Turkish unarmed aerial vehicles and combat drones are in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to protect it from all sides, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in remarks published Friday.
Erdoğan was speaking to reporters on his way back from the European Political Community summit in Prague. Asked whether there is a plan to set up a Turkish military base in the northeastern Karpaz Peninsula in the TRNC, Erdoğan said Turkish drones may also be sent to the region.
"Because we need to secure northern Cyprus from all sides, from all aspects. Whether it (the base) is (set up) or not, our jets will immediately be in northern Cyprus as soon as they take off from our mainland," he added.
Erdoğan was in Prague at the invitation of European Council President Charles Michel and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala to attend the first meeting of the European Political Community.
Speaking at a news conference in the Czech Republic on Thursday, Erdoğan also said on the issue that Ankara does not seek to acquire the territory or sovereignty of any country, adding that Türkiye was only fighting to protect its interests and those of Turkish Cypriots.
On Cyprus, he underlined that the "only key" to a solution on the East Mediterranean island was the recognition of the Turkish Cypriot people's sovereign equality and equal international status with the Greek Cypriot administration.
"For a permanent solution, the facts on the Island must be accepted," he added.
Most recently, Türkiye on Monday strongly condemned the Greek Cypriot administration's inclusion in a U.S. military partnership program. The Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement said it strongly condemned the Greek Cypriot administration's "inclusion in the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, under the scope of the U.S. Department of Defense."
"From our point of view, the latest move of the U.S., two weeks after lifting the arms embargo on GCA, has no justification," the statement said.
It further noted that the U.S.' latest move is "going beyond disrupting the balance between the two sides on the Island, the U.S. has evidently become partial."
"With such moves, the U.S. is losing its opportunity to play a constructive role for a fair, permanent and sustainable settlement of the Cyprus issue," it added.
Türkiye also vowed to continue taking "all necessary steps to ensure the security of Turkish Cypriot people," as a guarantor state.
"We support the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the TRNC regarding the issue," it added.
With the move, Washington, which on Sept. 16 lifted an arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot administration that had been in force since 1987, continues its provocative attitude toward the TRNC and Türkiye, according to the TRNC.
Türkiye has many times invited its NATO ally United States to adopt a neutral stance on the Cyprus issue.
Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong dispute between the Turkish and Greek 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 aimed at Greece's annexation led to Türkiye's military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, 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 Türkiye, Greece and the United Kingdom.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the European Union in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the U.N.'s Annan plan to end the longstanding dispute. Today, the Turkish side supports a solution based on the equal sovereignty of the two states on the island. On the other hand, the Greek side wants a federal solution based on the hegemony of the Greeks.
Türkiye, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that their excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Türkiye and the Turkish Cypriots.
Also addressing reporters in Istanbul on Friday, Erdoğan said that he will not degrade himself by responding to the Greek premier, adding Kyriakos Mitsotakis lacks knowledge of protocol rules.
The comment came after Erdoğan said Thursday that Mitsotakis got up on the stage to respond to Erdoğan's comments on the recent tensions between Türkiye and Greece during a formal dinner at the inaugural meeting of the European Political Community.
Asked if there was a heated exchange with the Greek premier at the dinner for leaders attending the European Political Community in Prague, Erdoğan said Mitsotakis lacks knowledge of protocol rules. "Do you think the President of the Republic of Türkiye would degrade himself to such a level?" Erdoğan told reporters after Friday prayer in Istanbul.
"He (Mitsotakis) is a man who does not know the rules of the protocol. Although he was not supposed to deliver a speech in the program, I do not know from whom he received permission, he tried to respond to me," Erdoğan added.
Holding a press conference during the first meeting of the European Political Community in Prague, Erdoğan also said there was nothing worth discussing with Greece at the moment, while he accused Athens of basing its policies on "lies."
"They are not where they are supposed to be," Erdoğan told the press conference in Prague. "Their entire policy is based on lies, they are not honest. We have nothing to discuss with Greece."
Erdoğan said Athens understood Ankara's message when Turkish officials said "we may suddenly arrive one night" – a comment that Greek and some other Western officials have condemned as a threat to a neighboring state.
Ankara expects the European Union to call on Greece for dialogue on a bilateral basis, instead of supporting illegal initiatives, the president said.
"I expect the EU to call on our interlocutors for dialogue on a bilateral basis instead of supporting illegal initiatives masquerading as unity or solidarity."
Many countries at the summit expected a step from Türkiye to develop ties with Greece, Erdoğan said, adding that there was "nothing to talk about with Greece now."
"Not only Greece, but no matter which country is attacking us, our answer is always 'We may come suddenly one night.' They should know that," he said.
Greece and Türkiye have been at odds for decades over a range of issues, including where their continental shelves start and end, energy resources, overflights in the Aegean Sea and the divided island of Cyprus. Relations between the two neighboring countries and fellow NATO members have deteriorated in recent years.
In May, Erdoğan cut ties with Mitsotakis and declared all other channels of communication between the countries closed. Erdoğan said Mitsotakis "no longer exists" for him, after the Greek premier lobbied to block sales of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye during a visit to the United States, despite previously agreeing with Erdoğan "to not include third countries in our dispute."
Ankara accuses Athens of illegally militarizing Greek islands in the East Aegean and questions Greece's sovereignty over them. There is also a dispute over the exploitation of mineral resources in the Aegean. Since the beginning of 2022, Greek warplanes have violated Turkish airspace 256 times and harassed Turkish jets on 158 occasions. Greek coast guard boats also violated Turkish territorial waters 33 times.