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Turkish PM demands action against Turkish Cypriot protesters

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 2/6/2011 12:00:00 AM |

The Turkish prime minister called Sunday for the Turkish Cypriot administration to take legal action against protesters he accused of insulting Turkey and its government.

The Turkish prime minister called Sunday for the Turkish Cypriot administration to take action against protesters he accused of insulting Turkey and its government, intensifying the spat with northern Cyprus while drawing criticism from the opposition.

“Who are these people [the protesters]? We have video records of them. They need to be submitted to the court. The placards cursing Turkey should not have been permitted. You have to do whatever necessary to this end,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a press conference organized in Istanbul to inform the media about his telephone conversation Sunday morning with Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu.

“The prime minister’s statements on [northern Cyprus] are really unfortunate,” main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters at the Munich Security Conference. “Turkey is a country that defends its rights and interests. We know it is a very important country for Turkey. We are their advocates in the international arena. Saying, ‘Do not talk, do not protest in return for our aid,’ is not a statement that a Turkish prime minister can make.”

Erdoğan’s ire was ignited by a mass protest held Jan. 28 in northern Cyprus to protest the government’s austerity policy, the result of a protocol between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot government. A group of protesters unfurled banners harshly critical of Turkey’s – and Erdoğan’s – intervention in their affairs. Some were waving Greek Cypriot flags.

“They [protesters] are telling Turkey to get out [of northern Cyprus]. Who do you think you are? What Greece is doing there is the same as what Turkey is doing there strategically. It is meaningful that those who are fed by our country are going that way,” the prime minister said last week in his first statement slamming the protesters.

Those comments drew strong reactions in the northern part of the island from almost all segments of the society, the media and politicians. “Who do you think you are?” was the headline on many Turkish Cypriot newspapers over the weekend. Many said it is the Turkish Cypriot people who have been suffering the most since the early 1960s.

Eroğlu released a statement Saturday calling on people to be responsible in their protests and saying that demonstrations targeting Turkey and its government cannot be accepted. “This sort of rhetoric is contradictory to our struggle for existence and damages our national values,” he said. Though he acknowledged the right to protest, Eroğlu echoed Erdoğan’s observation that some protesters went beyond the bounds of a democratic rally.

Erdoğan’s accusations hurt all Turkish Cypriot people because he criticized the entire north of the island without making a distinction about the people who were cursing him, according to the website of the Kıbrıs Gazetesi, a newspaper published in northern Cyprus.

The prime minister corrected this impression Sunday, saying, “This is not a manner of an approach to the people of [Turkish Cyprus]. This belongs to a group, a group we know.” He said what made him angry with the protests was the Turkish Cypriot government’s inaction against a group that insulted the motherland that finances this tiny state.

“[The government] should have given the necessary reaction. This is a group in coordination with [Greek Cyprus]. They want to dynamite the ongoing peace talks,” Erdoğan said. “I believe the [Turkish Cypriot] administration will take the necessary actions against this group. We will do whatever necessary as well.”

When Eroğlu responded that his administration knew about the group and who is behind them, the Turkish prime minister said: “If you know who they are, then do whatever is necessary.”

[HH] CHP critical over Cyprus spat

CHP chief Kılıçdaroğlu said Erdoğan’s earlier statements on other issues, such as the revolts in Egypt, were corrected later by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, adding that he was sure Davutoğlu would correct this one as well.

Responding Saturday, Davutoğlu, who was also in Munich, said, “It should be Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu who has the last word on our prime minister’s statements on our relations with Turkish Cyprus.” Addressing the state of bilateral relations, Davutoğlu added: “What we say is that the Turkish Cypriot people should also protect this relationship. It is not possible to understand some interest groups’ criticizing of the Republic of Turkey on the pretext of economic reforms and encouraging some external groups through launching an internal debate.”

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