UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES FROM OKTAY, TRNC PRIME MINISTER
By Mumin Altas
LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (AA) – Turkey’s vice president on Friday attended an official ceremony held in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to mark its 36th foundation anniversary.
During the ceremony, the participants observed a minute of silence. Fuat Oktay, together with TRNC President Mustafa Akinci, laid a wreath at the Lefkosa Ataturk Monument.
Then, as part of a tradition, Oktay signed the record book at the monument and wrote that the TRNC was founded as a result of the resolute stance of Turkish Cypriots, and Turkey was proud to mark the foundation of the country.
"TRNC grows stronger with development," he wrote, adding the country made progress by advancing side by side with Turkey.
Oktay noted that Turkey would continue to stand by “brotherly” Turkish Cypriots.
"We have always sided with settlement of the Cyprus issue — our national cause — based on mutual understanding and shared wisdom," Oktay said in his address to Turkish Cypriots and state figures on the Fazil Kucuk Boulevard.
He added that Turkish Cypriots' "saga of resistance and awakening" peaked when the country was founded in 1983 following Turkey's peace operation in 1974.
Asserting that the close relations between Turkey and TRNC were deep-rooted and could not be damaged by any individual or group, he said: "The future of these deep relations is entrusted to our youth, therefore, our youth should protect their values, culture and kinship while being aware of the distant and recent past."
Oktay went on to say that Turkey has shown goodwill over five decades in negotiations with Greek Cypriots, whose "intransigent" attitude prevented parties from reaching concrete results.
"Turkish Cypriots have always acted in line with an understanding based on resolution and consensus and supported the partnership on the island that was distorted by Greek Cypriots," he said.
"Turkey, for its part, has always stood by Turkish Cypriots within the frame of international law," he said, adding that Ankara would continue to support the TRNC.
He went on to criticize the international community for confining the TRNC to embargo and isolation amid smear campaigns conducted by the media outlets of Greek Cypriots, adding that such acts had no legal or legitimate basis.
The event was largely attended by officials from Turkey and the TRNC, including the latter’s president, prime minister, parliament speaker, former’s parliament speaker and lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties.
TRNC was established on Nov. 15, 1983, almost a decade after Turkey’s Cyprus Peace Operation on the island, which stopped persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots.
– Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbons
Oktay underlined that Turkey had always articulated that the hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean basin should be used as an opportunity to bring peace and stability to the island.
"The Greek Cypriot side, which lives with a false notion that they are the sole owners of the island, reckons it could put the Turkish Cypriot side in a difficult position by abusing its membership in the EU," he said.
He added that Turkey would not make even the smallest concession regarding its legitimate rights on hydrocarbon reserves in the basin, Oktay said, adding: "Our determination is vivid in our diplomatic initiatives, military power and energy policies."
Referring to the EU's sanction threats to Turkey for its drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, he said: "The sanction draft adopted by the EU's foreign ministers is null and void.
Oktay later met with TRNC's Prime Minister Ersin Tatar and thanked Turkish Cypriots for their support for Turkey’s ongoing anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
"No matter what the circumstances are, Turkey and the Turkish people are with you. You are also with us at all times. You have showed this clearly in the Operation Peace Spring,” Oktay said during his meeting.
Tatar, for his part, said Turkey’s guarantorship regarding the Cyprus issue is crucial for TRNC.
"If one day an agreement is reached [about Cyprus dispute], sovereign equality should be discussed rather than political equality,” he added.
* Writing and contribution by Ali Murat Alhas and Sibel Morrow