Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a permanent and fair solution for the disputed island of Cyprus on Wednesday when he met with the newly-elected President of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Mustafa Akinci, at the presidential palace in Ankara.
Erdogan and Akinci reiterated the need for a permanent peaceful resolution to the Cyprus problem, which would also be beneficial for both Greece and the Greek Cypriots.
Akinci, a leftist moderate who has promised to work for a peace deal in the ethnically-split island of Cyprus, became president of the TRNC after a runoff election on April 26.
The Turkish president stressed that all parties should be involved and show sincere endeavours toward conflict resolution and the peacebuilding process on the island, where both Turks and Greeks must live side by side.
Erdogan indicated that 2015 could be a year of peace if the Greek Cypriots also fulfill their responsibility to take a sincere attitude for a resolution in the island.
“The Greek Cypriots should no longer make things difficult. Instead, they need to put in a sincere effort. If this happens, we believe 2015 will be the ‘solution year’ for Cyprus,” said Erdogan during a joint press conference with his counterpart Akinci.
Akinci made his first visit to Turkey in accordance with a diplomatic tradition soon after he was elected.
After the elections, Akinci made a statement questioning the status of the relationship between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus. “It should be a relationship of brothers/sisters, not a relationship of a motherland and her child,” he said.
Erdogan criticised the newly-elected Akinci last week due to this remark concerning the nature of the relationship between the two countries.
Erdogan and Akinci stressed the importance of peace negotiations with Greece and the Greek Cypriots.
Both presidents also called for Greece to contribute constructive support to peace and efforts to resolve the dispute.
“Greece should make the necessary contribution for a solution," said Erdogan by adding that, "We will continue to encourage Greece in this regard.”
The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been divided between the Greek Cypriots in the south and the Turkish Cypriots in the north since 1974, when Turkey sent its troops to the island in the aftermath of a Greek-backed coup that attempted to unite the island with Greece.
The Turkish Cypriots declared independence in 1983, but this was only recognised officially by Ankara while Libya de facto recognises the country.
The Cyprus issue has long been occupying the agenda of Turkish-Greek relations since the Turkish intervention in 1974, which soured relations among the parties until peace efforts were accelerated at the beginning of the new millennium.
The UN-brokered peace initiative in 2004, dubbed the “Annan Plan,” proposed under the auspices of former Secretary General Kofi Annan almost brought about the reunification of the island.
However, the Greek Cypriots opposed the plan with only 24 percent supporting reunification in the referendum, whereas the 65 percent Turkish Cypriots side supported the proposal.
Soon after the refusal of Annan Plan, the Greek Cypriots became a full member of the European Union during the “big bang” enlargement of the Union in May 2004.
The peace talks were suspended last October, after the Greek Cypriots cancelled their participation after a row with Turkey over offshore hydrocarbon exploration.
The Greek side discovered gas offshore in late 2011, but Turkey disputed its rights to the area and dispatched an exploration vessel to carry out seismic research in the Greek Cypriot-claimed waters at the end of the last year.