ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has no plans to pay 90 million euros ($124 million) to Cyprus as ordered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday.
The money was ordered in compensation for Turkey’s invasion of the island 40 years ago.
The Mediterranean island has been split since 1974 - when Turkey sent in troops after a brief Greek Cypriot coup staged by supporters of unification with Greece. It comprises a southern Greek Cypriot state recognized worldwide and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot entity in the north recognized only by Ankara.
Davutoglu said Turkey, which is seeking to join the European Union of which Cyprus is a member, sees no obligation to pay the compensation to a country that it does not formally recognize.
“In terms of the grounds of this ruling, its method and the fact that it is considering a country that Turkey does not recognize as a counterparty, we see no necessity to make this payment,” Davutoglu told reporters.
“Yesterday’s ECHR ruling consists of some legal contradictions and therefore we don’t see it as at all binding, in terms of payment,” he said.
Cyprus brought the case to the Strasbourg-based ECHR 20 years ago, demanding financial compensation over missing Greek Cypriots, the property of displaced people and violations of other human rights.
The ECHR is responsible for adjudication of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory via its membership of the non-EU Council of Europe.
The court ruled largely in Nicosia’s favor in 2001, but took more than a decade to decide on the sum to be paid, a delay Ankara, whose aspirations to join the European Union have long been frustrated by the issue, says is aimed at undermining a fresh peace drive on the island.
“We think that this ruling has been the biggest blow to this process. If a comprehensive solution is desired, then everyone should be aware of their responsibilities. When looked at the history of this problem, the timing of this case is meaningful,” Davutoglu said.
The Cyprus question has defied a small army of mediators over the years, amid disputes between estranged Greeks and Turks over power-sharing arrangements and the claims of thousands of people from both sides uprooted by the conflict.
A new round of peace talks resumed in February. U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden is expected on the island on May 21-23 to try to spur on the process, Cypriot official sources said.
“We think Biden’s visit to the island will be important and we view the U.S. interest positively. Turkey is ready to discuss this in an open-hearted way,” Davutoglu said.
Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daren Butler/Jeremy Gaunt