Turkish President Erdogan visited breakaway northern Cyprus on Sunday to meet its newly elected leader who backs his call for a “two-state” solution to the divided island’s five-decade conflict if U.N.-mediated talks yield no results.
With Turkey’s support, former prime minister Ersin Tatar won a tight ‘presidential’ vote last month that could further strain ties with the internationally-recognised Cyprus government. Tatar’s predecessor, Mustafa Akinci, had backed reunification.
Turkey is alone in recognising Northern Cyprus as an independent state. Cyprus was split after a 1974 invasion by Turkey which still maintains troops there.
On November 15, 1984, the Turkish-held north declared its unilateral independence.
Turkey’s government said Erdogan and Tatar would discuss how to strengthen ties and also the situation in the broader Eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey has clashed this year with Cyprus, Greece and the European Union over offshore territorial rights.
The EU, which has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey next month over illegal oil and gas exploration at sea, admitted Cyprus into the bloc in 2004.
Erdogan has said separate administrations were the only solution after U.N.-mediated peace talks between Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots in the north which broke down in 2017. Ankara has proposed an informal meeting between Turkey, Greece, Turkish and Greek Cypriots and the United Nations.
Before last month’s election, Erdogan and Tatar partially reopened the beach town of Varosha, a fenced-off resort area in Famagusta abandoned in no-man’s land since 1974.
Cyprus, the EU, United States, UN, Greece and thuird countries have strongly criticised the illegal move.