Any future talks on the decadeslong Cyprus question should involve two states rather than communities, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated Saturday during an inauguration ceremony for an irrigation tunnel to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
"If there are to be new talks on Cyprus, these should no longer be between the two communities, but between the two states," Erdoğan said via live video link to the site of the event in TRNC.
Underlining that the equal status and sovereign equality of Turkish Cypriots must be confirmed before fresh negotiations begin, Erdoğan said the latest Cyprus talks held informally in Geneva last month had been inconclusive due to the "intransigent attitude of the Greek side, detached from the facts on the island."
The two sides have differing views on how to resolve the issue, with Greek Cypriots backing a federal system and Turkish Cypriots a two-state deal.
Five decades of Cyprus talks have led nowhere. The conflict has fueled tensions between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, impeded Ankara’s bid to join the European Union and triggered friction in the Eastern Mediterranean over potential undersea hydrocarbon reserves.
Erdogan said the meeting on Cyprus in Geneva, dubbed the U.N.+5, at the end of April marked a turning point in the struggle for independence and the future.
"As Turkey, we have fully supported the proposals made in Geneva by the Turkish Cypriot side under the leadership of my dear brother, Mr. (Ersin Tatar). On this occasion, I would like to congratulate Mr. President Tatar on his leadership in Geneva and his determined stance," said Erdoğan.
The president underlined that Ankara was determined to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots, especially in regard to hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The island has been divided since 1964 when ethnic attacks forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece's annexation led to Turkey's military intervention as a guarantor power. The TRNC was founded in 1983.
The Greek Cypriot administration, backed by Greece, became a member of the European Union in 2004, although most Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. settlement plan in a referendum that year that had envisaged a reunited Cyprus joining the EU.
Turkey has undertaken several projects to eliminate the risk of water shortage in the TRNC, delivering an annual 75 million (2.64 billion) cubic meters of water to the TRNC via an undersea pipeline. Erdoğan emphasized that Ankara is determined "not to leave Turkish Cyprus in need of others."
He stated that the TRNC has been experiencing an increasing water shortage for the past 30 years due to the fact that it is in an island country and due to its limited natural resources.
"In addition, with a modern drinking water treatment plant and a 529-kilometer (nearly 329-mile) distribution line, we have provided drinking and potable water of upstream water quality to the whole of Northern Cyprus," said Erdoğan.
"Our aim is for the TRNC to develop and strengthen in order for the Turkish Cypriot people to have a more prosperous future," he added.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said that the TRNC's territory, which has long been in need of water, would become fertile with the new sprinkler system and drip irrigation.
Economic and development cooperation between the two countries will contribute to the rise of the sovereign TRNC that can stand confidently on its own feet, Oktay said.
TRNC President Ersin Tatar also thanked everyone who contributed to the implementation of the project.
He recalled that on Jan. 6, 2020, a failure occurred in the Water Supply Project, and with the great support of the Turkish government, the problem was solved.
Stating that the structure in the TRNC will be strengthened with these works with its homeland Turkey, Tatar stressed that these efforts will also have a positive impact on the TRNC's economy.
Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersan Saner noted the "Project of the Century" was seen by many as impossible to realize, saying this project was opened on Oct. 17, 2015, and that all the targets set out continue to be realized one by one.
"The transfer of Anatolian water to the TRNC is a complete revolution. This resource has improved the quality of life of our people, especially in the TRNC. Today, the opening we will do together will enable our Green Island Cyprus to flourish," Saner said.
"It is of great importance that our homeland Turkey is with us as we walk toward our goals with determination in a period of social, economic and political difficulties triggered by the greatest epidemic in the history of the world," he added.
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