Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday slammed Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci for comments he made on Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.
Akinci had posted on Facebook on Saturday night after being criticised for staying silent on Turkish operation but following more criticism from Ankara over what he said, restricted the post from public view by Sunday after it sparked the fury of Ankara.
Akinci had essentially said the situation was not black and white, and had only posted a comment due to the anger over his silence.
Erdogan, during a news conference on the Syria offensive on Sunday publicly called out Akinci for his comments saying the Turkish Cypriot leader had gone beyond his limits and needed to know his limits.
He wondered if there was any other country in the world besides Turkey that had fought for the “TRNC state” as Turkey had done. “No. He must know his limits. The seat he sits on is not something he acquired. It was won by the intervention of the Turkish Republic, a favour from Turkey,” said Erdogan.
“I believe that the people of the TRNC will give him the lesson he needs,” Erdogan added.
Earlier, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay had tweeted: “I condemn [Mustafa] Akinci who ignores the fact that Operation Peace Spring is taking place against the bloody terrorist organisation PKK/PYD for the stability of region.”
“Our struggle in the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation which was carried out with the aim of bringing peace and prosperity to the region and the struggle for Operation Peace Spring in Syria today are being carried out with the same spirit,” he added. According to Anadolu news agency, Oktay said Akinci’s “unfortunate remarks” do not reflect the opinion of Turkish Cypriots.
Also on Sunday, Turkish Cypriot ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar joined in the chorus saying Akinci’s views did not reflect those of the Turkish Cypriots and raised the question of whether he would ask the ‘ruling party’ to request Akinci’s resignation. He said he would discuss the issue with them on Monday in an extraordinary session.
“I would like to say that these statements should not have been made, it was very wrong,” he said, adding that these were not the views of people in the north. “Our prayers are with the Turkish people,” he added.
Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Kudret Ozersay, who is seen as ‘Ankara’s man’ in Cyprus also posted online, calling Akinci’s comments “unfortunate”.
“Mr Akinci went through the Cyprus negotiations and the words he always had on his lips was security. This is not only about the security point of view but also from the economic, political and diplomatic point of view as to which country always stands beside us,” Ozersay was quoted as saying.
While there were even EU countries supporting Turkey, the statement by the head of the Turkish Cypriot ‘state’ “does not at all reflect the feelings of the greater part of the people”, he added.
NGOs and ‘government ministers’ also criticised Akinci except for the Turkish Cypriot trade union platform. It said in a statement that “insults and threats” that Akinci had exceeded his limits could not be accepted.
“Any attack on Mr Akinci is regarded by us as an attack on the Turkish Cypriot community, which is the one that elected him leader,” the platform said.
“Mr Akinci’s statement was very clear that “no Turkish Cypriot wants Turkey to have problems within its territory or with the security at its borders. And, like Mr Akinci, we are of the opinion that this issue will not be resolved by bloodshed but through negotiations.”
Akinci had taken to Facebook on Saturday night to address criticism at home and in Turkey about his silence with regard to Syria.
“I don’t think there is anyone who does not want the good of Turkey and to get rid of the problem of terrorism,” Akinci wrote.
“As I have said before, even the 1974 [Cyprus] peace operation was a war and what was running was blood. That is why my greatest hope is for diplomacy to be mediated immediately and for a dialogue to start,” he added.
Staying silent, Akinci said, sometimes does not mean there are no words to say and sometimes situations are so confusing it’s difficult to come out with a simple yes or a no.
“And if what someone says will affect the situation, you may need to remain silent,” he said.
The criticisms made against him were coming from people who wished to learn his political view, and also those who were using his silence for their own political ends, and that is why he said he needed to clarify.
“The question is what is for the good of Turkey and those who live in Turkey can certainly answer that,” he said.
“For me, a happy and peaceful future of Turkey is possible to create through a dialogue between Turks, Kurds and Arabs, and all the peoples of the region. A situation must be created where Syria, within its territorial integrity, supports its borders, and Turkey can feel safe on its own borders.”
For this reason, Akinci said, he believes it would be very useful to rebuild Turkey-Syria relations as soon as possible while wishing Turkey’s relations with Egypt and other countries in the region could also improve. “A Turkey that will not fight but cooperate with the EU is for the best of all,” he added.
Akinci said that in 1974 he was 27 years old and served, “like any young Turkish man at the time, in the military operation that took place because of the fascist Greek junta”.
“That’s why I don’t want any society to live through the pain of war. I cannot wish for the blood of any Turkish, Kurdish or Arab child,” he added.