UPDATES WITH REMARKS BY OTHER TURKISH OFFICIALS; REVISES HEADLINE
By Burcu Calik, Esin Isik, Tugcenur Yilmaz and Yusuf Soykan Bal
ANKARA (AA) - Turkish army will never hesitate to take the same step as 45 years ago "if needed for the lives and security of Turkish Cypriots," Turkey’s president said on Saturday.
"Turkey launched the peace operation in Cyprus to protect rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots who are one of the equal owners of the island," said Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a statement released by Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate.
Erdogan's remarks came on the 45th anniversary of Turkey’s military operation launched to protect Turkish population in Cyprus.
"The entire world is watching our determination. No one should doubt that the heroic Turkish army, which sees [Northern] Cyprus as its homeland, will not hesitate to take the same step it took 45 years ago if needed for the lives and security of the Turkish Cypriots," said Erdogan.
Erdogan recalled that the military operation in 1974 came after all diplomatic steps were exhausted in line with the international law and added:
"Those who think the wealth of the island and the region only belongs to them will face the determination of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots."
Erdogan highlighted that Turkey's aim was a fair and permanent solution on the island and peace, not the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean to prevail.
"Those who dream of changing the fact that Turkish Cypriots are an integral part of the Turkish nation will soon realize that it is in vain," Erdogan added.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also marked the 45th anniversary of the July 20 Peace and Freedom Operation in Cyprus.
“Yesterday, today, and always, we will stand by the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus],” he tweeted.
Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun wished God’s mercy upon those martyred during the peace operation in his Twitter message on the anniversary of the 1974 operation.
“Turkey will continue to use all rights and opportunities to protect the rights and interest of Turkish Cypriots, to ensure a fair and lasting solution in the island, and to make the peace prevail in the region in line with the international law,” he said.
Additionally, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the main opposition leader of Republican People’s Party (CHP), shared a video on Twitter to mark the anniversary of the peace operation.
“The 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation is one of the significant steps we took for [our] foreign policy,” Kilicdaroglu said in the video featuring aerial footage of the Besparmak Mountains on the north side of the island.
Kilicdaroglu also remembered Bulent Ecevit, former CHP leader and then-prime minister of Turkey, and Rauf Denktas, the founding president of the TRNC.
In 1974, following a coup aiming at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.
The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the dispute, all ending in failure. The latest one, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. -- ended in 2017 in Switzerland.
In 2004, in twin referendums, the plan of then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was accepted by Turkish Cypriots but rejected by Greek Cypriots.
Talks have focused on a federal model, based on the political equality of the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides, but Greek Cypriots’ rejection of such a solution, including the Annan plan, led to the emergence of other models.
In a recent report, current UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also said that "new ideas" may be needed for a settlement on the island.
*Writing by Sibel Ugurlu and Burak Bir