The "TRNC"

Cyprus Table of Contents

Turkish Cypriots began developing a rudimentary foreign policy after 1963, focused mainly on public relations efforts to explain the communal perspective on the island's political difficulties. Two factors constrained the development of a Turkish Cypriot foreign policy. First, Turkish Cypriots lacked the personnel and resources to project themselves on the world scene. Second, Turkish Cypriot administrations, in their various forms since 1963, lacked international recognition and were dependent on Turkey's acting as an intermediary to international opinion. The situation changed gradually after 1985, although Turkish Cypriot activism in foreign policy focused on expanding trade and political contact, rather than on the settlement process. The view of the Turkish Cypriot government was that less, not more, international attention would help a Cyprus settlement.

Relations with Turkey

As was the case with Greek Cypriots and their mainland, relations between the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey could be characterized as close and cooperative, although many observers detected strains barely beneath the surface. Turkey usually supported Turkish Cypriot policies in their broadest sense, although tactical differences often occurred. On several key occasions in the UN settlement process, Ankara pressed the Turkish Cypriot government to be more forthcoming. From 1975 until the declaration of the "TRNC" in 1983, for example, it was reported on numerous occasions that Turkey had persuaded Denktas to delay his unilateral declaration of independence.

The main institutional vehicle for Turkish-Turkish Cypriot cooperation was the Coordination Committee (Koordinasyon Komitesi) formed in the 1960s to administer the extensive economic relationship between the two. The participants in these coordination activities, which became more ad hoc as Turkish Cypriot bureaucratic competence grew, were representatives of the prime minister's office in Turkey and a collection of key decision makers from the Turkish Cypriot executive branch. From 1974 to 1983 coordination was close, including Turkish participation in Turkish Cypriot cabinet meetings. After the establishment of the "TRNC," such contact was replaced with more formal state-to-state relations. Turkey demonstrated in various ways its recognition of the separateness of the Turkish Cypriot political entity, although opposition parties and many observers believed that the Turkish Embassy in the north was engaged in activities beyond the normal purview of a foreign mission.

The economic dimension of bilateral relations also showed its strains. After 1974, the Turkish contribution to the Turkish Cypriot budget was estimated at 80 percent, but by 1990 that subsidy was reported to be in the 30 to 40 percent range. The opposition press in Turkey occasionally complained that aid and assistance to northern Cyprus was an economic burden on Turkey, whose economic performance was uneven in the 1980s. For their part, Turkish Cypriots complained of inadequate aid, the failure as of late 1990 to establish a customs union, and the importation of Turkey's economic problems, most notably rampant inflation in the late 1970s and again in the late 1980s. Relations were also strained by social differences between mainland settlers and the higher levels of education and more urban and secular lifestyles of most Turkish Cypriots.

The Quest for Recognition

Most Turkish Cypriot foreign policy efforts were focused on achieving recognition of the "TRNC" and explaining the Turkish Cypriot position on the settlement process. The "TRNC" had one Embassy, in Ankara, two consulates, in Istanbul and Mersin, and five representation missions, in London, Washington, New York, Brussels, and Islamabad. These missions did not have diplomatic status. In 1990 there were reports that additional missions might be opened in Abu Dhabi, Canada, Australia, Italy, and Germany.

The Islamic nations were the key target of Turkish Cypriot recognition efforts. In wooing Islamic support, Turkish Cypriot officials emphasized the religious aspect of the Cyprus conflict and stressed the importance of Muslim solidarity. Meetings of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in which Turkey played an increasingly active role in the 1980s, were an important focus for the "TRNC." The OIC passed several resolutions urging economic support and cultural contact with the Turkish Cypriots, but stopped short of embracing the recognition issue. Many Arab Islamic countries had ambivalent relations with Turkey, because of the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, and also because they wished to maintain good relations with the Republic of Cyprus, which served as a financial center and entrepôt for Middle Eastern business activity. These reservations inhibited the "TRNC" in seeking to achieve its goals in the Islamic world. Among these countries, Pakistan, Jordan, and Bangladesh were considered the strongest supporters of the Turkish Cypriot cause.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress