ANKARA: Recep Tayyip Erdogan was again accused of provocation on Sunday after a controversial visit to a Turkish enclave in Cyprus.
The Turkish president demanded a “two-state solution” for the divided island and vowed to continue oil exploration in Greek territorial waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
The island is split between the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member that controls the southern two thirds, and the northern third occupied by Turkey since 1974.
Only Ankara recognizes northern Cyprus as an independent state, and it is largely shunned by the international community
"Our priority is to ensure a fair, lasting and sustainable solution" in Cyprus that ensures Turkish Cypriots have security and legal rights, Erdogan told an audience after his arrival.
“There are two peoples and two separate states in Cyprus. There must be talks for a solution on the basis of two separate states,” he said.
"A two-state solution must be negotiated on the basis of sovereign equality," he added.
Erdogan was visiting Northern Cyprus after Ersin Tatar, who also supports a two-state solution, won last month's presidential election. Tatar's predecessor had backed reunification of the island.
'Provocative and illegal'
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades condemned Erdogan’s visit, and the “secessionist act of the declaration of the illegal regime” in the north.
“Ankara has absolutely no respect for international law, European principles and values, and its obligations toward the EU,” he said.
Erdogan later visited Varosha, a beach town that has been fenced-off and abandoned in no-man's land since 1974.
Ankara backed the partial re-opening of Varosha just before last month's election in a move criticized by the United States, Greece and Greek Cypriots.
Turkey has increasingly flexed its military muscle in the region, including by backing Azerbaijan in its renewed conflict with Armenia over the past few weeks.
Erdogan alluded to Turkey's dispute with EU members Greece and Cyprus and with other neighbors over territorial waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey next month over illegal exploration at sea.
"Neither we nor Northern Cyprus can tolerate diplomacy games (in the region) anymore," Erdogan said.
He added that Tatar would soon visit Azerbaijan - which does not recognize Northern Cyprus — to "make the situation better", without elaborating.
Tatar backed Erdogan's calls for a two-state solution and offshore rights.