Mesut Hakkı Caşın, adviser to the Turkish president on security and foreign policy, indirectly alluded to the possibility of damage to UN troops in Cyprus if they encroach on what he calls the sovereignty of separatist Turkish Cyprus. He also claimed that the entire Mediterranean belonged to the Turks.
August 19, on the pro-government show CNN Turk channel, Caşın, a former soldier and member of the Presidential Council for Security and Foreign Policy, said: “The Turkish nation stands firmly with the Turkish Cypriots. The Mediterranean Sea belongs to us and no one should even think of raising a sword against us there. They (Greece, Cyprus and their allies) had better not forget it.”
He further claimed that the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) had abandoned its neutral position and was now acting in accordance with the directives of the Greek Cypriots.
He accused UN troops of committing a grave offense by undermining the sovereignty of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey. He further claimed that Turkish troops and police were acting in self-defense when they took action against UN troops, removed concrete barriers and pushed UN vehicles to the edge of the road. Caşın made it clear that Turkey would not forget the hostilities directed against it.
In an implicit warning about possible deadly reprisals against UN troops, Caşın referred to the 1996 incident in the buffer zone that separates the Turkish and Greek sections of Cyprus. During a border clash, a Greek Cypriot named Tassos Isaac was fatally beaten. The clash occurred when a group of Greek Cypriot protesters clashed with Turks and Turkish Cypriots. A day later, after Isaac’s funeral, another Greek Cypriot named Solomos Solomou was fatally shot during a protest. Solomou was attempting to climb a flagpole with the intention of removing a Turkish flag.
“You will remember, a man tried to bring down the (Turkish) flag, and you remember what happened to him,” Caşın said.
Comments by Mesut Hakkı Caşın on the pro-government channel CNN Turk:
Meanwhile, Erhan Arıklı, wanted by Cyprus for his alleged involvement in the murder of Isaac and Solomou and facing an Interpol arrest warrant, currently holds a ministerial position in the KKTC coalition government. He oversees the economy and energy portfolios. Arıklı was apprehended under an Interpol Red Notice on September 18, 2012, but was later released. He is the leader of the right-wing Rebirth Party (YDP) in the Turkish Cypriot region of the island.
Caşın’s comments were made in the context of the ongoing construction works on the Pile (Pyle)-Yiğitler road initiated by the Turkish Cypriot side on August 17 in the UN buffer zone near Pile. This development led to a clash between UN forces and Turkish Cypriots a day later, resulting in the injury of four peacekeepers. There was then a wave of condemnation from the UN Security Council, the European Union and the United States.
“Security Council members emphasized that this action contravenes Security Council resolutions and constitutes a violation of the status quo in the United Nations buffer zone,” the Security Council members said. statement » published by the President of the UN Security Council, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on August 21. She also stressed that attacks on peacekeepers could potentially constitute crimes under international law.
The Security Council called for the removal of all unauthorized construction and the prevention of any unauthorized military or civilian activity within and along the ceasefire lines. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots seem to have responded to this call since the work in progress is now interrupted.
Letter from Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu to the UN on the planned construction of the road:
On August 17, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Cypriot government, Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu, officially informed the UN in a letter of the start of construction work. This came after a series of talks with the UN resulted in no progress. The letter, circulated by Turkey’s Permanent Representation to the UN, stated that the construction was motivated by a humanitarian need to provide easy and unrestricted access to Turkish Cypriot residents of Pile to the KKTC territory.
But observers believe that it is the Erdogan government which is at the origin of this brutal action, without waiting for the outcome of negotiations with the UN and the Greek Cypriot government. Under increasing pressure from domestic financial and economic challenges, the Erdogan government appears to be in desperate need of distraction, and Cyprus appears to be a handy tool in its toolbox for this purpose. Furthermore, some speculate that by intentionally creating a crisis in Cyprus, Erdogan aims to strengthen his position in planned negotiations with the United States and the EU, hoping to normalize Turkey’s troubled relations with the West and attract investment and trade.
A map showing the presence of deployments of UN peacekeeping forces in Cyprus along the buffer zone:
In his interview, Caşın also mocked UN troops, saying they had suffered “brain trauma” due to rising temperatures in Cyprus. “(Extremely hot weather in Cyprus) causes brain trauma in UN soldiers. The Turkish army has made UN commanders aware of the traumatic experience,” he noted.
He said force would be used if U.N. troops ignored Turkey’s demands and threatened to administer the infamous “Ottoman slap,” a reference to the use of force.
The president’s aide also called the increased U.S. military presence in neighboring Greece a perceived threat to Turkey. He alleged that recent joint military exercises conducted by the US and Greek militaries, including wartime river crossing maneuvers, signaled an intention to potentially occupy Thrace (Trakya in Turkey) in the future.. He identified the Biden administration as the orchestrator, calling it the “master mind” behind an alleged plan to rally the Turkish and Greek populations against the Erdogan government.
“The balance of military forces is disrupted in the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. The United States lifts the embargo on the Greek Cypriot side and gives new weapons to Greece… The United States gives Greece F-16s and F-35s. They (the Greeks) receive new ships, tanks, thousands of armored fighting vehicles and ports. They are transforming Dedeagac (Alexandroupolis), Crete and finally the islands of Limni (Lemnos) and Iskiri (Skiros) into American bases contrary to the Treaty of Lausanne,” he said.
Report of the UN Secretary-General on Cyprus submitted to the Security Council in January 2023:
“Finally, a military exercise is underway on the Karasu River, focusing on river crossing operations. Therefore, if Turkey and Greece came into conflict, American soldiers would prepare to cross the Evros and jointly invade the Turkish region of Thrace with the Greeks,” he added.
The Erdogan aide also criticized retired US Navy Admiral James Stavridis, accusing him of plotting against Turkey through military exercises he helped plan in the Aegean and of the Mediterranean. He compared Stavridis’ head to an istavrit fish (horse mackerel) and said: “There is this man named Stavridis, a retired admiral whose head looks like an istavrit fish. It has been organizing exercises on land, sea and air in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean for ten years.
Despite all these actions allegedly directed against his country, Caşın expressed his belief that Turkey has the necessary strength to overcome these challenges. He asserted that a project known as the “Century of Turkey”, which was an election promise made by President Erdogan to elevate Turkey to the status of a world leader, would nevertheless be realized.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, with a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north. This division occurred when Turkey deployed troops to the island following an attempted coup to unify Cyprus with Greece. Turkey continues to maintain more than 30,000 troops in the northern part of the island.
As of December 2022, the UN maintained a presence of 797 military personnel and 68 police officers in Cyprus, as reported to the Security Council in January. The majority of this staff is from Argentina. The annual cost of maintaining this peacekeeping force is $54 million.
On average, the UN mission handles around 10 incidents in and around the buffer zone every 24 hours, as reported by the UN secretary general. The situation is aggravated by the lack of common ground between the parties regarding peace talks and the absence of prospects for a mutually acceptable solution, as noted by the UN.
The UN report places responsibility on both sides for unauthorized construction inside the buffer zone, which disrupts the status quo by effectively occupying areas initially designated as a security buffer between opposing forces. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “Encroachment by both parties in the buffer zone, primarily in the form of unauthorized construction but also occasional military incursions, continues to be a major source of tensions, especially when distorted and amplified by disinformation. »