08:58 GMT05 December 2020
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    On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to throw shade on the idea of restarting United Nations-sponsored Cyprus reunification talks, saying there were “two peoples and two separate states” on the disputed island, which has been divided in two since the Turkish invasion of 1974.

    European Commission President Josep Borrell has accused Turkey of “widening its separation” from Brussels via Ankara’s latest comments on Cyprus.

    “We consider the recent actions and statements by Turkey related to Cyprus contrary to the United Nations resolutions and further igniting tensions,” Borrell said, speaking to reporters on Thursday following a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

    “We consider that it is important that Turkey understands that its behaviour is widening its separation from the EU…In order to return to a positive agenda, as we wish, will require a fundamental change of attitude on the Turkish side,” the senior diplomat said.

    Borrell warned that “time is running out” for the EU and Turkey to soothe relations, and said that the Brussels and Ankara were rapidly “approaching a watershed moment” in ties.

    Two-State Solution

    Borrell’s comments come in the wake of President Erdogan’s visit to the Ankara-recognized ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ on Sunday. During the visit, the Turkish president said that there need to be “talks for a solution” to the Cyprus conflict “on the basis of two separate states.”

    Cyprus, a EU member, decried Erdogan’s trip to the island as “provocative and illegal,” and accused Turkey of failing to “respect at all international legality, European principles and values, and its obligations toward the European Union.”

    Brussels has also threatened to slap sanctions on Turkey over its ongoing gas drilling in waters claimed by both Greece and Cyprus. In his visit Sunday, Erdogan vowed to continue gas drilling “until a fair settlement is reached.”

    Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, in the aftermath of a Greek Cypriot coup d’état ordered by the military junta governing Greece at the time, which had as its aim unifying Cyprus with mainland Greece. In the aftermath of the Turkish operation, over 210,000 civilians were displaced between the northern and southern parts of the island. Turkey recognized the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ in 1983, but remains the only state to do so. Ankara continues to occupy about 36 percent of the island nation today, and maintains a garrison of about 35,000 troops.

    Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have held several rounds of reunification talks over the past two decades. However, recently, Nicosia has accused Ankara of seeking to torpedo the resumption of UN-sponsored talks, and of “showing contempt” for UN resolutions on the Cyprus dispute.

    The Cyprus dispute is one of multiple geopolitical hotspots that the Turkish government has become involved in recently. President Erdogan has deployed troops into neighbouring Syria, provided military aid to the Tripoli government in Libya, gotten into an exclusive economic zone maritime dispute with Greece and Egypt, become involved in a long-running spat with the government of Israel, and provided military support for Azerbaijan in the latest flare-up of fighting in the Armenian-Azeri conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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