By Muhammet Ikbal Arslan
LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (AA) – Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) are "one whole," Turkey's foreign minister said Thursday.
"We say that the TRNC should be on the table as an equal partner and that there can be a permanent peace and solution on the basis of a two-state solution," Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit to the Turkish Resistance Organization (TMT) in Northern Cyprus.
He said Turkey always feels the "strength and support" of the TRNC.
"For more than half a century, we have all been trying to back the Cyprus issue,” Cavusoglu said, adding that Turkey is aware of the support of the TMT for the Turkish Cypriots’ "struggle for existence," and thanked the group for its efforts.
"As in the past, as our ancestors and elders defended the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people, today we are acting together as Turkey and the TRNC to defend the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people," he said.
The head of the TMT, Yilmaz Bora, thanked Cavusoglu for his visit and support.
"Today, we are proud and happy to live in the independent TRNC. These days have not come easy," said Bora as he recalled the historical background the TRNC has lived through.
Bora said between 1963-1974, Turkish Cypriots lived under attacks by the Greeks and had to leave 103 villages.
He also hailed the two-state solution. "The two-state solution model is the right decision, it has no other option," he said.
Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s 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 to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded in 1983.
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 Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN's Annan plan to end the dispute, proposed by then-UN chief Kofi Annan.
*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara