By Murat Demirci and Mumin Altas
LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Turkey's vice president on Thursday said Ankara will always protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the long-divided Mediterranean island.
“We will never allow TRNC’s [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] rights to be harmed,” Fuat Oktay said during a meeting with TRNC President Mustafa Akinci in Lefkosa.
“I would like to announce one more time, as Turkey, we will be part of any kind of constructive work [on reunification talks] but we will never ignore the games that will be played [on this issue],” Oktay said.
For his part, Akinci said that both Turkey and Turkish Cypriots want a just and permanent solution in the island.
“If there is a will, this island’s lands and the seas are enough for everyone,” Akinci added.
Oktay was in Turkish Cypriot capital Lefkosa as the country marks the 35th anniversary of its foundation.
Earlier today, Oktay attended a ceremony alongside Akinci, Prime Minister Tufan Erhurman and Turkish Cypriot Parliament Speaker Teberruken Ulucay.
Cyprus was divided into a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south after a 1974 military coup was followed by violence against the island’s Turkish people, and Turkey’s intervention as a guarantor power.
There has been an on-and-off peace process over recent years, the latest failed initiative having taken place in Crans-Montana, Switzerland in July 2017 under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K.
Later on Thursday, Oktay met with Turkish Cypriot PM Erhurman. Turkey always stands by Turkish Cypriots, he said.
“Greek Cypriot side should understand that if there will be a solution, the solution will be on sharing powers and responsibilities as well as administering together,” Oktay said.