The Turkish president on Monday reiterated his call to all parties who desire a just, lasting and sustainable future in Cyprus to seize the historic opportunity.

“Turkish Cypriots have been fighting for equality and justice on the island for more than half a century,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference ahead of his official visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

“The Turkish Cypriot side has once again shown to the world who is in favor of solution and who is profiting from the deadlock,” Erdogan said.

He said that any new negotiation process on Cyprus can only be held between two equal and sovereign states.

The Turkish president has embarked on a two-day official visit to TRNC.

During his visit, Erdogan will address a special session of the Turkish Cypriot parliament and attend celebrations of July 20 Peace and Freedom Day, marking the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s 1974 Peace Operation, which protected the island’s Turkish Cypriot community from Greek Cypriot violence.

He will also meet with Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar to exchange views on the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and bilateral relations.

Erdogan will also attend a mass inauguration ceremony of some completed projects.

Every year the TRNC celebrates July 20 as its Peace and Freedom Day to mark the operation – a large-scale military intervention to protect Turkish Cypriots from violence that struck the island in 1974.

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

In the early 1960s, ethnic attacks forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was founded in 1983.

The island 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.

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the European Union in 2004, the same year that Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN’s Annan plan to end the decades-long dispute.

Criticizing a recent decision by a top EU court which allows the banning of headscarves under certain conditions, Erdogan said: “They must first learn what freedom of belief is.”

The Court of Justice of the EU on Thursday ruled on two cases brought by Muslim women in Germany who were suspended from their jobs for wearing headscarves.

It ruled that companies in member states can ban employees from wearing headscarves if they “need to present a neutral image to customers.”

On the first visit by an Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation to Northern Cyprus, Erdogan said establishing such high-level contacts between countries and the TRNC is a result of “our efforts”.

A delegation of the foreign affairs and inter-parliamentary relations committee of Azerbaijan’s parliament visited the TRNC on Friday.

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