The leader of Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus said any future settlement for the divided island has to be based on the creation of two separate states, underscoring the divide between Turkey and Greece in a key conflict in the eastern Mediterranean.
(Bloomberg) — The leader of Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus said any future settlement for the divided island has to be based on the creation of two separate states, underscoring the divide between Turkey and Greece in a key conflict in the eastern Mediterranean.
“If a solution is to be found, it’s got to be realistic, fair and practical,” Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said in an interview in New York Tuesday with Bloomberg News. “That’s why we are asking for two equal neighbor states.”
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Tatar rejected restarting talks aimed at unifying the island unless the rival Greek Cypriot leadership in the south abandons its push for a federation to govern the entire country. His comments set the stage ahead of a scheduled meeting Wednesday between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis while they visit New York for the United Nations General Assembly, and as they work to maintain a nascent thaw in their relationship.
Cyprus — less than half the size of New Jersey — was effectively partitioned in 1963 when fighting erupted between its two main groups: Greek and Turkish Cypriots. It was fully divided in 1974 after Turkey intervened, capturing the northern third of the island and saying it intended to protect the minority Turkish Cypriots following an Athens-backed coup by supporters of union with Greece.
To this day, the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state, like its leader Tatar, is recognized only by Turkey, while the Republic of Cyprus in the south of the island is internationally recognized and joined the European Union in 2004.
“We invite the international community to recognize the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and to establish diplomatic, political and economic ties with this country,” Erdogan said in an address to the UN gathering on Tuesday.
Successive efforts to reunify the island have failed. Turkey has pushed lately for a permanent division of the island under a two-state solution. Cyprus and Greece don’t support such a formula, arguing that a bi-communal federation is the only viable solution.
The island’s future, along with the limitation of maritime borders, is among key issues Erdogan and Mitsotakis will discuss when they meet. Both leaders recently emerged from national elections, increasing the likelihood that they might have more political capital to offer compromises and improve their relationship.
“Greece should take initiative to talk to our motherland, if they want peace and stability to continue,” Tatar said, referring to Turkey. “They should somehow accept the reality of the Turkish Cypriots.”
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