Turkish Cyprus’ new leader Akinci pays his visit abroad to Ankara

ANKARA: Newly elected Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci has paid his first visit to abroad to Turkey as president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), amid tension over the status of the Ankara-Lefkosa relationship.

Akinci, who was elected the new president of the KKTC on April 26, arrived in Turkey on Wednesday morning at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The KKTC leader was welcomed by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Ankara Deputy Governor Mehmet Ali Ulutas at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport. He is scheduled to visit the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, after having a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Akinci and Erdogan are expected to hold a joint press briefing after a meeting in the presidential palace.

Akinci, the independent nominee in the KKTC presidential elections, was elected to the presidency after winning 60.3 percent of the vote in the second round of the election on April 26.

Immediately after his win, Akinci called on Turkey to establish a relationship of equals. However, his call received a harsh response from Erdogan, who said Akinci should watch what he says and not forget that Ankara funds the state budget of Turkish Cypriots.

Akinci’s victory raised hopes for a revival of reunification efforts in Cyprus, prospects that were boosted when the Greek Cypriot leadership announced last week that Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades would meet last Saturday. However, the meeting that was scheduled to take place between Anastasiades and Akinci to give a new push to stalled peace talks in a bid to reunify the ethnically divided island was postponed to this week.

Some in the Turkish press criticized Akinci last week for accepting a meeting with Greek Cyprus before visiting Turkey after his victory in the presidential election. The reasons behind the postponement of the meeting between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot are unknown.

It has been tradition for Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders to pay their first official visits to each other’s capitals to display their alliance. After being elected president on Aug. 10, 2014 and his inauguration on Aug. 28, Erdogan paid his first visit abroad as president of Turkey to the KKTC, in a bid to show Ankara’s solidarity with the Turkish Cypriots.