NICOSIA – Video footage on social media purportedly showing Cypriot National Guard officers teaching Greek Orthodox priests how to use heavy weapons and fire at targets has set off anger on the occupied Turkish-Cypriot side of the island.
The self-declared government on the territory unlawfully occupied since 1974 Turkish invasions denounced what it called “target practice for Greek Cypriot priests” by the Cypriot National Guard.
“It is not surprising for the Greek Orthodox Church, sparing no effort to keep the enmity alive against the Turkish existence on the island, to involve in such a provocative act,” read the statement, said Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah.
“We condemn this shooting exercise in the strongest possible terms, which went as far as awarding the best striking priests,” the statement added, with no apparent response from the Cypriot side.
The Turkish-Cypriots said that previous media reports detailed how “the Greek Orthodox Church had participated in similar exercises of the Greek Cypriot National Guard and funded the Greek Cypriot National Guard.”
“This hostile act, witnessed by the whole world, demonstrated the main purpose of the Greek Cypriot leadership and the Greek Orthodox Church. It is of paramount significance to see that the international actors, supposedly supporting an agreement on the island, remain silent against these video footages,” read the statement.
Turkish-Cypriot hardline leader Ersin Tatar has set aside any idea of resuming talks to reunify the island and instead demanded the United Nations recognize the occuped territory where Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong army.
His self-declared administration complained that “armament and military activities” of the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus prove “that the Turkish-Cypriot people are justified in seeing the existence of their sovereign state,” as well as “Motherland” Turkey’s “effective guarantee as a prerequisite.”
Turkey, along with Greece and the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom which still keeps military bases on the island where Turkish-Cypriots occupy the northern third, are guarantors of security there.