ISTANBUL: Turkey on Saturday strongly condemned comments by the leader of breakaway northern Cyprus, Mustafa Akinci, who said the prospect of annexation by Ankara was “horrible”.

Akinci is president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, only recognised by Ankara.

In an interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Thursday, Akinci said reunification remained the only viable solution to Cyprus.

He warned that if this failed to happen, the north would grow increasingly dependent on Ankara and could end up as a de facto Turkish province. He called this prospect “horrible”.

“We condemn the comments in the firmest terms,” Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency, said in a statement.

Altun said the Turkish Cypriot leader did not merit his current office.

“The Turkish people will teach Mustafa Akinci his place,” he said, referring to elections in April.

Since a summit in Switzerland collapsed in July 2017, there has been no movement in UN-sponsored negotiations for the divided Mediterranean island.

Turkey has had troops stationed in the country since 1974 when it invaded and occupied its northern third after a coup sponsored by the military junta then ruling Greece.

The Republic of Cyprus, which is an EU member since 2004, has effective control over the southern two-thirds of the island.

That is not the first time Ankara is at loggerheads with Akinci, whose criticism of the Turkish military operation in Syria in October last year sparked an angry response from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan had then said the Turkish Cypriot leader had “totally overstepped his bounds”.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2020