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Turkey : military gives full support for Cyprus peace

Monday 7 April 2008, by Fulya Özerkan

Gen. Büyükanıt’s calls for peace on the divided island in a rare visit display unity on the Turkish side and show the military is not against a solution to the Cyprus dispute, says an official.

Turkey’s top military commander yesterday called for a fair and long-lasting solution on the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus but warned that all parties concerned should understand well how a fair and long-lasting peace will be sustained.

We have no doubt that those who govern northern Cyprus including the president as well as officials in Turkey know what sort of peace is fair and long-lasting but their interlocutors should also know this; namely the South must understand this well,” Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt said during a meeting with Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat in a rare landmark visit to the northern part of the island.

Büyükanıt also stated that no Turkish troops will be withdrawn from the island before a comprehensive settlement has been reached. “Our soldiers are here for the security of the Turkish Cypriots and they will continue to be here,” he said.

The Turkish military and the Turkish Cypriot leadership experienced bitter times last year when Talat decided to open a crossing in the heart of the divided capital Nicosia without the military’s consent. Büyükanıt publicly criticized Talat for his unilateral move to open the Lokmacı (Ledra Street) crossing on the Green Line. Talat’s relations with Turkish military commanders on the island were also troubled.

The tension in ties between Talat and the Turkish military over the opening of the Lokmacı crossing dissipated earlier when the former separately met Büyükanıt in Ankara last January, a senior Turkish Cypriot official told the Turkish Daily News.

The official, who wished to remain anonymous, said the visit by Büyükanıt revealed that there were no longer problems between Talat and the military, something which was used as leverage by the Greek Cypriots to dissuade the Turkish side. He emphasized that the Turkish military began trusting both Talat and the policies he pursued in time, while the current visit further strengthened the atmosphere of dialogue.

“Gen. Büyükanıt’s visit to the north and his strong emphasis on peace turns out to be significant to show that the Turkish army is backing Talat and is not against a [Cyprus] solution,” said the official. “This has given the upper hand to the Turkish side insistently calling for a solution to the decades-old problem.”

‘Better late than never’

Büyükanıt’s trip coincided with Cypriot efforts to open Lokmacı – the first barricade constructed in Cyprus for protection against Greek Cypriot attacks and considered a symbol of partition.

The Turkish Cypriot official said the visit was scheduled beforehand and had nothing to do with the opening of the Lokmacı crossing, adding that it was not made public because it could have been delayed at any time amid the Turkish army’s operation into northern Iraq to fight terrorists.

Talat verbally conveyed the first invitation to Büyükanıt in 2007, he said. For his part, Talat who warmly welcomed the top commander on the island said, “your visit came a bit late but it is better late than never.”

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Source : Thursday, March 27, 2008 TDN

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