The US State Department has distanced itself from recent comments by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that “there is no country named Cyprus.”
Speaking to journalists, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that she was not aware of Erdogan's remarks and that she would look into the matter.
“I haven’t seen those comments. I’m happy to look into them. Of course, I don’t think we would agree with that,” Psaki said.
Speaking on Sunday to Turkish-Cypriot daily Kibris on the conclusions of a meeting in Poland addressing Turkey's relations with the European Union, Erdogan said that the decision to include Cyprus in the bloc along with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia and Malta in 2004, was politically motivated.
“They did not admit them because they were in harmony with the EU laws. They admitted them in a political decision. I will give you an example of this. One of them is south Cyprus. Pay attention! They did not admit it as south Cyprus. They admitted it as Cyprus. There is no country named Cyprus. There is the local administration of south Cyprus,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan's comments prompted a strong response from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Turkish Prime Minister’s disputing the very existence of the Republic of Cyprus should finally awaken the international community as to Turkey’s true intentions regarding the Cyprus issue. Any further comment on this is superfluous,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Konstantinos Koutras said in an official statement on Monday.
Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since the Turkish occupation of the north of the island in 1974. The success of reunification talks are seen as key to Turkey's bid to join the EU.