“It is neither binding in terms of international law nor is it of any value to us,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said at a press conference hours before the Strasbourg court announced its verdict in the 20-year case.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) fined Turkey 90 million euros due to the violations that arose out of Turkey's military intervention in the island in 1974 in response to a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. The court ruled for Turkey to pay Greek Cyprus 30 million euros in respect of the non-pecuniary damage suffered by the relatives of missing persons and 60 million euros in respect of the non-pecuniary damages suffered by “the enclaved Greek-Cypriot residents” of the Karpas peninsula, according to a statement from the Council of Europe to which the court is attached.
Under the ruling, Turkey is supposed to pay the amount to the Greek Cypriot state for it to deliver to individual victims under the supervision of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers.
The ruling comes as part of 20-year-old case lodged by Greek Cyprus. In a Grand Chamber judgment delivered on May 10, 2001 over the application of the Greek Cypriot administration in 1994, the court ruled that Turkey had committed 14 violations of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in regards to the Greek Cypriots who went missing during the 1974 operation, the right to property of displaced persons, the protection of family life and the living conditions of Greek Cypriots living in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC).
But the court then declined to rule on just satisfaction for the Turkish violations, postponing a ruling on that for a later date.
Davutoğlu criticized the court ruling in terms of its timing, noting that it had come at a time when Turkish and Greek Cypriot officials are holding talks on the reunification of the island. The two sides began substantial talks on the most complicated issues of the Cyprus problem, including that of property, last week. But both sides have been unable to report any significant progress in the talks to date, despite newfound motivation to resolve the division of the island in view of new energy reserves found in the eastern Mediterranean.
Davutoğlu said the ruling might negatively affect the psychological atmosphere of the peace negotiations.
Headache for Ankara?
The ruling also raises the question of diplomatic recognition, as Turkey does not recognize the Greek Cypriot state and is unlikely to pay compensation to an entity it has no diplomatic ties with.
The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers is in charge of overseeing the implementation of the rulings of the ECtHR and can decide on sanctions against the states which refuse to comply with court rulings, meaning it could bring a new headache for Ankara.
The Cyprus issue is a major irritant in Turkish-EU ties as well. Turkey's bid to join the EU has stalled due to, among other reasons, Turkey's refusal to recognize the Greek Cypriot government.
In its judgment in 2001 the court had said the matters complained of by Greek Cyprus in its application entailed Turkey's responsibility under the ECHR.
Turkey, on the other hand, had argued that the Greek Cypriot complaints needed to be referred to the KKTC, recognized only by Ankara. Turkey then said the court's 2001 ruling is “devoid of legal basis,” “unjust” and “impossible to be implemented” by Turkey.
The judgment on Monday is reportedly in one of the largest judgments in the history of the ECtHR.
The judgment comes at a time when Turkish and Greek Cyprus have been trying to strike an accord for decades, with UN support. Talks resumed in February after the leaders of the divided island took a different approach and agreed on a document outlining the key provisions of an envisioned federation. Substantial talks between Greek and Turkish Cyprus kicked of last week with the aim of reaching a comprehensive solution, following intense diplomatic efforts by the US and Turkey.
Cyprus has been divided between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey sent troops to the island to protect the island's Turkish population following a Greek-backed coup to unite Cyprus with Greece. Turkey has consistently emerged as a benefactor and protector of the KKTC since its establishment in 1974.