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Erdogan lambasts 'ungrateful' north.


Simon Bahceli

TURKISH Cypriot unions and left-wing political parties expressed outrage yesterday after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan slammed them for last week's mass protests against Ankara-inspired austerity measures.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Kyrgyzstan this week, Erdogan criticised the unions and NGOs for their participation by saying, "Who do you [Turkish Cypriots] think you are? We have martyrs, heroes and strategic interests [on Cyprus]."

He added that the demonstration had been "provocative" and that Turkish Cypriots, who were "fed and maintained by Turkey", had "no right to hold such protests".

"They take our money, and tell us to get lost," he was also quoted as saying, and called on the Turkish Cypriot leadership to express "a clear view" on the issue.

In response, the 28 unions and NGOs who attended last Friday's rally yesterday condemned Erdogan's statements and said their representatives would hold a small demonstration outside the Turkish 'embassy' and 'prime minister's' office in Nicosia on Monday.

Argument has been raging this week in the north over last Friday's protest, which was attended by more than 10,000 Turkish Cypriots unhappy with what they perceive as Ankara's increasingly direct handling of the north's economy. Right-wingers, however, feel the demonstrators went too far when they insulted Turkey by unfurling banners calling on Ankara to "get its hands off the Turkish Cypriots".

On Thursday, however, Erdogan added his voice to those who saw the protest as an insult to Turkey.

After having observed a group of demonstrators at last Friday's rally holding a Republic of Cyprus flag, Erdogan accused some Turkish Cypriots of working in cahoots with Greek Cypriots against Turkey.

Responding to the accusation, leader of the left-wing New Cyprus Party (YKP) Murat Kanatli issued a press release saying, "If efforts by Cypriots to reunite their common homeland is viewed as a crime, then this gives us a clear indication of his nationalist character." The party also renewed its call for Ankara to "remove your hand from our collars", thereby repeating one of the slogans deemed insulting by Erdogan.

The war of words began a month after the north's authorities began implementing austerity measures aimed at cutting its bloated public sector. They say too that they will soon begin privatising loss-making 'state'-run assets such as the telecommunication and electricity providers -- a move that is likely to result in large-scale layoffs. Unions say they will bring the breakaway state to a standstill.

The opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) yesterday added its voice to those objecting to Erdogan's statements, saying that while they did not want to see a rift growing between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, it was not right to view the Turkish Cypriots as "kept parasites". The party concluded that Erdogan had been misinformed and provoked.

"Mr Erdogan should know that the place he sees as a strategic interest for Turkey is our homeland. We will rise up against any efforts to remove us from our homeland, wherever these efforts come from," the CTP's press statement read.

Meanwhile, "strategic strikes" are continuing in the north with a number of schools in the capital remaining closed "indefinitely". The land registry and the immigration department, which have been closed by strikers for more than two weeks, are also to remain closed indefinitely. Customs workers at Kyrenia port also went on strike for a day yesterday. Courts in Kyrenia and Famagusta will also join the indefinite strike on Monday.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2011

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Feb 5, 2011
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