Turkey will help its sister state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), bring more government services to citizens online through a new data center, Turkey’s vice president told the visiting Turkish Cypriot premier on Wednesday.

An infusion of funds from Turkey to Turkish Cyprus will help pay salaries plus cover the cost of the e-state data center, Vice President Fuat Oktay told a joint press conference alongside, Ersan Saner, the TRNC’s new prime minister, in his first visit abroad since taking the post earlier this month.

“There is good news about the salary of public employees to comfort the government and the Turkish Cypriots. We’ll be transferring 800 million TL [$105 million] in cash,” said Oktay, adding that this sum also covers the construction of a new data center.

Oktay also thanked Saner for visiting after the formation of the government on Dec. 9 and wished the new government all success.

The COVID-19 outbreak brought serious problems worldwide, including the TRNC, said Oktay, but added: “One of the areas where Cyprus is most competitive is education and tourism, so we want to implement work related to the opening of the airport as soon as possible within seven or eight months.”

For his part, Saner said: “Without Turkey’s support, it is impossible for the TRNC to gain significant ground on international platforms, or infrastructure and similar work in the country.”

“So far, the guarantee that we will walk with you on the same path with faith and determination has made us very happy,” he added.

Saner also thanked Turkey for its faith and resolute support to the Turkish Cypriot people.

The need for a new government was triggered by elections this October in which then-Prime Minister Ersin Tatar was elected the country’s president, leaving the premiership empty.

The visit comes amid disputes between Turkey and Greece over energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus.

Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and the TRNC.

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek Cypriot coup 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.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was founded in 1983.

*Writing by Merve Berker

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