Interview with H.E. Ali Santel Ambassador of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in Pakistan

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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H.E. Ali Santel Ambassador of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in Pakistan is an experienced diplomat. He has vast experience in international relations. He has rich experience of trade and commerce too. He has firm believe in commercial diplomacy. He is working hard for the further strengthening of bilateral relations through greater socio-economic integration, public-private collaboration and foreign direct investments. He is confidant and enthusiastic to bring more improvement in already cordial and warm relations between TRNC and Pakistan through exchange of educational experts and professionals on regular basis along with close cooperation in the fields of tourism and agro-economy.

He is man of knowledge and has diversified expertise. He is very integrative. He has firm believe in smart business cooperation. He wishes the end of isolation of his beloved country as soon as possible.

1. Pakistan and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have low trade volume?

The current export value from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to Pakistan is approximately 16 thousand USD while Pakistan exports products varying from rice, seeds and biscuits to the TRNC in the approximate value of 900 thousand USD.

2. What are your suggestions for the further enhancing of bilateral trade between the two countries?

Bilateral trade volume and trade balance between our countries is below the desired level. The TRNC is importing products in higher volume from Pakistan while Pakistan imports a very small volume form TRNC. In order to enhance bilateral trade between two countries, we would like to offer Pakistan to consider importing some of the products from our largest production industries, such as citrus fruit and potatoes.

3. Pakistan and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus enjoy brotherly relations. Do you have any specific vision or suggestions to bring closers the two countries, investors and businessmen?

I believe it would be very fruitful to enhance knowledge and experience between the investors and businessmen of our countries. To do so, I would be happy to assist interested investors in contacting the relevant offices and departments in TRNC and organizing cross-visits between our countries.

4. What are the various potential that you see in Pakistan for TRNC?

Brotherly relations between our countries deriving from our historical background enabled us to establish relations in various fields. For example, there are many Pakistani students studying in our universities, many Pakistani people residing and working in our country. There are also potential in Pakistan for our businessmen to make investments in different sectors. Also, the scope of trade between the two countries can be widened to cover more products. We also see potential for enhanced academic exchange between our two countries.

5. Technological cooperation would bring dividends in the days to come? Do you think that process of exchanging scientists, researchers, technical experts and to organize joint workshops/seminars would expand mutual cooperation in the field of technology?

Technology is a growing filed in TRNC and we are always prepared to invite experts in this filed to engage in professional exchange. Exchanging academic experts in the filed in order to benefit from the expertise in both of our countries would certainly to development of relations between our countries.

6. A lot of Pakistani students are also studying in your universities. What are the prospects of educational cooperation in the days to come?

Our country is emerging as center of higher education in the Eastern Mediterranean. Higher education is an important sector of our economy. Today, there are 12 universities and nearly 76,000 students studying in our country. Currently, there are 1470 Pakistani students studying in our country. Students and academician exchange programs, exchange of guest lecturers and many more similar projects can be the fields of cooperation between the universities of two countries.

7. What are the chances of joint ventures in the different sectors of economy and production between the two states?

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Our country is also prominent holiday destination and has a developing economy. Tourism, among other sectors, is one of the areas where Pakistani investors will find the chance to make investments. For example, an esteemed Pakistani company recently made a significant investment in the financial sector in our country.

8. Would you please share different incentives of your country for the Pakistani investors and businessmen to invest in the service and tourism sectors in your country?

The TRNC Government places high importance to local as well as foreign investments. YAGA is an Investment Development Agency established by the government with the aim of becoming the “one stop-shop” for both local and foreign investors who are interested in investing in Northern Cyprus.

9. There has been noticeable progress in cooperation between your country and the OIC, where the “TRNC” has an observer status. What are your future expectations from it?

The TRNC continues to develop its relations with other countries especially with the Islamic countries and has representations in several of them. Since 1979, TRNC is an observer member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and has been regularly participating to the OIC Summits and Foreign Ministers Meetings. Between 1979 and 2004, the TRNC was represented under title of “Turkish Muslim Community of Cyprus” in the OIC.

In the afterwards of 24 April 2004, referenda, at the 31st OIC Foreign Ministers Meeting held in Istanbul between 14-16 June, 2004, the OIC adopted a resolution calling upon ”the international community to take immediate steps to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots” and decided that the “Turkish Muslim Community of Cyprus” should continue to participate in the work, activities and meetings of all OIC organs under the name envisaged by UN Secretary-General’s settlement plan “Turkish Cypriot State”. After 2004, OIC and TRNC relations took a speedy turn and the TRNC has been participating in activities, works and meetings of all OIC organs as well as hosting several important OIC events.

“Water and Food Security in the OIC Member Countries” held on 22-24 November 2013 and training workshop entitled “Exports Promotion and Investment Strategies within the Context of Globalization” organized jointly by the Islamic Center for Development and Trade (ICDT) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 3-5 March 2014 are some recent events.

Similarly, bilateral relations between TRNC and OIC member states have been developing in many fields of life. Besides, the OIC the TRNC has been participating in economic, technical and cultural activities of Muslim Society” since 1993. In line with the decision taken during the Council of Ministers Meeting of ECO in Tajikistan capital Dushanbe on 12 September 2014, the TRNC has started to attend the ECO meetings under the name of “Turkish Cypriot State” similarly as referred to in the Annan Plan. During the 12th Summit Meeting of the ECO held in Baku on 16 October April 2015 the TRNC hosted “The ECO Workshop on Tourism”.

10. What is the nature of your relations with Turkey?

The relations between the two countries date back to the period of Ottoman Rule on the Island. During this period which continued for three centuries (1571-1878), ten thousands of Ottoman Turks from mainland Anatolia settled the Island. Following the British Rule on the Island (1878-1960), Turkey became one of the guarantor powers of 1960 Republic of Cyprus. During the difficult years between 1963 and 1974, the Republic of Turkey was the main supporter of the Turkish Cypriots in their struggle.

Turkey intervened in the Island in 1974, in accordance with her rights and obligations under 1960 “Treaty of Guarantee” in the wake of a coup d’état carried out by the Greek junta to the Turkish Cypriot people in all stages of the Cyprus problems and constructively contributed to settlement efforts, continued its moral and financial aid to the Turkish Cypriots also after the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Existing strong historical, cultural, religious, linguistics and national ties between the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish peoples naturally reflects on the relations between the TRNC and the Republic of Turkey. It is possible to summarize the relations between the two countries as natural allies who protect the rights and interest of each other in every field.

Besides the obvious ethnic, cultural and historical ties that we share with Turkey, Turkey is also the only country which officially recognizes the TRNC and engages in bilateral and diplomatic relations with our authorities. Turkey is also a Guarantor State as per 1960 “Treaty of Guarantee” along with Greece and the United Kingdom.

11. What is the demand of Turkish Cypriots i.e. a confederation or a federation? Would you please explain?

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The Turkish Cypriots are fully dedicated to the UN-facilitated negotiation process to find a solution to the Cyprus problem in the form in a “bi-communal and bi-zonal federation”. This terminology is also endorsed in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions on Cyprus and endorsed in the Joint Declaration of the two Leaders dates 11 February 2014.

12. Do you satisfy with the role and efforts of the UN, and the EU for settling the Cyprus conflict?

The negotiations are currently being conducted under the auspices of the Good Offices Mission of the United Nations Secretary-General. However, the primary objective of the negotiation process is for the two Leaders to prepare a comprehensive settlement plan which will be then put to separate and simultaneous referenda on both sides of the Island. The EU is not at the negotiation table in any way, but does provide technical support on relevant matters upon the request of the Leaders.

13. Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is under inhuman restrictions and embargoes by the instigation of South Cyprus. What are your preconditions for the negotiations?

The Turkish Cypriot side has never placed preconditions on the negotiation process. We have negotiated in good faith towards finding a settlement in the shortest possible time. While it is true that the Turkish Cypriot side has been subjected to inhuman embargoes, we have never considered the lifting of the embargoes as a precondition for the negotiations. Various proposals have been made in the past to open-up ports in Northern Cyprus in exchange for the opening of ports in Turkey to Southern Cyprus, but they were all rejected by the Greek Cypriot side.

Unfortunately, the international community and particularly the EU has not remained faithful to its promise to lift the isolation. It should be recalled that the EU Council of Foreign Ministers produced a decision dated 26 April 2004 calling for an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot and accordingly, the EU Commission drafted and submitted two regulations, namely the Financial Aid Regulation and Direct Trade Regulation. Later, the Green Line Regulation was also produced. Unfortunately, none of these three regulations aimed at easing the isolation have been fully implemented.

14. Salient features of TRNC Political system /governance?

The Constitution

The Constitution of the TRNC was prepared by the Constituent Assembly set up after the declaration of independence on 15 November 1983. The Constitution establishes a system of separation of power and checks and balances between the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judiciary branches.

The Executive

Executive duties and powers are carried out and exercised by the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister in accordance with the Constitution and laws. The number of ministers cannot exceed ten. A newly formed government has to obtain a vote of confidence at the Parliament.

President

Mustafa Akinci is elected on 26 April 2015 as the fourth President of the TRNC
Mustafa Akinci is elected on 26 April 2015 as the fourth President of the TRNC

The President of the Republic is the Head of the State. The President is elected for a period of five years. Mustafa Akinci is elected on 26 April 2015 as the fourth President of the TRNC, following, Dr. Dervis Eroglu (2010-2015), Mehmet Ali Talat (2005-2010) and the founding President Rauf Raif Denktas (1983-2005).

The Legislature

The Constitution states that sovereignty rests with the people. The Assembly of the Republic is the place where people through their elected representatives exercise this sovereignty.

Assembly

The legislative powers of the State are exercised by the Legislative Assembly composed of fifty deputies elected for a period of five years.

15. What are the prospects of TRNC Macro-economy in the 2014-2015?

A liberal economic system is being implemented in our country. Under this system, the promotion of the private sector, the rational use of natural resources, the encouragement of foreign investment receive priority as a matter of government policy. Over the years, we have succeeded to establish trade relations with more than 70 countries all over the world. Our main aim is to increase trade with the rest of the world.

16. What are the prospects of TRNC macro-economy in the 204-15?

A liberal economic system is being implemented in our country. Under this system, the promotion of the private sector, the rational use of natural resources, the encouragement of foreign investment receive priority as matter of government policy. Over the years, we have succeeded to establish trade relations with more than 70 countries all over the world. Our main aim is to increase trade with the rest of the world.

17. What are the main contributions in your national economy?

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The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has a small Island economy with a limited domestic market and limited natural resources. Despite its small size, Northern Cyprus has a fair growth rate. The economy is dominated by the services sector with 80 percent in 2015 (estimated). Services include Trade, Tourism, Higher Education, Transportation, Communication, Financial Institutions, Health, Business Service, Public Services and others.

Gross National Product (GNP) is estimated as 4 Billion US Dollars and GNP per capita as around 13,500 US Dollars in 2015. The contribution of industry to GDP is 8.9 percent and agriculture 5.5 percent in 2015 (estimated).

Tourism and higher education continue to be priority sectors and two main engines of economic development in the TRNC. According to 2015 estimates, tourism contributed 10.6 percent to GDP with an occupancy rate of 47.6 percent in 2014 and higher education contributed around 6 percent to GDP in 2015. Apart from tourists from Turkey and the UK which have the biggest share, there is significant increase in the number of tourists from the European and Eastern Countries in the last few years.

18. What are the salient features of your foreign policy?

The negotiation process that resumed on 15 May 2015 aims to reach a comprehensive settlement on the Cyprus issue. The Turkish Cypriot side remains committed to continue its constructive approach for a fair and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue on the basis of the Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014 by the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders and the established UN parameters, and we believe that through an intensified, result-oriented negotiation process, an agreement could be reached within months, not years.

19. What is special about Water Diplomacy towards South Cyprus?

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In 2011, Turkey and the TRNC launched an important project named “The Project of the Century”, which envisages the transfer of 75 million cubic meters of water from Turkey via a pipeline constructed across the Mediterranean Sea. Through this project which is completed recently, agricultural and industrial production will increase resources such as water can be used as an instrument which can bring the two sides on the Island together and can be utilized as a field of cooperation.

20. What is special about your culture and traditions?

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Turkish Cypriot’s people have an active social and cultural life. There are lots of arts and culture activities including theatres, concerts, exhibitions, festivals, folk dance and performances, as well as fairs and contests. The TRNC has many internationally renowned Turkish Cypriot artists and musicians participating in international events.

For theatre lovers there are lots of plays n the stage by the State Theatre and theatres functioning under the municipalities. Concerts and recitals of internationally renowned musicians and musical festivities are held regularly.

Parallel to the development of arts and culture life in the country, Turkish Cypriot artists often open exhibitions displaying their art works in the form of painting, sculpture, ceramic, photography and etc.

In the TRNC, municipalities, NGOs, universities and many other associations regularly organize local and international Bellapais Music Festival, Gazimagusa International Culture and Arts Festival, International Cyprus Theatre Festival, Guzelyurt Orange Festival, Iskele International Festival.

Cuisine: Similar to Mediterranean cuisine with many local and oriental specialties. Some of the main local specialties are meze (appetizer served on a collection of sauces), Hellim (traditional cheese), dolma (stuffed vine leaves), seftali Kebab, bulgur koft, pirohu, mulihiya, kolokas and etc. Traditional Turkish coffee is also highly recommended.

21. With a tradition of celebration and hospitality, Cyprus is every traveler’s dream destination. Moreover, Cyprus has an old world Mediterranean charm to it. What are the most beautiful places for the international tourists in your country?

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In addition to wide range accommodation from 5 star luxury hotels and holiday villages, North Cyprus offers many special interest tourism including bird watching golfing, turtle watching, diving, historical site visits, nature visits, tracking and cycling eco/agro-tourism and traditional village festivals. Some of the most beautiful cities which attract the most tourists are Kyronia, Famagusta and lskele.

22. What is your message to people of Pakistan?

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We look forward to the further enhancement of the brotherly relations between our countries. Strengthening of the solidarity and cooperation between Pakistan and the TRNC, as well as the support of Pakistan in our efforts to overcome the isolation imposed on the Turkish Cypriots is extremely valuable for us.

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