Just days ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and amid efforts to restart talks to reunite Cyprus, Ankara on Friday reiterated its determination to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically split island.

“Those who think that the wealth of the island and the region only belongs to them will face the determination of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a recorded message at a conference in Ankara.

He said the country’s naval and air forces will ensure that Turkey and the breakaway state continue their drilling activity in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Also Friday, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey was as determined to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots as it was in 1974, referring to the date when Turkish troops invaded the island, which has been divided since then.

“We have a clear stance as regards the fair distribution of reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said. “We have today the same decisiveness that we had in 1974 when we protected the rights of our brothers,” he said. “As a guarantor country we will continue to protect our rights and those of our Turkish-Cypriot brothers within the framework of international law,” Akar said.

Meanwhile, speaking at the Ankara conference, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay reiterated Turkey’s plans to open the fenced-off town of Varosha in the Turkish-occupied part of Famagusta in Cyprus and that properties would be returned to their rightful owners “on the basis of historical evidence.”

He suggested that property transactions made during British rule were void, adding that authorities would settle property issues drawing data from Ottoman-era archives.

Analysts said the plan sketched out by Oktay amounts to a de facto expansion of occupation in an area that lies under the responsibility of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

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