Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis should stop targeting Turkey if he really wants to continue to have dialogue channels open with Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday.
"Even though we agreed to continue explanatory talks with Greece in March, (Greek PM) Mitsotakis targeted us once again. Now, how can we continue our talks?" the president asked during the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) parliamentary group meeting.
Erdoğan's statements came following Mitsotakis' remarks on Monday, stating that the "only viable solution" to the Cyprus issue "is a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality."
“Ending Turkish occupation and finding a viable solution is a fundamental Greek foreign policy priority,” Mitsotakis said following his meeting with the Greep Cypriot administration head Nicos Anastasiades in Lefkoşa (Nicosia).
Erdoğan dismissed Mitsotakis' proposal on the issue and underlined that "The Greek side has not made the slightest change in its stance disregarding the existence of Turkish Cypriots on the island. Two-state solution is the sole option for Cyprus, federal system is no longer an option on agenda."
"I know that you put your trust in some places," the president continued, referring to the EU. "But those whom you trust have already failed you. Turkey, on the other hand, will not lean on anyone. It will stand up for itself," he emphasized.
The two NATO allies have been at odds over a number of decades-old issues including the extent of their continental shelves, overflights in the Aegean Sea and the ethnically split island of Cyprus. Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by EU members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Last month, Turkey and Greece launched the first direct exploratory talks in nearly five years to address their disputes related to sovereignty rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. That meeting in Istanbul, the 61st round, lasted only a few hours but both sides said that they had agreed to meet again in Athens.
The island of Cyprus, with a combined population of just over 1 million, has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation of the island was followed by violence against the island’s Turks and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power. It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries.
TRNC was founded in 1983. Currently, the TRNC has a population of almost 400,000 people. Even though it is not recognized by any country other than Turkey, it is a model state in terms of its democracy and freedom. A 2016 Freedom House report called the nation "free" when it comes to political rights and civil liberties. Turkey, as a guarantor state of the TRNC, is currently carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities in the region. Ankara has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the region's resources.
Negotiations based on sovereign equality are needed to resolve the Cyprus issue, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told at a joint news conference last week in the capital Lefkoşa with TRNC President Ersin Tatar.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to call a meeting next month that will bring together rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as Cyprus’ guarantors – Greece, Turkey and Britain – to gauge the chances of resuming talks.
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