In my previous article “Azerbaijan’s insidious siege of Artsakh” I referred to the justifications made by Adil Baguirov, co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Azeris Network, for the shooting down of civilian aircraft in Artsakh. This was largely centred around the fact that he considered that they were still in a state of war, and that Artsakh was sovereign Azeri territory. Although this was expressed as his view it is expected that this represents the basic premise under which the Azeri Government would argue its case. Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean, located close to Turkey and Greece, presents an interesting contradiction to the rationale applied by Azerbaijan to Artsakh.
In the 16th Century, Cyprus was predominantly populated by Greek Cypriots, this changed over the next 400 years as the proportion of Turkish Cypriots increased. The adjacent map shows the ethnographic distribution between Turkish Cypriot (Red) and Greek Cypriot (Blue) as was established in the 1960 Census.
In 1974, in response to a Greek backed military coup, Turkey invaded the northern part of Cyprus. As the cease fire was called, Cyprus was partitioned by the UN monitored Green Line. There then followed a period of ethnic cleansing as 25% of the population of the North had to move south, and 60,000 Turkish people moved to the North from the South. In 1983 the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus was declared, unilaterally; this state has only been recognised by Turkey in the international community.
The ethnographic split now is as per the adjacent map with the Red representing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). TRNC is a small country of approximately 150,000 largely supported by Turkey.
Whilst in the current position TRNC and Artsakh have some similarities in terms of size and status, the main contrast is the historical ethnic split and status at the time of the conflict. Whilst Artsakh, in 1988, was predominantly Armenian and had had an autonomous position for many years , the concept of the TRNC had never previously existed and there was no natural grouping of the Turkish Cypriots within Cyprus. Thus, the creation of the TRNC, within the sovereign borders of Cyprus, has no legitimacy on historical grounds, or for reasons of the self-determination of the existing residents who, at the time, were mostly Greek Cypriots. This was, unashamedly, a “land grab” by Turkey masquerading as a defence of the people of Turkic background.
The international community sees that the TRNC is an occupation of the north of Cyprus, and maintains the legal position of non-recognition. Paradoxically meetings have taken place between the previous President of TRNC and senior politicians from the US and the UK which gives the TRNC some semblance of legitimacy; this is fairly transparent, indirect diplomacy with Turkey, as TRNC has no other value to the established nations.
The TRNC has 2 airports one in Nicosia and the other at Famagusta. Whilst the one at Nicosia is recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and has its own code – the other one doesn’t. One of the arguments for not allowing flights into Stepanakert airport, by the Azeris, was that it did not have an ICAO code. Ironically, the only 2 countries that recognise these 2 airports in TRNC, as legal points of entry, are Turkey and Azerbaijan. Fortunately for the citizens of TRNC and the many tourists that visit, the Republic of Cyprus in the South, have not had a policy of shooting down planes that fly into those airports despite them flying through their airspace onto their sovereign territory.
It should come as no great surprise that the two Turkic nations are operating with inconsistent policies and hypocrisy on such serious matters as threatening the lives of ordinary citizens!
Categories: Self-Determination Cases