The war of words between the Turkish Cypriot leader and the Turkish government continued on Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan describing comments made by Mustafa Akinci last week as ‘very unfortunate’.
“It’s very unfortunate, this move is an insult to the struggle of the previous presidents Rauf Denktash and Fazil Kucuk,” Milliyet quoted Erdogan as saying.
In a Guardian interview last week, Akinci said that differences between the two sides were deepening, pushing back any hope for reunification, but that the north did not embrace annexation by Turkey.
“We do not accept to be a minority of the Greek Cypriots, nor a slave to rulers in Turkey. We want independence and freedom,” he told the Guardian.
Akinci recently launched his re-election campaign as an independent candidate, highlighting the core message of his candidacy: independence.
The rift between the leader in the north and top officials in Turkey has widened dramatically in recent months and shows no signs of abating.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu joined in the spat on Monday and denounced Akinci as ‘untrustworthy’.
“I have never worked with such an untrustworthy politician,” Cavusoglu said.
The Turkish foreign minister accused Akinci of using anti-Turkish rhetoric as part of an election ploy. Other senior officials also criticised Akinci, including Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay who said using Turkey as a tool in an election campaign “would not be tolerated”.
Despite the sustained pressure, Akinci stood his ground and reiterated his point on Sunday. He criticised the policy of “Cyprus is Turkish and will remain Turkish” as a 1950s slogan.
Last November Akinci also criticised Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria, drawing the ire of Erdogan.
Erdogan hit back saying “(Akinci) should know his limits.”