Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar condemned Senator Bob Menendez’ remarks on Monday when he was given the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III, Cyprus’ highest civilian award, in Nicosia.
Ersin Tatar, the leader of the occupied northern part of the island — a state which is not recognized by any other nation on earth except Turkey — told the press Menendez’ statement — that his goal was to see the last Turkish soldier leave the island — was “completely empty and baseless.”
Talking to reporters after taking part in an event in the Kyrenia district, Tatar called Menendez’s remarks “unacceptable,” adding that September 21 is World Peace Day and that peace on the island of Cyprus “was secured thanks to the presence of the Turkish Armed Forces,” according to a report from the Daily Sabah.
Turkish Cypriot leader condemns Menendez’ goal “to see last Turkish soldier leave Cyprus”
Tatar earlier this year took a tour of the abandoned resort town of Famagusta — which the UN has specifically designated as a no-mans-land — with the Turkish President, who intends to reopen the city to tourism.
Expanding on that topic, Tatar added that the U.N., U.K., U.S. and the whole world knows “what really happened” in Cyprus, despite the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee.
Stating that the mentality of the Greek Cypriots has not changed since 1974, Tatar warned any step that would take Turkish Cypriots back to 1974 or 1960 would “never be accepted.”
Referring to what he called the “security” of Turkish Cypriots, he said that their “safety” is ensured by the presence of Turkish soldiers there under Turkey’s guarantorship.
“Turkish soldiers are on the island for peace,” he added, declaring that “They have no other purpose or intention.
“The statement of a senator who came from the U.S. and received a medal for being a member of a lobbying activity does not bind us,” Tatar jibed. “This rhetoric is completely empty, baseless, far from the realities of Cyprus. Therefore, it is not possible for us to respect such a statement. We condemn it.”
Holding fast to the concept of a two-state solution, which has been rejected by all the other guarantor states, Tatar claimed that any withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from Cyprus would be a “big trap and plot,” declaring that they will never be “deceived.”
“The presence of the Turkish Armed Forces here and providing security is of vital importance for us. It is our indispensable and red line,” he added.
US Senator Bob Menendez said on Monday of this week that his goal is “to see the last Turkish soldier leave Cyprus,” during a visit to the island nation.
Menendez, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a consistent supporter of Greece and Cyprus and a staunch critic of Turkish President Erdogan’s policies in eastern Mediterranean. He was instrumental in passing legislation ending the US arms embargo on the Republic.
As Menendez received Cyprus’ highest order of merit, bestowed by President Nicos Anastasiades, he declared: “My commitment to this relationship, to Cyprus is deep, longstanding and will endure as long as I am a US Senator. My goal is to see the last Turkish soldier leave the island.”
Anastasiades presented Menendez with the Grand Cross of the Order of Makarios III during a ceremony at the presidential palace. The Grand Cross is one of six grades of the Order of Makarios III – the highest order of merit awarded by the Republic of Cyprus.
Cyprus has been the target of an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including the failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland on the part of guarantor countries Greece, the U.K. and Turkey.
An unofficial Cyprus conference was held at the UN’s European offices in Geneva in April of 2021 as an effort to seek common ground to negotiate a lasting solution to the conflict, which began when Turkey invaded Cyprus in the Summer of 1974.
In his remarks on Thursday, Tatar noted that there will also be bilateral meetings held this month in New York.
“I don’t think that the two sides can reach a consensus on sovereign equality and the search for common ground has not achieved results at the moment. Still, we will be in New York and we will continue our contacts,” he added.