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Turkish Cypriot leader rules out any talks without equal status

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Turkish Cypriots will not sit at any negotiating table unless their sovereignty and equal status are recognized, the leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) told AFP on Sunday.

This year marks the 50th anniversary since an Athens-backed coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece triggered a Turkish invasion that divided the island in 1974.

Only Ankara recognizes the statehood of the KKTC, which was proclaimed by Turkish Cypriot leaders in 1983.

Efforts to reunify the island have been at a standstill since the last round of United Nations-backed talks collapsed in 2017.

“We are saying, after all these years, and all these fatal negotiations which proved nothing, we are only able to resume or to restart negotiations if our sovereign equality and equal international status are reaffirmed or acknowledged,” KKTC leader Ersin Tatar said on the margins of an annual diplomacy gathering in Turkey’s Mediterranean resort town of Antalya.

“Otherwise, we are not going to sit at the negotiating table again, because there’s no point,” he added.

For Tatar, European Union member the Republic of Cyprus has walked away from negotiations after the collapse of every reunification attempt.

“Because in the past there have been many attempts where we sat again at the table, and at the end of the day the table collapsed — they walked out as the Republic of Cyprus and we just stayed as a community with no gain whatsoever,” he said.

“And every time we sit [at talks], we lose something. That’s how we feel,” he said.

“So unless we get our sovereignty right, the acknowledgement of our sovereignty, we are not going to get involved in any negotiations.”

Tatar on Sunday also ruled out any prospect of reunification for the divided island.

‘No hope for reunification’

“There is no hope for reunification. We are talking about a two-state solution. This is our new policy after many years of unfortunately fruitless negotiations,” he said.

Tatar said that despite political impediments, the KKTC was able to extend its relationship with many countries with Turkey’s support.

“Obviously we have difficulties, but we have no alternative.

“The alternative is to give up, and we will never give up because giving up sovereignty and being basically amalgamated into a pure Greek republic would mean that that would be the end of us.”

After years of tension over immigration, energy rights and maritime borders, Greece and Turkey restarted high-level talks in December when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid his first visit to Athens since 2017.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to visit Ankara in May.

Asked if Turkish-Greek rapprochement could have a positive impact on the island, Tatar said he hoped Greece would say to the Greek Cypriots that “enough is enough, let’s wake up to the reality of Cyprus that there are two peoples and the states.”

“And the best way forward after all these years is cooperation of the two states so that we can have prosperity and enjoy the resources of the eastern Mediterranean,” he added.

“I think if we were to find a solution, Cyprus can be probably bigger [economically] than Dubai.”

Tatar said the Turkish Cypriots could not forget about past events which triggered the Turkish military operation five decades ago.

“In 1974 Turkey came in with troops, and now we will be celebrating the 50th year in July. So it’s not easy for us to forget all this, especially with Europe now in Gaza” where Israel and Hamas are engaged in a nearly five-month war.

“Therefore, we have to be very careful.”

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