Mustafa Akinci, the president of Northern Cyprus has accused Turkish nationalist leader Devlet Bahceli of insulting Turkish Cypriots.
“Devlet Bahceli, the leader of [Turkey’s far-right] Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), today continued his habit of insulting the Cypriot Turkish people, this time by using our President Mustafa Akinci’s interview with the Guardian,” said a statement by Akinci’s Spokesman Baris Burcu on Sunday.
The statement Bahceli’s call for Akinci to move to the Greek part of the divided island after he said Cypriot Turks do not want Turkey’s annexation of the Turkish side.
The statement called Bahceli’s remarks “outdated, racist, and fascistic”, adding that the MHP leader had again used his always-contentious tone this time against Akinci by insulting.
Earlier this week, the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) had told the Guardian that the partition of the island as Greek and Turkish would be permanent, unless an equitable federal solution is swiftly reached, calling the scenario of annexation by Turkey “terrible”.
On Saturday, MHP’s Bahceli called on Akinci to resign immediately over his comments, reminding him of an old slogan of “Cyprus is Turkish and will remain Turkish.”
Akinci said in response that the slogan was backward and belonged to the 1950s.
“It does not reflect the real situation. There are different communities living in Cyprus and the search for a federal structure in which to live in peace goes on,” Akinci said.
The TRNC president added that Turkish Cypriots would neither accept being subservient to Greek Cypriots nor a slave to rulers in Turkey and instead want independence and freedom.
“Our struggle is for a rightful position with equality, security, and freedom by ensuring our unique character and identity. No one should feel uncomfortable with this position of the Turkish Cypriots and their fair and democratic right,” the statement read.
On the same day, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the MHP’s election ally, also called on Akinci to apologize for his remarks.
“He [Akinci] must apologize for the disrespect he has shown against Turkey and the Turkish nation,” the AKP Spokesman Omer Celik tweeted.
The nationalist MHP also reiterated that Akinci should immediately apologize and remove the statement targeting Bahceli from the presidential website.
Turkey, the only country recognizing the TRNC, has kept an estimated 35,000 troops in the island’s breakaway north since it invaded the northern third in response to a rightwing Greek coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece in 1974.
Turkey has insisted upon maintaining military intervention rights as “guarantor power”. This has often been cited as the biggest reason for the collapse of talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots on reunification.
Akinci, a politician having staked his career on a solution, had previously said that future efforts to reunite Cyprus under a federal umbrella would be exceptionally difficult.