Senior Turkish officials on Saturday condemned controversial remarks by Mustafa Akıncı, the leader of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), in a British daily.
The condemnations came after Akıncı talked to The Guardian about the long-standing reunification efforts in Cyprus island.
"If this failed to happen, he (Akıncı) said, the north (TRNC) would grow increasingly dependent on Ankara and could end up being swallowed up, as a de facto Turkish province," The Guardian cited Akıncı as saying.
Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter: "I condemn the remarks that target the Republic of Turkey which stands with TRNC in all conditions and protects its rights and interests."
It will not tolerate Turkey being used as "a tool of an election campaign" with political approaches that lack a vision, he stressed.
Communications Director Fahrettin Altun also strongly condemned Akıncı's remarks, which he said reflect Akıncı's concern for personal survival.
Altun said in a written statement that Akıncı does not deserve to sit in the chair of the presidency, which had cost the lives of Turkish Cypriots and Turkish soldiers.
"Turkey has no designs on the soil of any country, and it will not tolerate anyone to take advantage of Turkish soil," he warned.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül criticized Akıncı's remarks on Turkey, as well, which he said hurt the ancestors and martyrs.
"Ankara will continue to stand by Turkish Cypriot as it has done so far," he said.
TRNC Prime Minister Ersin Tatar joined Turkish officials in condemning Akıncı's remarks.
"Akıncı's criticism of Turkey via false claims is wrong behavior done with the intent of winning the election," he said in a written statement.
Tatar said Turkish Cypriots will punish Akıncı by not voting in favor of him in the presidential election slated for on April 26.
Tatar stressed that TRNC and Turkey will always remain close and will cooperate to solve the Cyprus issue.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at the annexation of Cyprus by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
Several attempts have been made in the last few decades to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest, held with the participation of the guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. – came to an end without any progress in 2017 in Switzerland.
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