Ankara: Greek Cyprus trying to score political points over fire

Ankara: Greek Cyprus trying to score political points over fire

Emine Kart - ANKARA
Ankara: Greek Cyprus trying to score political points over fire

AFP photo

Ankara has voiced resentment over the Greek Cypriot leadership’s approach to its offer for aid in containing the island’s worst forest fire in years.

“[Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa] Akıncı had discussions with Greek Cypriot leader Anastasiades again and again. We wanted to send a plane and helicopter. The Greek side is trying to take advantage of such a delicate issue and against such a humanely approach, it is trying to get Turkish planes and helicopters landed on the Greek side. This is not something we would accept. We need not to make politics out of such a humanitarian issue,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in response to questions at a joint press conference following a meeting with his visiting Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu, on June 22.

“We, with a humanely approach, have conveyed our offer to aid after having seen that the fire on the Greek side cannot be contained,” he said.

Turkish Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu announced late on June 21 that Ankara was ready to send two helicopters and an aircraft from Mersin and Antalya to help fight the fire.

“Forests are common property of all mankind. We always stand ready to help extinguish fires in neighboring countries. We will not neglect to offer our assistance in the event of a request from southern Cyprus,” he said in a written statement. 

Turkey’s message was passed to Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades by Akıncı, the office of Anastasiades said earlier.

The Greek Cypriot leadership, which previously rejected the same suggestion that Akıncı conveyed, announced on June 21 evening that they have accepted the aid that Turkey offered.

Nonetheless, Anastasiades replied that “the Republic of Cyprus would accept Turkey’s help, provided that it was folded into the government’s operational planning under which the other international players were operating.”

Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.

According to information that Hürriyet obtained from sources, Turkey backed down from sending firefighting aircraft because of “the rambling insistence” by the Greek Cypriot side to have Turkish aircraft land on the southern part of the divided island.

Ankara had intended to have its aircraft only fight the fire from the air.

‘Mother country-infant country’

Speaking at the same press conference in Ankara, Ertuğruloğlu said: “As someone who knows the unity and the integrity of mother country-infant country, I feel home here, but not as a guest. I am here as a representative of the Turkish Cypriot people who defends a national cause like Cyprus along with the mother country.”

Back in April 2015, upon his election victory, Akıncı, a moderate leftist, stated that finding a resolution to the Cyprus issue, was one of the foremost agenda items for his presidency.

Akıncı’s post began with a row with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the nature of the ties between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus, but a phone call between the pair defused the tensions later.

Conflict between the two arose when Akıncı said the relationship between the countries should be one of siblings, rather than “a motherland and its infant,” during a live interview on April 27. 

“Do his ears hear what he says?” Erdoğan said in response during a press conference, after being asked by a journalist if he approved of the statement.

This year

Çavuşoğlu, meanwhile, expressed hope that the Cyprus issue would be sorted out this year. 

“Since the election in Greek Cypriot concluded, there is no excuse anymore. Leaders and negotiators should hold very tight meetings. Turkish Cyprus should be strong and ready for the future, regardless of the outcome of negotiations. We have discussed the reforms ongoing in detail. We have to complete the water pipeline project, [which supplies Turkish Cypriots water from Turkey], we agree on this also,” he said. 

“We expect both leaders to come to a conclusion based on political equality and fairness,” the minister said of the U.N.-led negotiations on the divided island. 

For his part, Ertuğruloğlu said the identity of Turkish Cypriots was being denied. 

The half-century-old Cyprus problem erupted after the island was granted independence from Britain in 1960, soon followed by an outbreak of inter-communal clashes in 1963. The island was ethnically divided between a Greek south and a Turkish north when the Turkish military intervened in 1974 under the terms of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee after diplomacy failed to end unrest on the island. In addition to the Turkish Cypriot Peace Forces Command (KTBK), made up of 4,500 Turkish Cypriots, there are around 35,000 Turkish troops stationed on the island.