Appointment of hardline nationalist politicians to new Turkish Cypriot cabinet creates concern

The appointment of politicians known for their hardline nationalist and controversial views to the new cabinet of the Turkish Cypriot government, has created concern amongst a certain segment of the populace on the breakaway island. One of these appointments is Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu who returned to the position of foreign minister, while the other appointment is that of YDP leader Erhan Arıklı who became the new deputy prime minister.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar (R) on Dec 7 assigns the task of forming a new government to Ersan Saner.

Duvar English 

About two months after the collapse of coalition rule by the National Unity Party (UBP) and the People’s Party (HP), Turkish Cyprus last week finally formed a new government.

Three MPs resigned from the HP, paving the way for a new government to be formed between the UBP, the right-wing Rebirth Party (YDP) and the Democrat Party (DP).

Ersan Saner, the acting leader of the conservative UBP, became the new prime minister and presented his details to President Ersin Tatar in the Turkish Cypriot parliament.

Eight of the ministries have been handed over to UBP members, one to YDP, and the remaining two to DP.

Known for his hardline Turkish nationalist views, Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu returned to the position of foreign minister. YPD leader Erhan Arıklı on the other hand became the new economy and energy minister as well as took on the post of deputy prime minister.

Both Ertuğruloğlu and Arıklı are known to have close ties to Ankara and are referred to as “hawks” in Turkish Cypriot media outlets.

Asked what he thought about this labeling of him, Ertuğruloğlu told daily Kıbrıs Postası: “If being a hawk means someone's loving their country, nation, presenting their determination for the country's interests and taking a stance against those who would like to subdue us, yes then I a hawk.”

The appointment of Ertuğruloğlu and Arıklı has been referred to as “controversial” by some Turkish Cypriot outlets.

Arıklı is already known to Turkish Cypriots for having threatened Afrika newspaper editor Şener Levent in 2002. Although several years later he apologized to Levent and expressed remorse at his extreme position, Turkish Cypriots retained a memory of the incident.

Moreover, in 2013 Arıklı was arrested in Kyrgyzstan, where he was the Turkish Cyprus representative, because of an Interpol warrant issued by the Republic of Cyprus. He was accused by Cyprus, along with ten other men, of having been involved in the deaths of Tassos Isaak and Solomos Solomou in 1996. Arıklı has denied the charges, and he was set free by the government of Kyrgyzstan.

Arıklı is also known for his harsh rhetoric against Turkish Cypriot opposition and opposition media outlets. The extreme-right political views of the YDP creates concern amongst a certain segment of the populace in Turkish Cyprus.

Ertuğruloğlu is similarly known for his nationalist views and close ties to the Turkish government. He served as the foreign minister of Turkish Cyprus between 2016-2018. In 2017, he heated up the Cyprus reunification debate by raising the possibility of a “quasi-annexation” of the island’s northern territory.

“An autonomous republic where Turkey may be responsible for defense and foreign affairs but other affairs are within the rule of the republic, just as in the France-Monaco model or UK-Gibraltar model,” Ertuğruloğlu at the time described how the Turkish Cyprus could look like.