SITTING AT the edge of international attention are states in all but name. Although existing as highly functioning nations, they rest also on the edge of extinction. Taiwan. Kurdistan. Somaliland. Kosovo. With little meaningful international diplomatic recognition, each still often exercises effective self-rule, frequently possessing a vibrant economy and a unified body politic. But they face one unremitting threat: the ownership papers for many of these twilight states are held by others. China won't let go of Taiwan. Iraqis are slow to relinquish control of Kurdistan. Serbia and Russia won't accept an independent Kosovo. Each of these de facto states could claim independence and spur international crises. The threat of wars over these disputed territories is ever present. And once started, conflicts could draw in other powers. The only solution for these twilight states is to lie low and find satisfaction in the cohesion they continue to enjoy.
The modern international system is not well equipped to handle such entities-they simply do not fit. Operating in a kind of twilight zone, enjoying varying degrees of economic, cultural and (sometimes) informal diplomatic interaction with other societies, these de facto states have little or no outside recognition of their legal right to exist. And that doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon.
DESPITE INTERNATIONAL prominence, some of these twilight states, such as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), enjoy almost no international recognition. Turkey is the only country to recognize the TRNC. All other governments regard it as part of the Republic of Cyprus and nothing more than Cypriot territory that Turkey invaded in 1974 and has illegally occupied ever since. Economically, the TRNC is very weak and remains heavily dependent on Ankara's largesse. Turkey also makes the decisions on most meaningful policy issues.