Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday ruled out discussing a federal system to reunify Cyprus, insisting that a two-state accord is the only solution for the ethnically-split island.
In an address to legislators from his ruling party, Erdogan also took a swipe at Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accusing him of being confrontational and disrupting newly-resumed Greek-Turkish talks aimed at reducing tensions between the two neighbors.
“There no longer is a way out for Cyprus other than the two-state solution,” Erdogan said in reference to a peace deal that would be negotiated between two equal sovereign states. “Whether you accept it or not, there can no longer be such a thing as a federation.”
Erdogan said: “There is no point in discussing old solution formulas … which disregarded the Turkish people on the island and condemned the negotiations to failure for 50 years. That business is finished now.”
His statement came as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to call a meeting next month that will bring together rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as Cyprus’ “guarantors” — Greece, Turkey and Britain — to gauge the chances of resuming talks to reunify the island.
The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aiming to unify the island with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island’s northern third.
Turkey and the breakaway Turkish Cypriots say that a solution that envisions a federation made up of Greek and Turkish speaking zones has been tried numerous times over the past five decades and resulted in failure to what they say is Greek Cypriots’ unwillingness to share power with the Turkish Cypriots.
Greek Cypriots strongly reject any deal that would legitimize the east Mediterranean island nation’s ethnic partition.
Mitsotakis, who visited Cyprus earlier this week, said Greece’s priority was to end the Turkish occupation on Cyprus and that Turkey and Turkish Cypriots insistence on a two-state solution was “unrealistic.”
Erdogan said Mitsotakis should “know his place.”
“If they are looking for peace they should not challenge me,” Erdogan said. “If you don’t know your place, then it means that you are kicking the negotiating table.”
Last month, officials from Greece and Turkey held their first meeting in five years in Istanbul, after a year that saw the two NATO members come to the verge of conflict in the eastern Mediterranean.