By Muhammet Ikbal Arslan and Abdullah Yasin Guler
LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus/ANKARA (AA) – Turkey’s vice president on Wednesday underscored the need for a two-state solution for the long-divided island of Cyprus.
“We can talk and negotiate two separate states on the basis of two equal states and two equal societies on Cyprus,” said Fuat Oktay, speaking to Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) state broadcaster BRT.
“We can talk about how to fill this in, but now the [the idea of a] federated state is left behind,” added Oktay, who paid an official visit to Northern Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece's annexation of the island was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power.
It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the UK. The TRNC was founded in 1983.
Turkey has recently stressed that efforts for a “federal” solution have proved hopeless and any future talks must focus on two separate sovereign states on the island.
– Eastern Mediterranean
On tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Oktay recalled a proposal from Turkey for a multilateral conference on the issue.
“Both the EU and the UN welcomed this[…]We said 'Of course, on one condition: representatives of the Greek Cypriot community are invited to this conference together with those of the TRNC. They come together or not at all,’” he said.
“Problems in the Eastern Mediterranean can be discussed with all clarity.”
Noting that with the discovery of hydrocarbon resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus turned into a focal point for many countries, Oktay said these resources should be fairly shared.
Tensions have been running high for months in the Eastern Mediterranean as Greece has disputed Turkey's rights to energy exploration.
Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – sent out drill ships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, asserting its rights in the region as well as those of the TRNC.
Greece has made maximalist maritime territorial boundary claims based on small islands just kilometers off the Turkish coast. To reduce tensions, Ankara has called for dialogue and negotiations to ensure fair sharing of the region's resources.