Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is visiting, on Tuesday insisted on a two-state solution in Cyprus, in a speech that showed no willingness to compromise on the 47th anniversary of the invasion that divided the island in the Mediterranean Sea.
“We don’t have another 50 years to waste,” the Turkish president told a crowd of supporters at a parade north of the capital Nicosia. He was referring to decades of failed UN-led efforts to reunite sectors of the Greek and Turkish-controlled Cyprus region, respectively.
“Progress is not achieved in negotiations without accepting the fact that there are two nations and two states with equal status. A new negotiation process can only be carried out between two countries…Sovereignty and status equality of Cypriots of Turkish descent must be confirmed. Erdogan added.
Cheered by supporters waving Turkish flags, Erdogan accused the Greek Cypriot group of “blocking any efforts towards a solution” with a “maximalist approach that is far from reality”.
This month, he rejected a warning from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that Brussels “will never accept” a two-state solution to the problem of Cyprus, a member state of the European Union since 2004.
In contrast to celebrations in the north, sirens sounded in southern Nicosia at 5:30 a.m. local time marking the anniversary of the start of the invasion on 20 July 1974.
At that time, Turkish troops captured the northern third of Cyprus in response to a failed coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.
The island is now divided between the Republic of Cyprus, which is controlled by Cypriots of Greek descent and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is declared a Cypriot of Turkish descent and is recognized only by Ankara.
Erdogan’s comments are similar to calls for international recognition by the leader of the Cypriot group of Turkish descent, Ersin Tatar, who was elected in October on a platform that champions a two-state solution, not a federation.
As he began his visit on Monday, Erdogan vowed to “make no concessions” to Ankara’s efforts to gain international recognition of the TRNC.
Erdogan’s comments prompted international recognition by Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, who was elected in October seeking a two-state solution rather than a federation.
The Tatars, who stood next to Erdogan on Tuesday, announced the “second phase of our plan to expand” the reopening of the Turkish army-held east coast resort of Varosha. Cypriots of Greek descent here have been expelled since the invasion took place decades ago.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted Tuesday that the “bloodbath” in Cyprus was “rejected by the civilized world”.
“Time flies but no one forgets,” he wrote. “The message is a just solution where a unified island exists and without an occupying army present, stay strong, survive and be active.”
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is scheduled to visit Cyprus on Wednesday (21/7) following Erdogan’s visit. [mg/jm]