Erdogan raps new Turkish Cypriot leader

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan became embroiled with a war of words with the newly elected leader of northern Cyprus on Monday, bluntly telling him he should be careful what says.

Mustafa Akinci, who won a run-off poll in the Turkish-occupied north of the divided island on Sunday, drew Ankara’s ire when he said Turkey and the breakaway state should enjoy a relationship of “brotherly countries” rather than mother and child.

The election of Akinci, a former mayor of northern Nicosia and a vocal advocate of reconciliation with the internationally recognized Cyprus government, has raised hopes of an end to the island’s decades-long division.

But Erdogan told reporters at an Ankara airport: “Mr president (Akinci) should listen to what he says.”

Turkey, the only country to recognize the breakaway state, has often referred to it as the “yavru vatan” or “baby homeland” — a label rejected by some Turkish Cypriots.

Turkish troops invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 and Turkish Cypriots declared their breakaway state in 1983.

“This country has paid a price in northern Cyprus and continues to do so,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkey contributes about one billion dollars (900 million euros) to the north.

The failure to reach a deal to reunify the eastern Mediterranean island has also hampered Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union.

Speaking to CNN-Turk television, Akinci said he was seeking a “healthy relationship” with Ankara, not tensions.

“There is no hostility against Turkey here,” he said. “Doesn’t Turkey want to see its baby grow up?”