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North Cyprus: Turkey's Erdogan calls for talks aimed at 'two separate states' in island visit

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front,L) and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar (front, R) laying wreath to the statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Nicosia, Nov. 15, 2020
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front,L) and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar (front, R) laying wreath to the statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Nicosia, Nov. 15, 2020   -   Copyright  AFP PHOTO /TURKISH PRESIDENT PRESS OFFICE
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Sunday for talks to aim for "two separate states" in Cyprus, during a controversial visit to the north of the divided island which Turkey has occupied for nearly five decades.

The last UN-sponsored peace talks in 2017 between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, based on the island's reunification, failed.

"There are two peoples and two separate states in Cyprus. There must be talks aimed at a solution based on two separate states," Erdogan said in a speech upon his arrival.

The Turkish leader made it clear he believed the reunification plan now belonged to the past.

"You cannot dry today's washing with yesterday's sunshine," he went on.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded its northern part in 1974 in response to a coup seeking to attach the island to Greece.

The Republic of Cyprus, the only internationally-recognised state and a member of the European Union, exerts its authority over two-thirds of the island south of a UN-monitored buffer zone.

The self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognised internationally only by Ankara, controls the northern third of the island where some 30,000 Turkish soldiers are stationed.

The election of right-wing nationalist Ersin Tatar as 'president' in North Cyprus on October 18 was a game-changer. Unlike his predecessor Mustafa Akinci who favoured reunification, Tatar backs a two-state solution.

'Provocation'

After passing through Nicosia, Erdogan was due to visit Varosha in the east, a long-abandoned beach resort sealed off by the Turkish army after he 1974 invasion.

This ghost-city, one of the symbols of the division of Cyprus, was partially reopened in October.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called Erdogan's visit a "provocation", accusing the Turkish leader of demonstrating his failure to respect international law and "boastfully showing contempt and violating the relevant decisions and resolutions of the UN".

A statement issued by the Cypriot presidency said actions by Turkey and its president "torpedo the prospect" for a solution of the Cyprus problem.

Greece said the visit amounted to a "direct violation of UN resolutions".

A meeting is due to be convened soon by the United Nations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, along with Greece, Turkey, and former colonial power the United Kingdom.

Erdogan's visit comes as regional power Turkey has openly sparred with neighbours Greece and Cyprus over maritime territories believed to hold vast gas deposits.

'Picnic of suffering'

The reopening of Varosha was denounced by Greek Cypriots but also by numerous Turkish Cypriots.

Several hundred people protested in North Cyprus last Tuesday against Erdogan's visit. "No picnic on the suffering of others!" they chanted along with other slogans.

The north is highly dependent on Turkey both politically and economically.

The visit of the Turkish president comes on the anniversary of the declaration of the 'TRNC' on November 15, 1983.