Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar criticised a decision by Greek Cypriot rivals to rescind his passport on Tuesday, saying the move was designed to undermine his community.
Cyprus’s internationally recognised government, run by Greek Cypriots, said on Monday it would cancel or refuse to renew passports held by some Turkish Cypriot officials in a breakaway administration in northern Cyprus.
Tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots, including Tatar, held or hold Republic of Cyprus passports even though they reside in North Cyprus, recognised only by Ankara. Turkish Cypriots have the same right to a Cypriot passport as Greek Cypriots.
“The decision by the Greek Cypriot side to revoke some of the passports of the Turkish Cypriots is another proof that the ‘Republic of Cyprus’ has been transformed into an entirely Greek Cypriot state and that respect is not being shown to the legitimate rights of the Turkish Cypriot side in any way,” Tatar told Reuters in a statement.
Cyprus says it acted against individuals who undermined the integrity and sovereignty of the island, taking particular issue with a decision by Turkish Cypriot authorities to open part of an abandoned ghost-city in July.
Monday’s move is understood to target 14 people, including Tatar, whose passport has now expired, and Ersan Saner, prime minister of the breakaway enclave.
Cyprus was split by a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Friction predates that by at least a decade, when a power-sharing administration of Greek and Turkish Cypriots crumbled amid violence three years after independence from Britain.
Since then, Cyprus has been run by Greek Cypriots and relations are now are at their lowest point in years.
The decision to revoke passports comes as Cyprus is under scrutiny by its EU partners for a discredited citizenship for investment programme. It earned billions selling passports to beneficiaries ranging from Russian oligarchs to well-connected Cambodians – many of whom never previously visited the island – before it was forced to pull it last year.
An independent panel in June said most of those passports were issued unlawfully.
(A version of this article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is reproduced by permission.)