Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said on Thursday that Israel “is not our enemy”.

Reactions to the issue of property sales to third country nationals in the north have been “exaggerated”, said Tatar while speaking to Voice of America, a US state-owned news network.

Third country nationals are only allowed to buy one house or one donum of land in the north, he said, and sales through intermediaries are also being reviewed by the north’s authorities with the aim of protecting agricultural land.

However, he also said that “this place has become a brand destination in education and tourism. There are problems, but they are exaggerated. The coming of people from all nationalities is an opportunity for the TRNC to be recognised.

“They say that ‘foreigners came and occupied Cyprus’. I don’t believe it. There are 50,000 Russians in south Cyprus, there are people from all nationalities in south Cyprus.”

Asked about increased numbers of Israelis buying property in the north, he said “Israel is not our enemy which should be treated as a threat. Greek Cypriots do not come and buy property here. Greek Cypriots are a threat to us. Israelis are here to invest.”

Former ‘prime minister’ and current ruling coalition party UBP ‘MP; Faiz Sucuoglu is more concerned with the situation regarding the purchase of property in the north by Israelis, however.

He said, “this is the so-called promised land for Israel. They buy goods in both the north and the south. The highest rate of sales are in Trikomo and in the village of Kazivera.”

“Land prices here are £20,000, yet they offer high prices like £70,000, and people sell to them. They also buy land, build eight- or ten-storey apartment blocks, and then sell the apartments,” he added.

He also said that “when you look at third country nationals [in the north] from countries such as Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, we can see that they are also of Jewish origin.”

In addition, he raised the alarm about possible demographic shifts in the north due to property sales and the possibility of dark money passing through the north.

“There are 1,500 car dealerships here and more are being opened. Of course, other issues come to mind, about dark money. I find it suspicious that there are so many car dealerships in such a small country,” he said.

Opposition party CTP leader Tufan Erhurman was also alarmed about the situation, saying, “we see signs in Russian and in Farsi all over the place in the Trikomo district. Those places have gotten completely out of hand.

“The population of Lefka is 14,500, and they are building 20,000 houses in Kazivera. This is also the case in Ayios Amvrosios.”

He also alluded to problems in some schools for third country national children whose parents have bought property in the north, saying “there is the issue of children whose native language is not Turkish in schools, and teachers cannot communicate with their pupils.

The public education system has collapsed.”

This was also alluded to by fellow CTP ‘MP’ Biray Hamzaogullari, who said in November that around 300 of the 700 children at the Bekirpasha high school in Trikomo “do not speak Turkish as a first language.”

Erhurman added, “there is a lack of healthcare services in hospitals. The public healthcare system has collapsed.”

He also called for a census to be conducted to discover how many people live in the north.

“This is a situation we are very worried about, we cannot just guess what the population is,” he said.