Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his support for a two-state solution on divided Cyprus as he arrived in the Turkish Cypriot north of the island for a controversial visit.
On Monday he will address the Turkish Cypriot parliament.
The UN-recognised Greek Cypriot government in the south, and much of the international community, support a federal future for Cyprus, which has been divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion that was prompted by a Greece-backed coup.
Only Ankara recognises the administration in the north, which favours a two-state solution.
Speaking before his visit to mark the 1974 invasion, Mr Erdogan said the “solution in Cyprus can be achieved only on the basis of the facts in the island. If there is to be a fresh negotiation process in the future, this can be realised only between two sovereign and equal states”.
His visit to the island and comments ahead of it have angered Greek-Cypriots. But tensions are likely to soar in particular during Mr Erdogan’s expected visit to the abandoned beach resort of Varosha, parts of which had public access restored by the Turkish army last year.
Once favoured by celebrities, Varosha had been a ghost town since 1974 when its Greek-Cypriot residents fled as Turkish troops advanced. It’s expected Mr Erdogan will open up more parts of the area.
He said that “Turkish Cypriots have been fighting for equality and justice in the island for over half a century. For that cause, we have paid countless prices and overcome countless obstacles together.
“The Turkish Cypriot people have sovereign equality and equal international status in the island, where they are equal partners.”
Mr Erdogan’s was rebuked for his visit to Varosha last November, with the EU describing it as a “provocation without precedent".
Formal, UN-backed talks between the Cypriot sides collapsed in 2017 while an April summit in Geneva failed to broker a deal to start a new round of negotiations.
Both the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides have refused to back down from their respective stances on the future of the island.
Since the 2017 collapse in talks, the Turkish Cypriot north has hardened its position and argues it is the only one supporting a realistic solution. Its leader Ersin Tatar put forward his two-state vision in Geneva.
“The Turkish Cypriot side has thereby once again shown the whole world who favours a solution and who benefits from deadlock,” Mr Erdogan said.