Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev “attaches great importance to the TRNC”, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said on Friday night.

Tatar was speaking following a meeting with Aliyev in the town of Shusha in Azerbaijan, ahead of a summit of the Organisation of Turkic States (OTS) in the town, to which Aliyev had personally invited Tatar in the capacity of ‘president of the TRNC’.

Tatar described Friday’s meeting as “very positive and useful” and added that the pair had discussed the development of relations between the north and Azerbaijan.

He added that it is “extremely important” for the north to be “included in the OTS’ family photo”, and to be able to address the summit and participate in meetings.

He also said he believes the support given to the north by Azerbaijan “will spread to other Turkic states in time”.

“The support given to the efforts to introduce the TRNC to the world is important, and Turkic unity is important. This unity will gradually strengthen,” he said.

He added that the north “is a part of this union” and thanked Azerbaijan’s authorities for the hospitality they have shown him since he arrived in the country.

On Saturday morning, Tatar met with Turkish Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz, and praised the recently signed financial protocol between Turkey and the north, which is worth €450 million.

The summit for which he travelled to Azerbaijan got underway early on Saturday afternoon, with leaders from OTS states and observers set to discuss transport connectivity and climate action.

Tatar is being accompanied at the summit by the north’s ‘foreign minister’ Tahsin Ertugruloglu and a raft of Turkish Cypriot diplomats.

Ertugruloglu had on Friday night attended a meeting of OTS foreign ministers, including Hungary’s European Union Affairs Minister Janos Boka, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Murat Nurtleu, and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan.

Additionally, Ertugruloglu attended a concert, during which Cypriot folk song “Al Yemeni, Mor Yemeni” was played in his honour.

Hakan Fidan made separate statements about the north while in Azerbaijan, saying that it is “an issue for which the Turkic world must take responsibility”, and that the Turkish government “attaches great importance” to the matter of direct contact between the north and the international community.

“We believe that you will not hesitate to take steps in this direction despite the external pressure. We call on all our brothers to support the Turkish Cypriot people, who are an indelible part of the Turkic world, to regain their inherent rights,” he told counterparts.

“In this respect, I invite you to increase your commercial relations with the TRNC to put an end to the unjust and inhumane isolation to which our Turkish Cypriot brothers have been subjected for decades,” he added.

He then called on OTS members to establish trade offices in the north, describing the move as an “important step”.

Tatar’s attendance at the summit marks the latest episode in Azerbaijan’s flirtation with recognition of the north.

Aliyev had last month said his country is making “diplomatic efforts” for the north to become an observer member of the OTS, with the north’s observer status having been agreed upon by the OTS’ leaders’ summit in 2022, but with parliamentary ratification from the five member states still pending.

He had added at the time that he supports the north becoming a full member of the OTS.

The moves have earned the ire of Cyprus’ House President Annita Demetriou, who promised in April that she would “send a message” to Azerbaijan over its relations with the north.

Specifically, she was referring to the country’s decision to create an ‘inter-parliamentary’ group with the north’s ‘parliament’, adding that she would pen a letter to her Azerbaijani counterpart Sahiba Gafarova to condemn the move.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time Azerbaijan has made such an effort. We must once again do everything in our power to stop it. It is unacceptable and reprehensible,” she said.