Ciller, Talking Tough, Announces Cyprus Visit
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller warned Greek Cypriots today that Turkey would not hesitate to use force in response to any attacks on its flag or threats to Turkish control over half of the divided island of Cyprus.
``We break the hands that reach out in disrespect of the flag,″ Ciller told a rally leaving for a one-day visit to Cyprus to reaffirm Turkey’s commitment to Turkish Cypriots.
Tensions flared on Cyprus after Turkish troops fired on stone-throwing Greek Cypriots who crossed into the U.N.-policed buffer zone dividing the island Wednesday. One protester was killed as he tried to climb a flagpole to haul down the Turkish flag, and at least 11 people were injured.
The protesters had been attending the funeral of a young Greek Cypriot who was beaten to death Sunday after Greek Cypriots stormed into the zone separating the island into Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sectors.
The clashes have fueled fears of a major confrontation on the Mediterranean island and are likely to heighten tension between Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies whose relations have for long been marred by friction.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded following a Greek-backed coup on the island. Turkey and Greece almost came to war earlier this year when Turkey laid claim to an islet in the eastern Aegean Sea.
Before departing today, Ciller warned: ``We won’t allow any violation of border lines. We won’t allow any attacks on the flag.″
Ciller, who recently lost parliamentary elections, was apparently also trying to snag her share of headlines after her rival, Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, went to Iran a few days ago to seal a gas deal.
On Wednesday, Ciller blamed the Greek Cypriots for the violence, saying: ``These provocative actions must come to an end. Peace and security can’t be established like this.″
Turkish Cypriots declared independence on their part of the island in 1983, but their self-declared republic is recognized only by Turkey. The Greek Cypriot government is internationally recognized.
Greek Premier Costas Simitis said he would travel to Cyprus on Friday to attend the funeral of the Greek Cypriot who was killed during Wednesday’s clashes.