Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Türkiye will deploy more forces to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to help meet the Turkish Cypriots’ needs.
Speaking at a youth gathering in Pamukkale province, the foreign minister said Türkiye is determined to protect the rights and interests of Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean.
“We will deploy more forces to protect Turkish Cypriots and provide anything they need in terms of arms,” he said.
Çavuşoğlu also criticized the U.S. for lifting its arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot administration.
“Greek Cyprus is known for money laundering,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that he conveyed Türkiye’s disapproval to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Give them money. They like it and need it too, why are you giving them arms?” Çavuşoğlu said he asked Blinken.
He also noted that Türkiye utilizes all tools of diplomacy to protect its rights and interest.
The foreign minister’s remarks came amid heightened tensions with Greece over the violation of the status of demilitarized islands, the pushback of irregular migrants and more.
The U.S. announced its decision to lift its arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot administration on Sept. 17.
The U.S. enacted the embargo in 1987 to prevent a potential arms race from harming peace talks with Turkish Cypriots. Barred access to U.S. weapons, Greek Cyprus turned to Russia to procure Mi-35 attack helicopters, T-80 tanks and Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems.
Türkiye has many times invited its NATO ally the United States to adopt a neutral stance on the Cyprus issue.
Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong dispute between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation led to Türkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983.
Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has complained about Greece’s rhetoric and repeated provocative actions in the region in recent months, including arming islands near Turkish shores that are demilitarized under treaties, saying that such moves frustrate its genuine efforts for peace.
Türkiye and Greece are at odds over a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, overlapping claims over their continental shelves, maritime boundaries, airspace, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus, the status of the islands in the Aegean Sea and migrants.
Ankara accuses Athens of illegally militarizing Greek islands in the East Aegean and questions Greece’s sovereignty over them. There is also a dispute over the exploitation of mineral resources in the Aegean.
Since the beginning of 2022, Greek warplanes have violated Turkish airspace 256 times and harassed Turkish jets on 158 occasions, and Greek coast guard boats also violated Turkish territorial waters 33 times.