The rights of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the Eastern Mediterranean must be protected, TRNC President Ersin Tatar stated on Sunday.
Hailing relations with Turkey during his visit to Elazığ, he said: “Cyprus has undergone big incidents, a big genocide had taken place, yet with the support of Turkey, here we are. We have a state, we have a republic.”
Reiterating the goal of having two equal states on the island, Tatar said, “An agreement to decrease tensions between Turkey and Greece in order for balances to be created in the Eastern Mediterranean would benefit everyone.”
Tatar touched upon the importance of developments, the changing conjuncture in terms of energy resources and the strategic significance of the Eastern Mediterranean. “In every regard, we are strengthening in the region. Therefore, we will not be deceived.”
Remembering Turkish Cypriots who lost their lives during the "Bloody Christmas" massacre in 1963, Tatar visited their tombs in Elazığ.
Tatar mentioned Nihat Ilhan, a medical commander who was serving in Cyprus at that time during the Bloody Christmas incident. Tatar said that Ilhan's son had visited him during his time as prime minister.
“The Turkish people must never forget the incidents that happened in Cyprus because everything had been done for Cyprus to become a Greek island. Yet, with Turkey’s support, we resisted there. And we continue to resist,” Tatar added.
While the Turkish Cypriots were discriminated against and alienated by the Greek Cypriots in state institutions, systematic and comprehensive attacks began on Dec. 21, 1963, when a bloody incident, later termed as "Bloody Christmas," took place.
A total of 103 Turkish Cypriot villages were attacked, leading to hundreds of deaths. The bloody campaign also displaced 30,000 Turkish Cypriots, who had to take shelter in an area constituting merely 3% of the island.
In 1967, a military junta ousted the government in Greece and started to destabilize the island. The junta struck two villages on the island of Cyprus – Boğaziçi (Agios Sergios) and Geçitkale (Lefkoniko), both located in the Gazimağosa (Famagusta) district.
Bülent Ecevit, then-prime minister of Turkey, instructed the military to take action and the Cyprus Peace Operation was launched on July 20, 1974.
He said that the TRNC is preparing to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the Cyprus Peace Operation of July 20, 1974. “July 20, 1974, is the most significant date of the Turkish people in terms of independence and freedom, but before that there were big terrorist incidents in Cyprus in 1963.”
The Eastern Mediterranean, with Cyprus as a key actor, has been one of the main issues of dispute between Turkey, the EU and Greek Cypriots last year.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
The island of Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong struggle between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
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 EU in 2004, even though most Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. settlement plan in a referendum that year that had envisaged a reunited Cyprus joining the EU.
Speaking on the EU and the Greek Cypriot’s aim to create a federation for the island, Tatar said “Cyprus as a whole being admitted to the European Union under a federal roof, would mean that our ties with Turkey are being cut. We will never allow our ties with Turkey to be broken off.”
“We want a political agreement according to justice, equality and Cyprus’ realities.”