Even as European Union leaders were edging closer to finding a way to bring Turkey into the bloc despite a number of impasses, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan put another obstacle in the way when he declared, “There is no country named Cyprus.”
That also came ahead of a renewed effort by the United Nations to broker a deal to reunify the island divided since an unlawful Turkish invasion in 1974. Turkey still occupies the northern third which it calls the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, unrecognized by the rest of the world.
Erdogan’s remarks came during a conference in Poland where he also was reported to have called Cyprus the “Greek Cypriot Administration” and said that it was accepted into the EU for political reasons and not because the country was harmonized with the European laws.
“Pay attention. It was not accepted as southern Cyprus but as Cyprus. There is no country called Cyprus but a local government of Southern Cyprus. Because there is North Cyprus there is a green line between them with UN security teams. Absolutely no country within the EU should be facing security problems. This place has such an internal problem. The EU cannot admit it, but the decision was entirely political,” he said.
Greek and Cypriot government officials expressed shock and anger at the comments. “The Turkish prime minister’s disputing the very existence of the Republic of Cyprus should finally awaken the international community as to Turkey’s true intentions regarding the Cyprus issue,” Greek Foreign Ministry spokesperson Constantinos Koutras said. He said that the statement should awaken the international community about the real intentions of Turkey on the Cyprus issue.
The government spokesman in Nicosia Christos Stylianides expressed “surprise and concern” at Erdogan’s statement, which he said made it all the more necessary for the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot sides to agree on a “joint statement” setting out the basic principles for a Cyprus settlement to avoid a fresh deadlock.
In a written statement, Stylianides said that in a period of consultations for a joint declaration, aiming at the relaunch of substantial Cyprus talks, Erdogan should rather show his good will and try to find a quick solution to the Cyprus problem.
Greek MP Marietta Giannakou and Eleni Theocharous of Cyprus issued a joint statement referring to an “insult to the European Union and the international rule of law.”
Rena Dourou, an MP of from the major Greek opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) said Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is cozy with Erdogan to say something but he didn’t.
Turkey does not recognize Cyprus and will not allow its ships and planes to enter the country. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who has been distracted by his country’s crushing economic crisis, said that he wanted to re-open talks that have been stalled for several years and gone nowhere for decades.