Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) President Ersin Tatar highlighted his country's role in safeguarding the Eastern Mediterranean coast in a meeting with Turkish combat veterans Monday.
"The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is important in the Eastern Mediterranean both for its own security and for the security of Turkey's coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean," Tatar told a group of veterans in eastern Turkey.
Visiting the branch of the Turkish War Veterans Association in Malatya province, he praised the efforts of Cyprus veterans during the peace operation in 1974.
"If it wasn't for the operation, Cyprus would have probably become a Greek island," he said, adding this was prevented with the operation nearly five decades ago.
Tatar also noted the region's importance in terms of energy resources and said there are significant strategic issues that also concern Turkey.
Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s 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 on July 20 that year to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence.
The TRNC was founded in 1983.
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 Turkey, Greece and the U.K.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the European Union in 2004, the same year that Greek Cypriots thwarted a U.N. plan to end the decadeslong dispute.