Turkey's president on Saturday spoke virtually at the opening ceremony of an irrigation tunnel to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), commenting on the Cyprus issue.
“If there are to be new talks on Cyprus, these should no longer be between the two communities, but between the two states," he said.
Underlining that the equal status and sovereign equality of Turkish Cypriots must be confirmed before fresh negotiations could begin, Erdogan said the latest Cyprus talks held informally in Geneva last month had been inconclusive due to the "intransigent attitude of the Greek side, detached from the facts on island."
Erdogan said the recent unofficial 5+UN meeting on Cyprus in Geneva at the end of April marked a turning point in the struggle for independence and the future.
"As Turkey, we have fully supported the proposals made in Geneva by the Turkish Cypriot side under the leadership of my dear brother, Mr. [Ersin Tatar]. On this occasion, I would like to congratulate Mr. President Tatar on his leadership in Geneva and his determined stance,” said Erdogan.
“Rejecting a two-state solution means rejecting the sovereignty, equality, independence and state of the Turkish Cypriot people. Neither we nor the TRNC consent to such injustice, such usurpation of rights.
“In particular, we will never allow the Turkish Cypriots’ existing rights to energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean be defeated,” the Turkish president said.
“We have never seen the fate of the TRNC separate from our own. The welfare of the people of Northern Cyprus, their ability to stand on their own feet and their development are our primary goals,” he added.
Possible water shortage
Erdogan also made comments on Turkey’s help to Turkish Cypriots in dealing more effectively with the risk of possible water shortage.
He stated that the TRNC has been experiencing an increasing water shortage for the past 30 years due to the fact that it is in an island country and due to its limited natural resources.
He noted that Turkey has delivered an annual 75 million cubic meters of water to the TRNC via pipeline, which is 80-kilometer long [49.7-mile] and passes 250 meters below [nearly 821 feet] below the sea surface.
“In addition, with a modern drinking water treatment plant and a 529-kilometer-long [nearly 329-mile] distribution line, we provided drinking and potable water of upstream water quality to the whole of Northern Cyprus,” said Erdogan.
He said Ankara was determined "not to leave Turkish Cyprus in need of others," with its projects to eliminate the risk of water shortage.
With the Lefkosa Emergency Hospital, which was opened on Nov. 15, 2020, Erdogan stressed that the Turkish people were on Turkish Cypriots’ side during their most troubled days due to the pandemic.
He recalled that at a time when almost 100 countries did not have access to the first dose of the vaccine Turkey shares its doses of vaccines with the Turkish Cypriots, and said a wide range of important projects from industry to education, from defense to information technology, agriculture to tourism have been implemented.
“As the motherland and guarantor, Turkey will stand by the TRNC and the Turkish people of Cyprus.”
New irrigation system
Apart from Tatar, Erdogan also thanked protocol members and contractor company managers involved in the irrigation tunnel project.
“On this occasion, I hope that the drought will end and the land will become much more fertile. May God bless you all,” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking at the opening ceremony, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the TRNC's territory, which have long been in need of water, would become fertile with the new sprinkler system and drip irrigation.
Economic and development cooperation between the two countries will contribute to the rise of the sovereign TRNC that can stand confidently on its own feet, Oktay said.
Quality of life improved
TRNC President Ersin Tatar also thanked everyone who contributed to the implementation of the project.
He recalled that on Jan. 6, 2020, a failure occurred in the Water Supply Project, and with the great support of the Turkish government, the problem was solved.
Stating that the structure in TRNC will be strengthened with these works with its homeland Turkey, Tatar stressed that these efforts will also have a positive impact on TRNC’s economy.
Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersan Saner noted the “Project of the Century” was seen by many as impossible to realize, saying this project was opened on Oct. 17, 2015 and all the targets set out continued to be realized one by one.
"The transfer of Anatolian water to the TRNC is a complete revolution. This resource has improved the quality of life of our people, especially in the TRNC. Today, the opening we will do together will enable our Green Island Cyprus to flourish," Saner said.
"It is of great importance that our homeland Turkey is with us as we walk towards our goals with determination in a period of social, economic and political difficulties triggered by the greatest epidemic in the history of the world," he added.
Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long struggle between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
The island has been divided since 1964, when ethnic attacks forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece's annexation led to Turkey's military intervention as a guarantor power. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in 1983.
The Greek Cypriot administration, backed by Greece, became a member of the European Union in 2004, although most Greek Cypriots rejected a UN settlement plan in a referendum that year, which had envisaged a reunited Cyprus joining the EU.
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