Ankara-Athens route sours on Erdoğan’s Cyprus ultimatum

July 20, 2011, Wednesday/ 16:32:00

As plans for a peaceful reunification of the divided island of Cyprus falls into a deadlock of conditions and demands, Athens has rebuffed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's remarks concerning freezing relations with the European Union, with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis accusing him of “not contributing to the solution of the Cyprus issue.”

In a written statement released on Tuesday for the 37th anniversary of Turkey's military intervention on the island, Lambrinidis bitterly stated that “instead of showing the will for a solution, it [Turkey] is trying to dictate to the EU its composition and way of operating,” and blamed the intervention for the current problems on the divided island.

Displeased by Erdoğan's comments on not recognizing Nicosia's upcoming presidency of the EU and warning to freeze relations unless a solution for the island is reached by that time, Lambrinidis responded that Erdoğan's words demonstrated that “the essence of the Cyprus problem is the invasion and continued occupation [of the island],” which Turkey defends by saying the intervention saved lives at the time of a military coup on the island, which was backed by Athens.

After the intervention in 1974, Turkish Cypriots settled in one-third of the island, which later in 1983 become the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) -- a country only recognized by Turkey, while two-thirds of the island in the south remained under the control of the Greece-backed Greek Cypriots. The two sides are only able to travel through crossing points along the borders, which have remained impassable since the intervention.

Promising Greek support to the Greek Cypriots in the “just struggle for their country's reunification,” Lambrinidis ruled out Erdoğan's visit to the island on Tuesday and Wednesday as illegal, stating that a full normalization of relations between Greece and Turkey can only be accomplished through the termination of what he called “the illegal Turkish occupation of one-third of the island.”

He said Athens “strongly supports Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias' initiatives and efforts for achieving a just, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem, one based on UN Security Council resolutions and on the EU's principles, values and acquis.”

Christofias, meanwhile, displayed a similar distaste toward Erdoğan's visit. “It is high time that Turkey abandons its communication tricks and its blame games on the Greek Cypriot side, to leave aside its cynicism and threats and cooperate in a creative manner to achieve a viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem,” Christofias was quoted as saying at an event organized on the occasion of the anniversary.

Before leaving for his KKTC visit, Erdoğan on Tuesday said Turkish efforts to reunify the island and the agreed concession would not hold out forever and that alternatives might be sought.

“We will be coming to [the negotiating] table differently. They [the Greek Cypriots] are still thinking of what more they get can get besides [concessions stipulated in] the Annan plan. Well, excuse us, but the time [for concessions] has passed,” Erdoğan said.

Turkey now appears to have backed away from the Annan plan, in which it would have returned Güzelyurt (Morphou) and Karpas (Karpaz) to the Greek Cypriots. “Güzelyurt entirely belongs to Turkish Cyprus. As for Karpaz, the slightest change in its status is unacceptable,” said Erdoğan -- a remark that soured Lambrinidis' response to the prime minister.

The Annan plan was devised as a peace plan sponsored by the EU, but failed to be implemented when results from the twin referendum held on both sides of the island did not match, as Turkish Cypriots voted in favor, while an overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots found the prospect unfavorable.

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