Turkish far-right leader says Cyprus is Turkish, warns Greece

Turkish far-right leader Devlet Bahçeli, an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Cyprus was Turkish and accused neighbour Greece of playing games in the Aegean Sea, Turkish pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper said.

Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is struggling in the polls and has formed an electoral alliance with Erdoğan’s party for June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections.

The far-right leader made the comments in response to Greek criticism of a MHP campaign video depicting the island of Cyprus as Turkish territory.

“What else are we to do? Cyprus is Turkish and will remain so,” Yeni Şafak quoted Bahçeli as telling a campaign rally.

Turkish troops invaded the northern third of Cyprus, a former Ottoman territory, in 1974 in response to a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup aiming to unite the eastern Mediterranean island with Greece.

Turkey is alone in backing a breakaway Turkish Cypriot administration in the north of the island, while the rest of the world recognises the government in the south as having sovereignty over the whole of the island.

Turkish warships in February blocked a drillship leased by Italian energy company Eni looking for gas deposits off the coast of Cyprus due to a dispute over sovereignty.

Turkey is also embroiled in a series of disputes with Greece over sovereignty of uninhabited Aegean islands, the refusal by Greek courts to extradite eight Turkish soldiers wanted to face charges of involvement in the 2016 failed coup and Turkey’s arrest of two Greek soldiers who strayed across the Turkish border in bad weather.

Bahçeli said the Greek government was playing games in the Aegean and warned Greeks not to forget what he called “the days when their grandfathers drowned in the bottom of the sea”, in apparent reference to the many wars between the two ancient rivals.