Turkey’s strong desire to end the decades-old Cyprus conflict does not mean it will accept a resolution at any price, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek said on Sunday, warning that nobody should force Turkey to make a choice between its own European Union aspirations and its support of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (KKTC) right to exist. In a speech delivered at a ceremony held in Lefkoşa on Sunday marking the 26th anniversary of the KKTC’s declaration of independence, Çiçek reiterated Ankara’s support for the ongoing United Nations-led reunification negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders. Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias broke a four-year stalemate on talks in March 2008 and have been engaged in face-to-face negotiations with the goal of reunifying the island.

“This has to be known by everybody: We want a resolution, but not a resolution at any cost. A resolution which can be reached through Turkish Cypriots’ giving up their legitimate rights is not a resolution which we will back,” Çiçek said, warning that the negotiations cannot go on forever and the existing window of opportunity cannot remain open indefinitely.

“The comprehensive resolution which we aim for should emerge as a new partnership under which the island will be reunited as based on the principles two equal community, bi-zonality, political equality and two constituent states with equal status,” he said, underlining that Turkey’s security guarantees for the Turkish Cypriots will continue.

“We will never let the integrity of the resolution to be breached within the EU,” Çiçek said. “If some are planning to say ‘Either Cyprus or the EU,’ [then] Turkey’s choice will forever be to stand next to the Turkish Cypriots. Everybody should understand this.”

Talat, speaking at the same ceremony, said the declaration of the KKTC’s independence was aimed at “reconciliation and peace.”

Addressing the Greek Cypriots, Talat said: “The Turkish Cypriot people are ready to share this beautiful island with you. Come and contribute to our reconciliation efforts; do not prevent our beautiful island from becoming an island of friendship and cooperation.”

Ankara does not recognize the Greek Cypriot government, which entered the EU in May 2004 as the official representative of the entire island after the Greek Cypriots in the south rejected the UN reunification plan in twin referendums held in 2004. In 1983 the KKTC unilaterally declared its independence, though it is only recognized by Ankara.

Turkey’s refusal to implement a trade pact between Turkey and the EU that requires Ankara to allow Greek Cypriot vessels to use its air and sea ports has already prompted the EU to freeze eight chapters in Turkey’s accession talks and the bloc may consider fresh sanctions at a summit in December.