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Erdogan tells Turkish Cypriots Ankara supports a two-state solution and will open talks with Taliban

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By Euronews with AP, AFP
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Turkish Cypriot parliament in Nicosia as part of a two-day visit on Monday.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Turkish Cypriot parliament in Nicosia as part of a two-day visit on Monday.   -   Copyright  AP/Turkish Presidency
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The President of Turkey has said during a controversial two-day visit to northern Cyprus that he still firmly supports a two-state solution on the island.

Separately, the Turkish premier also used an Eid al-Adha prayers address to tell onlookers that Ankara plans to initiate talks with the Taliban about Turkey's bid to run an airport in Kabul.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Cyprus on Monday, on the 47th anniversary of the Turkish military invasion that split the island along ethnic lines. The northern side of the country marks July 20 as a ‘peace and freedom day’.

Erdogan is set to attend numerous official events over the 48-hour visit, including a football match with ministers and Turkish Cypriot officials in Nicosia and a 'special' session of parliament.

Addressing lawmakers on Monday, Erdogan said his country stood by a two-state solution for Cyprus, saying neither state could afford to "lose another 50 years". He added: "We fully support the proposal presented by [Turkish Cypriot President] Ersin Tatar. We do not intend to compromise."

Erdoğan also said Turkey would construct a new presidency building for northern Cyprus, as well as a national park in the Metehan district. He further claimed that Greek Cypriots had never seen Turkish Cypriots as their equals, adding: “There is nothing left to be discussed in these negotiations."

AP/Turkish Presidency
Erdogan, right, and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar review a military honour guard at Ercan Airport on MondayAP/Turkish Presidency

Some Turkish Cypriot parties, including the main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) and the Communal Democratic Party (TDP), had said they would boycott the parliamentary session on Monday because of Ankara's alleged interference in domestic politics.

In a statement issues online, the CTP said it believed the relationship between Turkey and northern Cyprus was becoming unsustainable. It also pointed out that no meetings with opposition parties were included in Erdogan’s schedule.

The TDP, meanwhile, said it was boycotting Erdogan's address to lawmakers over the deportation of Ali Bizden, former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı's press coordinator, from Istanbul's Sabiha Gökçen Airport on July 6 this year.

“As a result of our citizens not being taken into Turkey in recent days, we, as the TDP, have decided to not participate in the parliamentary session that will take place on July 20,” the party said.

Erdogan: Turkey will speak to the Taliban about Kabul airport proposals

Speaking after Eid al-Adha prayers at the Hala Sultan Mosque in Lefkosa on Tuesday, Erdogan told those present that his country planned to initiate talks with the Taliban.

Turkey has proposed that it secure and operate the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Up until now, Ankara been negotiating with the United States on the matter.

"This process will also be discussed with the Taliban,” Erdogan said, adding that the Islamists had also negotiated with the U.S. and “should hold these talks much more comfortably with Turkey.”

Erdogan’s comments followed Taliban warnings last week that Turkey should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, along with other foreign forces. The issue of the airport has become increasingly urgent ahead of the final withdrawal of the last 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops and 76,000 allied NATO soldiers from Afghanistan, at a time when the Taliban is rapidly gaining ground in the country.

Greek Cypriots protest as EU stands firm

President Erdogan's arrival on Monday was met with protests by Greek Cypriots in the village of Derynia, 2 kilometres away from the Turkish-controlled Famagusta.

Demonstrators called for a reunion of the fractured state, in contrast to Erdogan's projections for the future of Cyprus.

Participant Andreas Charalambous told AP: "We came to Derynia today because this is the spot where there was a call to come here and shout for a united Cyprus, a federal Cyprus, the Cyprus we want and the only Cyprus that can give us a future, hope for tomorrow."

Nedim Enginsoy/AP
Some Turkish Cypriot political parties said they planned to boycott Erdogan's parliamentary addressNedim Enginsoy/AP

Fellow protester Costas Antoniou said: "Erdogan is playing his game how he wants it, but personally I don't believe he will dominate in the end. In politics, many things happen."

Only Turkey recognises the Turkish-Cypriot declaration of independence, and the country keeps 35,000 troops on the Mediterranean island.

In a 1983 resolution, the UN Security Council denounced the Turkish Cypriots' secessionist move as legally invalid and called for its withdrawal. The European Union has also ruled out a two-state deal.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said in Nicosia earlier this month that the 27 member-bloc, which Cyprus joined in 2004, would "never, ever" accept such an arrangement.

But Turkey and some Turkish Cypriots say a two-state deal is the only way to peace because nearly five decades of negotiations based on forging a federation have led nowhere.

In a statement, the EU's diplomatic chief, Josep Borrell, said he was "concerned" by Erdogan's announcement and said the plan was "unacceptable".

"The EU once again stresses the need to avoid unilateral actions contrary to international law and new provocations, which could increase tensions on the island and jeopardise the resumption of talks towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue," Borrell said.