Greek Cypriots living in Rizokarpaso are being “used as political pawns” by the Republic’s government, the north’s ‘foreign minister’ Tahsin Ertugruloglu said on Wednesday.

Speaking to the Cyprus Turkish News Agency (Tak), he said, “Greek Cypriots, who live in an environment of security and peace in our country, are unfortunately being used as political pawns by the Greek Cypriot leadership.

By claiming they live in so-called ‘enclaves’, they are being used as tools for political purposes at the expense of being exploited on international platforms,” he said.

As part of the 1975 Third Vienna Agreement, a population exchange agreement between Cyprus’ two sides granted certain rights to Greek Cypriots who wished to continue living in the north.

To this end, Ertugruloglu said, “Greek Cypriots [in the north] can easily fulfil their rights such as education, freedom of movement, access to healthcare, and freedom of worship.

“Our state has been displaying all the necessary sensitivity to ensure that the Greek Cypriots who have chosen to reside on the Turkish Cypriot side since 1975 … can live in these lands in peace and tranquillity.

He went on to explain that the three Greek Cypriot schools in Rizokarpaso operate under the supervision of the north’s ‘education ministry’, and that the Republic sends teachers and schoolbooks to them in coordination with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp).

However, he said, the Republic is now “trying to send textbooks containing racist and hateful speech to Greek Cypriot schools in our country, in order to brainwash the young Greek Cypriot children and to instil hostility towards Turks, as it always does.”

He added that the books in question are already in circulation in the Republic and that the north’s ‘education ministry’ is examining them.

He added that the inspections carried out at the schools on Monday had determined that textbooks banned in the north as they contained “objectionable” material have been used in lessons since 2015.

He said the results of those inspections reveal “the game being played” by the Republic, which “has found its only solution to be to poison young minds to create the impression that Greek Cypriots, who have no problems residing in the TRNC, are stranded in our country.”

On Tuesday, Government Spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said the government “took immediate action after being informed that Turkish Cypriot officials had entered the schools.

“All the facts are being investigated and we will take all the necessary action as soon as possible,” he said.