After saying there is no country called Cyprus, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan now says there is – and that it has to be one, unifying Cypriots with Turks who have occupied the norther third of the island since an unlawful invasion in 1974.
Erdogan has called for the involvement of Cyprus’s three guarantor powers – Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom – in negotiations for a peace settlement, adding that the aim of all sides must be to create “one Cyprus,” he said.
“[We] must take part in this effort and solve this longstanding problem,” Erdogan was quoted as saying after a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in St Petersburg, where he was on a bilateral visit. He said representatives must not leave the negotiating room “until a solution is found.” He didn’t offer any solutions himself, however.
The Turkish premier also urged the Greek-Cypriot administration to give up its demand for a joint statement from the two sides of the divided island ahead of a meeting between Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu on Nov. 25 as the two try to re-start talks that have stalled for more than a year and as Eroglu continues to play hard ball and is offering no concessions.
“In order to solve the problem, we need to approach it with honesty and put aside any preconditions,” Erdogan was quoted as saying without elaborating on what he meant.
Cypriot officials were not impressed with what he had to say. Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said the issue of adopting a joint communique “is not simply a matter of procedure, but of substance.”
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 letter to Eroglu, Anastasiades reportedly said the two sides ought to “redouble our efforts toward adopting a joint declaration for a first landmark meeting of the leaders.”
The Greek Foreign Ministry earlier blasted Erdogan’s statements that there was no country called Cyprus. Although it wants to join the European Union, Turkey will not recognize Cyprus – which is a member – nor allow its ships or planes to enter the country.
“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,” ministry spokesperson Constantinos Koutras said.
One of the major stumbling blocks is that Turkey keeps a small standing army in the part of the island that it still occupies and Cypriot leaders said their Turkish counterparts have been intransigent in negotiations.