Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan travelled on Sunday to Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus where he called for a two-state solution for the divided Mediterranean island.
“Today in Cyprus there are two separate peoples, two separate democratic orders and two separate states,” Erdogan said while in the Republic of Northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognizes.
“A two-state solution must be discussed and negotiated on the basis of sovereign equality,” he said.
Erdogan was received by Ersin Tatar, the former conservative prime minister who nearly a month ago was elected the new president of the breakaway state after receiving Erdogan’s endorsement.
Erdogan had earlier hailed Tatar’s election as the start of a “new era” in Cyprus. Last week, Erdogan said his visit to Cyprus underlines solidarity with the “motherland.”
Erdogan’s visit is to mark the 1983 declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The Turkish leader made a symbolic stop in the Turkish-controlled town of Varosha in Famagusta.
A ghost town for 46 years, the former Mediterranean tourist hotspot of Varosha was recently partially reopened by Turkish Cypriot authorities, despite international criticism.
The return of Varosha to its former Greek Cypriot residents has been seen as key to resolving the Cyprus issue. But on Sunday Erdogan said it was clear who the “real owners” of Varosha are, referring to the North Cypriots.
Famagusta remains a symbol of division since 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a Greek coup in the south. The island has since been divided into an internationally recognized southern section and a northern part recognized only by Turkey.
The south has been an EU member since May 1, 2004.
“We deplore today’s actions regarding the opening of the fenced off area of Varosha and statements contradicting the UN principles for a settlement of the Cyprus question,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“They will cause greater distrust and tension in the region and should be urgently reversed.”
The symbolic reopening of Varosha comes amid lingering tensions between Turkey and Greece over search for natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
Cyprus condemned Erdogan’s visit as an “unprecedented provocation,” Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades said on Saturday.