Turkey’s government said it was “astonished” over strong Greek reactions to new President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments that a two-state solution is the only answer on Cyprus and that Greece has shirked its obligation to help.
During a visit to the Turkish-occupied north of Nicosia, Erdogan rejected the idea of a bi-communal federation and said that Greece was not “doing its duty” as a guarantor power to break the ongoing deadlock to reunify the island divided since an unlawful Turkish invasion in 1974.
Erdogan also said Ankara would allow the reopening of a former Greek Orthodox seminary near Istanbul if Greece permitted the construction of traditional mosques with minarets in Athens and allowed Muslim communities in Thrace, northern Greece, to directly appoint muftis.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government is forging ahead with plans to have the state build and pay for an official mosque in Athens but it would not be allowed minarets. Nationalists are furiously fighting it.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras slammed what he called Turkey’s “aggressive policy” on Cyprus and accused Erdogan of trying to “equate certain of Greece’s international obligations with Turkey’s heavy burden of responsibility regarding the Cyprus issue.”
Turkey, which wants to join the European Union, will not recognize Cyprus – which is a member – nor allow Cypriot planes or ships in Turkey. Erdogan also has said that Cyprus does not exist.
In a statement, Turkey’s foreign ministry has reportedly expressed its “astonishment” over Koutras’s remarks, attributing them to domestic policy considerations.
“Turkey will always continue to be one step ahead in this process in cooperation primarily with the United Nations, the other guarantors and interested countries,” the ministry said, according to reports.
The ministry reportedly added that the interpretation of Erdogan’s statements by officials in Athens does not reflect the spirit of cooperation that has recently been established between the two sides and which Turkey wishes to maintain.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was expected to meet with Erdogan on the sildelines of NATO’s summit in Wales on Sept. 5. The two had have cordial relations over most matters.
Talks between the two leaders are expected to focus on peace talks for the divided island as well as bilateral relations between the two countries.
The UN’s new special adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, arrived on the Mediterranean island Sept. 4 for what was billed as a “familiarization” visit. All previous advisers have failed to make any progress over decades of talks.
Eide, a former foreign minister of Norway, was on Sept. 5 expected to hold separate meetings with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.
Reports said there was no plan for a joint meeting before September 21 when Anastasiades travels to New York for the UN General Assembly opening.