Just days before his meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with the leader of the Turkish Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, went on a nationalistic rant against Greece and Cyprus during an international conference on trade in Turkey Tuesday, dampening expectations regarding the outcome of the weekend talks between the two leaders in Abu Dhabi.
Speaking at the 7th Annual Bosporus Summit, Erdogan slammed Cyprus for using its flag as representative of the whole island and ignoring the northern part of the island.
“You can’t have a flag like that when the TRNC is there,” he said, referring to the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, adding that the Greek Cypriots use their flag at European Union summits “without shame.”
“You are the Greek-Cypriot administration of southern Cyprus. In the north, there is a Turkish republic, you see – one way or another they will learn and understand,” he said, describing the Greek Cypriots as “rude.”
His comments came in the wake of his recent repeated references to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which set the borders between Greece and Turkey, as “unfair” and after last week’s breakdown of United Nations-backed Cyprus reunification talks at the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin. Erdogan said that he urged Tsipras for a bilateral or multilateral summit on Cyprus, insisting that “this issue cannot drag on.”
“We should reach somewhere by the end of the year, but if we start saying that this land is ours, and that only we will govern, we will get nowhere.”
For his part, Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci warned that if there is no solution, then “we will continue on our path” and called on international businessmen to invest in the occupied part of the island.
In response to Erdogan’s remarks, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that the “main priority now should be restarting talks on Cyprus,” adding that a bilateral summit had not been designated.
“It will take place at the right time, when the talks restart and lead to a just and viable solution.”
The Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Turkey’s leadership had again tried to equate the victim, Cyprus, with the culprit, Turkey, by making historically inaccurate and arbitrary claims “that seek to exempt it from its responsibilities as an occupying force,” on the island.
However, the CHP leader, Kilicdaroglu, raised the rhetoric a notch, accusing the Erdogan government of compromising too much with the Greeks and Greek Cypriots, and urging him to take over 18 Greeks islets in the eastern Aegean that he claimed belong to Turkey.
“The islets are ours. There is a Greek flag. They are in a state of occupation. [The Turkish government talks] about Lausanne and that we lost lands. But they have lost 18 islets under our nose. And now I ask [Turkish Prime Minister] Binali Yildirim: Will you take back the 18 islets or not?” he said, accusing Erdogan of “selling out” Cyprus by agreeing to reduce the Turkish-held territory from 37 percent to 29.2 percent.
“We ask [the Turkish government]: Are these islands ours? Yes, they say. Should our flag be flying on the islets? Yes, they say. But there is a Greek flag there. Why don’t you intervene?”