Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the resolution of disputes over the divided island of Cyprus is possible through peace talks taking place only between "the two states" on the Mediterranean island.
"A new negotiation process to heal Cyprus' division can only be carried out between the two states. We are right and we will defend our right to the end," Erdogan said in a speech in the northern Cypriot capital of Nicosia on Tuesday, marking the 47th anniversary of Turkey's 1974 invasion.
Turkey launched an operation on July 20, 1974 to presumably protect the island's Turkish Cypriot community following a Greek-backed military coup to annex Cyprus. Cyprus has since been divided into the Turkish Cypriot-controlled northern and the Greek Cypriot-controlled southern territories.
Greek Cypriots run the island's internationally-recognized government, while Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway state in the north and claim the offshore resources there.
"No one should expect from Turkish Cypriots to give up their equal status and sovereignty, and to accept to live as a minority as per the will of the Greek Cypriots," Erdogan said, adding that the Turkish Cypriots will not compromise on their "independence."
The Turkish president also said the equal status of the Turkish Cypriots should be confirmed and said that, "This is the key to the solution."
Also on Tuesday, Erdogan met with Turkish Cypriot president Ersin Tatar.
Advocating a "two-state" solution, Tatar told the British paper Guardian after the meeting that, "Our friends in the south will do everything they can to stop us from being able to prosper… their policy is to stifle us until we give up."
The Turkish Cypriot president said Erdogan had embraced his proposal of a "two-state" solution to the Cyprus problem after years of failed peace talks aimed at uniting the Mediterranean island in a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
"People think he instructed me to follow his policy. That is not true. I am the man who convinced Erdogan that after all these federation opportunities had been exhausted, we should go for this two-state solution," Tatar said.
"He supported me and is very happy to do so because Turkish public opinion has bought it… For 85 million Turks, Cyprus is a very high-powered national issue. I have always said that the only way forward to a realistic solution is a two-state solution," he said.
Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have been embroiled in a long-running territorial dispute in the eastern Mediterranean over the region's resources.
Disagreements over Cyprus, refugee flows, and oil and gas drilling rights in the Mediterranean have deepened.
Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades had earlier condemned Erdogan's visit as "provocative and illegal," accusing Ankara of showing “no respect for international law, European principles and values, and its obligations towards the EU."