In the sunlit garden of his Presidential Palace in Lefkoşa, Ersin Tatar chatted to me about his hopes for the future of his country. He said that increasing numbers of foreigners were coming to live and invest in North Cyprus because it is safe, welcoming – and good value for money.
Inside the white walls, we walked on deep, springy grass surrounded by palm and eucalyptus trees. It sounds rather grand, but as with the man himself, the “Palace”,” is a modest affair, a relic from British Colonial days when the house and garden was the seat of the Postmaster General.
President Tatar was there with a small group of guests to launch his new authorised biography; “A Cry for Justice.” It documents a life deeply steeped in the politics of this divided island. His grandfather was under secretary to the Turkish Cypriot vice-president of the original Cyprus Republic. His father, Rustem, was the country’s Auditor General.
He vividly recalls how, as a young boy in 1963, his family was gripped by fear when his father revealed he could not go to work because he’d been tipped off about an assassination plot. It was the start of Greek Cypriot attempts to overthrow the fledgling Republic and unite the island with Greece. The “Cyprus Problem” has been going on for a very long time – long before Turkey was forced to intervene in 1974 to save the Turkish Cypriot people from a genocidal assault.
Although President Tatar admits he is a product of a bloody and fearful past, he is determined to look to the future. He believes his “Two States” solution is the only way forward: recognition for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and a new pact to allow the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to live side by side, working together for the overall good of their island.
“The Turkish Cypriots are still being unfairly treated by the international community,” he said. “We need a change in attitude towards the problem. There are two peoples on Cyprus. We should co-exist, because we have sovereign equality. We are asking our friends, especially the UK which is a guarantor power for Cyprus, to support us.
“The Turkish Cypriots have run their own affairs for nearly 60 years. We can not turn back the clock. Two states is the only way forward for peace and sustainability.”