Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his hopes about the restarted talks aiming at a peaceful resolution in the long-disputed Cyprus problem when he met Mustafa Akinci, the president of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in Nicosia on Monday.
As he visited the TRNC for the marking of 41st anniversary of Turkish intervention in 1974, known as “Cyprus Peace Operation” in the Turkish part, Erdogan urged both Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders to settle the peace for reunification of the divided island.
"I think this opportunity should not have been missed," Erdogan told reporters after his meeting with Akinci who was elected as the new president of the TRNC in April.
The eastern Mediterranean island 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.
Erdogan commemorated Peace and Freedom Day in Nicosia and emphasised the significance of Turkish intervention on behalf of the Turkish Cypriots in 1974 as he said, "This day is the proudest day in Turkish Cypriots' struggle to live freely and continue as equal owners of the island."
When he was elected in April, Akinci pledged that he would resume peace talks with his counterpart Nicos Anastasiadis in order to reunify the island after a two and a half years of hiatus since February 2013.
Erdogan eulogised Akinci’s commitment to the peace talks and also urged the Greek side to resume the positive atmosphere appeared after Akinci came to presidency.
"I hope, these efforts will continue with resolve to put an end to the issue, when both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides get a fair result principally based on political equality," Erdogan said, adding that Turkey’s priority was to reach a “fair and permanent solution” in the island.
Erdogan’s Cyprus visit just came one week after EU’s Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s visit to the island where he had also verbalised his optimism regarding the peace resolution talks on the decades old political and military dispute.
"After the talks I had with the two leaders I am very optimistic they trust each other… they have a common determination and willingness to conclude to find a solution for a too-old problem," Juncker said after meeting press conference with the leaders on Thursday.
"This is one of the remaining problems and major conflicts," Juncker added when he referred to Turkey’s accession talks with the EU which regards the Cyprus problem as one of the major political obstacles in front of Ankara’s full membership.
The EU Commission president drew attention to the importance of a peace settlement over the island, saying that a fair resolution would affect positively the entire EU as well as Turkey.
"If this [a solution] happens and I’m praying that this will happen….this will not only be good news for Cyprus, this will be a good news for entire European Union," Juncker said.
The Turkish Cypriots had declared their unilateral independence in 1983 under the name of the TRNC, but this move was only recognised officially by Ankara while Libya de facto recognised the country.
The UN-brokered peace initiative in 2004, dubbed the “Annan Plan” proposed under the auspices of former secretary general Kofi Annan who almost brought about the reunification of the island.
But, the Greek Cypriots opposed the plan with only 24 percent supporting reunification in the referendum, whereas the Turkish Cypriots supported the proposal plan with 65 percent.
Soon after the refusal of the Annan Plan, the Greek Cypriots became a full member of the EU during the “big bang” enlargement 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.