the revenues, which proposal is rejected by the Greek Cypriots.
If negotiations on re-unification failed, then the TRNC would be obliged to respond, said chief presidential spokesman, Osman Ertug in an interview with Reuters last week.
That could mean going beyond the unilateral declaration of independence with which Turkish Cyprus announced it was seceding in 1983. “How do you go further? By getting recognition,” he said.
Asked where such recognition might come from, Ertug – a veteran Turkish Cypriot negotiator who served as its representative to both Washington and the United Nations – would not name individual countries but said:
“From our Islamic brothers, we haven’t aggressively sought recognition. But if things are not moving forward it is something we may have to do.”
The election of a new Greek Cypriot administration last month offered a new opportunity for progress, according to Ertug.
“I would say the next few months are crucial. It is not just the gas. We have a new Greek Cypriot leader who says he is keen on talking. There seems to be willingness to talk when we call…,” he said.