LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Official negotiations on the Cyprus issue can start only after both sides on the island are recognized as equals, the Turkish Cypriot president said on Thursday.

“Only with the acceptance of our equality, the provision of a status of international equality, and on the basis of sovereign equality can official negotiations begin (on Cyprus) and then, it will be possible to discuss important issues,” Ersin Tatar told reporters before a trip to Brussels to meet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday morning.

Turkish Cypriots will never accept an imposed settlement or be coerced into accepting any particular solution, the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) said, adding that the Turkish Cypriot side has been waging a struggle to protect their equality.

“It’s obvious that an agreement won’t be reached on Cyprus as long as talks aren’t carried out between two equal states,” said Tatar.

Referring to recent remarks by Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades ruling out the possibility of his side accepting the Turkish Cypriot demands for sovereign equality, he reiterated that the TRNC intended to stick to its position on a solution to the Cyprus problem.

Reiterating that Turkey fully supported the TRNC and adopted its position on the matter, Tatar highlighted the clarity of the Turkish Cypriot side’s policy.

“Our position is clear. We demand that our equality and international equal status are recognized. The TRNC will continue to exist with its institutions and establishments,” he said, adding that the Turkish Cypriot side was expecting farness from Guterres and for the UN chief to grant the Turkish Cypriots their rights.

On Tuesday, Tatar and Anastasiades had separate meetings with Jane Holl Lute, the UN special envoy on the Cyprus dispute.

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation of the island was followed by violence against the island’s Turks and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece, and the UK.

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