Turkish Cypriot leader under fire for demanding unification
Turkish leaders have condemned Mustafa Akinci, the president of Turkish Cyprus, over an interview with a UK newspaper in which he said unification was the only viable option for the divided island.
The Turkish Cypriot leader – a leftwing former Nicosia mayor – said the Mediterranean island faced permanent partition unless an “equitable” federal solution was found quickly.
Akinci said differences were growing along either side of the green line, which is so-called because a British officer used a green crayon to mark a map after the 1974 Turkish invasion.
“We need to hurry up. After all these years we have come to a crossroads, a decisive moment,” said Akinci, who launched his re-election campaign last week.
He met Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades last Monday in the UN-controlled buffer zone in divided Nicosia.
Fahrettin Altun, a Turkish presidential spokesman, stated: “We condemn the comments in the firmest terms.”
“The Turkish people will teach Mustafa Akinci his place,” the communications chief said in reference to the April election.
Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader, Devlet Bahceli, has called for Akinci’s resignation.
Akinci, who took office in 2015, said he would not allow a simple merger of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) with Turkey, calling the prospect “horrible”.
Akinci told the Guardian that divisions on the island were deepening. “It’s becoming more consolidated each year, physically, demographically, economically. It consolidates in the mind of youngsters.” He said his wife and him – both born south of the green line – had closer relations with Greek Cypriots than a newer generation, including their children.
Bahceli said Akinci’s fear about being “swallowed by Ankara” demonstrated his animosity towards mainland Turkey.
“It is apparent that Mustafa Akinci does not deserve the position he has been holding,” Bahceli said.
Omer Celik, a spokesman for the Justice and Development (AK) Party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Akinci should apologise for his disrespectful comments.
“We condemn those statements that defame our history’s national achievements and esteemed characters,” Celik added.
The latest reunification talks failed to make progress in 2017 in Switzerland.
Turkish Cypriots want considerable devolution in a unified island and for some of the 35,000 Turkish troops currently stationed in the north to remain on the island. The Greek Cypriot side has insisted that they leave.
Akinci also criticised Turkish military operations in Syria in October, prompting Erdogan to say the Turkish Cypriot president had “totally overstepped his bounds”.
Divided Nicosia. Picture credit: Wikimedia