Turkey’s president unwavering on two-state policy to resolve Cyprus’ ethnic division

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkey’s president said Monday that any deal resolving Cyprus’ nearly half-century ethnic division must be based on recognition of a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the island nation’s northern third.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks in the north during his first overseas visit after his reelection last month aren’t new, but suggest that Ankara’s policy line on Cyprus remains unwavering, despite international condemnation of the two-state deal proposal that runs contrary to U.N. resolutions calling for a single, federated Cyprus.

“No one can bear to waste another 50 years of time,” Erdogan said during a joint news conference with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar. “If there is to be a return to the negotiating table, the only way to do this is to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

It also dashes hopes harbored by Cyprus’ internationally-recognized government of a speedy return to negotiations, although a spokesman for President Nikos Anastasiades said Monday that Erdogan will be judged by his deeds rather than his words.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared independence nearly a decade later, but that’s only recognized by Turkey, which maintains more than 35,000 troops and an array of armaments in the north.

U.N.-led peace talks haven’t resolved the dispute. The most recent round in July 2017 broke down over a Turkish insistence on maintaining military intervention rights and a permanent troop presence under any new arrangement. Another stumbling block was a Greek Cypriot rejection of a Turkish Cypriot demand for the right to veto all government decisions on a federal level. Turkish Cypriots number approximately about a quarter of Greek Cypriots.

Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots say it would be pointless to carry on negotiations based on a federated Cyprus and have instead pushed a two-state deal as a new starting point. Greek Cypriots say they can’t agree to a deal that would formalize the country’s division.

“The just demands of the Turkish Cypriots are clear and unequivocal. Turkish Cypriots have never been a minority and never will be,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president said Ankara would also push ahead with plans to supply Turkish Cypriots with electricity through an undersea cable. The north has for years experienced chronic power supply issues.

The electricity cable would complement 66.5-mile (107-kilometer) undersea pipelines Turkey constructed in 2015 to supply fresh water to the arid north. The Cyprus government decried the pipeline project as a means for Ankara to “augment Turkey’s influence and control over Cyprus.”

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