Turkey’s president steadfast on two-state policy to resolve Cyprus’ ethnic divide

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkey’s president said Monday that any agreement resolving Cyprus’ ethnic divide for nearly half a century must be based on recognizing a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the nation’s northern third islander.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks in the north during his first foreign visit after his re-election last month are not new, but suggest that Ankara’s policy line on Cyprus remains unwavering, despite international condemnation of the proposal for a two-state agreement that goes against UN resolutions calling for a single, federated Cyprus.

“No one can bear to waste another 50 years of time,” Erdogan said at a joint press conference with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar. “If there is to be a return to the negotiating table, the only way to achieve this is to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

It also dashed hopes held by the internationally recognized Cypriot government for a quick return to negotiations, although a spokesman for President Nikos Anastasiades said on Monday that Erdogan would be judged on his deeds rather than his words.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The Turkish Cypriots declared independence nearly a decade later, but this is recognized only by Turkey, which maintains more than 35,000 troops and an array of weaponry in the north.

UN-led peace talks have not resolved the dispute. The most recent round in July 2017 failed due to Turkish insistence on maintaining military intervention rights and a permanent troop presence under any new arrangement. Another stumbling block was the Greek Cypriots’ rejection of a Turkish Cypriot demand for veto power over all government decisions at the federal level. Turkish Cypriots make up around a quarter of Greek Cypriots.

Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots say it would be pointless to continue negotiations on the basis of a federated Cyprus and have instead proposed a two-state agreement as a new starting point. Greek Cypriots say they cannot accept an agreement that would formalize the division of the country.

“The just demands of the Turkish Cypriots are clear and unequivocal. Turkish Cypriots have never been a minority and never will be,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president said that Ankara will also continue its plans to supply Turkish Cypriots with electricity via an undersea cable. The north has been experiencing chronic electricity supply problems for years.

The power cable would complement the 66.5-mile (107 kilometer) undersea pipelines that Turkey built in 2015 to deliver fresh water to the arid north. The Cypriot government denounced the gas pipeline project as a way for Ankara to “increase Turkish influence and control over Cyprus”.

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