Erdogan backs two-state Cyprus deal, puts talks in doubt

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Turkish Presidency

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Ersin Tatar, Turkish Cypriot President, salute flags-waving people during a ceremony, in Nicosia, Northern Cyprus, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Erdogan attnded commemorations for the 37th anniversary of a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence on war-divided Cyprus. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

NICOSIA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to throw into doubt a new bid to restart dormant Cyprus reunification talks, saying Sunday that a two-state deal rather than the long-established federal formula is the way forward.

Speaking at commemorations for the 37th anniversary of a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence on war-divided Cyprus, Erdogan said that a two-state solution must be negotiated given that there are “two separate peoples and states” on the island.

“A two-state solution must be discussed and negotiated on the bases of sovereign equality,” said Erdogan, who accused Greek Cypriots of sabotaging progress.

He also said Turkey’s hydrocarbons prospecting in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights would continue “until a fair settlement is reached.”

Erdogan affirmed repeated calls from his subordinates as well as the new, Ankara-backed leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Ersin Tatar, to pursue a two-state accord with rival Greek Cypriots.

That approach breaks with a 1977 agreement that an envisioned deal would reunify two separately administered zones under an overarching federal government. Despite agreeing on that basis, the two sides have failed to reach an overall peace deal despite numerous rounds of U.N.-brokered talks.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north where it maintains more than 35,000 troops.

The island’s internationally-recognized government seated in the island’s Greek Cypriot south accused Erdogan of dynamiting U.N.-led attempts for a return to peace talks.