The High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in the UK has expressed “serious concern and disappointment” with the presence of the elected leader of the Turkish occupied area of Cyprus, Ersin Tatar, at an event hosted by the Turkish Society. Concerns lie largely with language and symbols used to promote the event.
On Monday, the Oxford University Turkish society hosted an event with Ersin Tatar, branded as “a talk by [the] President of [the] Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” the “TRNC”. As part of the event’s social media marketing, the presidential seal and a link to Tatar’s website was included.
The High Commission was particularly concerned with word choice regarding Tatar’s position as it implied that the TRNC is a sovereign state. In fact, it is only recognised by Turkey and not any of the other 192 UN member states, which consider it to be legally part of the Republic of Cyprus.
In a conversation with Cherwell, the High Commission said that they have informed the University and St John’s College of their concerns. They added that they “respect free speech” but urged any symbols and language used to be in line with United Nations Security Council resolutions. These called upon all states “not to recognise any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus” and “not to facilitate or in any way assist the aforesaid secessionist entity”.
Nicholas Kyriakides, the chairman of Oxford University Society in Cyprus, told Cherwell: “This terminology directly contradicts recognised international norms and is offensive to the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus.”
In response, Oxford University Turkish Society stated: “We were asked to host the event by the President himself and the Turkish Embassy, so we used the title that they asked us to use. It was not a political statement by our society but simply how the guest chose to identify himself.
“We recognise that Cyprus has had a challenging path to peace with ongoing international disputes and suffering on both sides. Tatar’s two state solution is one of the proposals for lasting peace and he is a democratic representative of the Turkish Cypriot community, he deserves to be heard out on those grounds.”
St John’s College told Cherwell: “The College looked at the event carefully. We had a number of aims to consider, including both the wellbeing of all our members, and also our legal obligation to uphold freedom of speech within the law.”
“Having reviewed this, we felt that the event should proceed, but noted that hosting any speaker or society does not imply College endorsement of their views. We asked the organisers to make it clear that the invitation to speak comes from them, not from the College or University, and also asked them to ensure that the event was managed in such a way as to avoid distress or disruption to members of the College and wider community. The President did receive a letter from the High Commission and responded to it.”
In a statement to Cherwell, the High Commission said: “Being certain that Oxford University would have never agreed to hold at its premises any event that would have hosted a representative of an entity that the international community through UN Security Council Resolutions, has declared as illegal, null and void, and the sensitivity of the message and effect of giving a platform to Mr Tatar especially when he was listed in the invitation/poster of the event as the so called “President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, we respectfully urged the University authorities to reconsider their decision to allow this event to take place even so this was not an official University event.”
Ersin Tatar and the University have been reached for comment.