Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defended a two-state solution in Cyprus during a visit to the northern part of the Mediterranean island on Monday.
“If there is a return to the negotiation table, the way to do this is through recognition of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus,” Erdoğan said in his first foreign visit since his re-election in late May.
Cyprus, which joined the European Union in 2004, has been divided since Turkey’s 1974 invasion of the northern part, in response to a coup by Greek Cypriot nationalists who wished to link the country to Greece.
The northern part with a majority of Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers, was self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (RTCN) in 1983.
“The just demands of the Turkish Cypriots are clear and unequivocal. Turkish Cypriots have never been and never will be a minority,” Erdoğan insisted.
The Turkish president was was welcomed by his close ally Ersin Tatar, the president of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (RTCN).
Tatar said that northern Cyprus continues to “live in harmony with the Turkish mother country.”
Northern Cyprus’ existence is only recognized by Ankara, whereas the European Union considers the whole of the island as part of the EU.
Turkey maintains a large military contingent in northern Cyprus, and is a major contributor to the region’s economy.
The Mediterranean island currently has a buffer zone patrolled by the UN’s peacekeeping force to divide the internationally recognised southern half and the northern region.
Erdoğan, however, is not unanimous in northern Cyprus as he collected only 42.2% votes of nearly 85,000 Turks and Turkish Cypriots with Turkish citizenship who went to the polls for the second round of the Turkish presidential election.
Negotiations on a settlement of the two-state solution have stalled since 2017.
A UN plan to reunite the island was put to a referendum in 2004, which was approved by 65% of Turkish Cypriots in the north.
More than 75% of the Greek Cypriots in the South were against Turkey’s proposed division of the Mediterranean island.