New Turkish Cypriot leader smooths spat with Ankara

mustafa akıncı
President-elect announces visit to Turkey following brief rift with 'motherland'

The newly-elected president of the  is expected to make his first official visit to Turkey.

In an exclusive interview with The Anadolu Agency, Mustafa Akinci said: “The oath-taking ceremony is on Thursday. In the upcoming period which is most suitable for him [Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan], I will be pleased to make this visit.”

Erdogan called Akinci to congratulate him ahead of a visit to Kuwait from Ankara on Monday.

However, relations between the two nations got off to a rocky start when Erdogan earlier criticized Akinci’s remarks about their relationship.

Akinci, who won the second-round ballot against incumbent Dervis Eroglu on Sunday with more than 60 percent of the vote, said that rather than viewing Turkey as the “motherland,” his country wanted “brotherly” ties with Ankara, drawing a rebuke from Erdogan.

Speaking to AA, Akinci, a moderate left-winger, appeared to attempt to repair any damage. “The love of motherland is in our hearts,” he said. “It has an emotive meaning.”

He added: “These relations are needed… because the presence of the Turkish Cypriot community, who stand on their own feet and who want to have brotherly relations with Turkey, are not against Turkey.”

Turkey is the only nation to recognize the TRNC while most of the international community acknowledges the Greek Cypriot administration, which is an EU member.

In the past, voting in the TRNC have been clouded by claims that Ankara interferes in elections. The country’s first president, Rauf Denktas, once said: “No-one can be elected as president of the TRNC that Turkey doesn’t want.”

Akinci said that although that had been the case in the past, “this time, the Turkish government said that they would not intervene.”

The former mayor of Cyprus’ divided capital Lefkosa said he would aim to be an impartial president above party politics. “I will take care of the public, not the parties,” he said.

He revealed that the UN special adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide would visit the island on May 4 to resume reunification talks that collapsed in October last year after a clash over Cyprus’s potential offshore gas riches.

The Greek Cypriot administration suspended negotiations after Turkey sent a gas exploration vessel to waters off southern Cyprus. Turkey later removed the ship.

“Several tensions arose due to the gas issue,” Akinci told AA. “These will only take us to further tensions. We want stability.”

Cyprus has been divided since a Greek Cypriot coup to unite the island with Greece was thwarted by a Turkish military intervention and peace operation in 1974.