Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared talks over the future of Cyprus will only take place between “the two states” on the Mediterranean island.
“The new negotiation process can only be carried out between the two states. We are right and we will defend our right to the end,” he told crowds in the divided Cypriot capital of Nicosia.
Speaking on the 47th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of the island, Erdogan also affirmed Turkey’s support for the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), currently home to 35,000 Turkish troops stationed there. The TRNC is recognised solely by Ankara.
In contrast to the celebrations in Cyprus’ north, residents in the south woke up to sirens at 5.30am to mark the start of the invasion on 20 July, 1974.
Cyprus is represented internationally under the Greek Cypriot banner of the Republic of Cyprus. The southerners’ claims are backed by the European Union, with the Republic securing EU membership in 2004. Greek Cypriots have rejected a two-state deal on the basis that it would grant sovereign status to a state viewed by many as an illegal breakaway. The EU has also ruled out the deal.
The long-standing dispute has become a geopolitical flashpoint in recent years due to competing claims over offshore energy reserves, as well as the reopening of ghost resort Varosha- a hub of Cyprus’ tourism industry before 1974- by Turkish Cypriots.
Standing at Erdogan’s side, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar added that his administration will now undertake the “second phase” of Turkish plans to expand its claims on the island. Tatar is set to scrap the military status of some 3.5 percent of Varosha’s population, and allow beneficiaries to apply for compensation or property restitution through a mandated commission.
For decades, Varosha has been widely viewed as a bargaining chip for Ankara for any future peace deal; plans by Turkish Cypriot officials to resettle the area have sparked international outrage amid UN calls to place the area under the control of peacekeepers.
“The international community will sooner or later accept this reality,” Erdogan told Turkish Cypriot lawmakers in the north, describing plans to build a new government complex to represent the breakaway state of northern Cyprus.
Earlier this month, Erdogan dismissed a warning from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that Brussels would “never, ever” accept a two-state solution for Cyprus.