Diplomatic circles in Athens on Tuesday referred to a “distortion of historical truth” and an insult to the memory of the victims of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, commenting on the unprecedented – even by his standards – comments of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan a day earlier.

The mercurial Erdogan returned to jingoistic mode in addressing military personnel in the neighboring country, saying that if Turkish invasion forces had proceeded further south in 1974 all of the island republic “would have been ours”.

Opposition political parties in Greece called on the government to issue a stern condemnation of Erdogan’s irredentist rhetoric.

The latest quip by Erdogan, ostensibly aimed for domestic consumption but coming amid a burgeoning “restart” of Greek-Turkish relations and yet another UN-backed effort to resume bi-communal talks for a resolution to the Cyprus problem based on UN resolutions, raised eyebrows in Athens and the wider region.

The Turkish presidency has also gone to great pains over the recent period to play up a “positive agenda” in relations with Athens and a pending round of talks focusing on CBMs next month, while Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected in Ankara in May.

Specifically, the Turkish leader was quoted as saying that “…half a century ago, the Turkish Cypriots returned from the brink of genocide. In the ‘peace operation’ of 1974, 498 of our soldiers from all corners of the country, officers, NCOs and civilians, were martyred. Despite all the pressure, if not for Turkey’s intervention, neither the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ nor the Turkish Cypriots would exist today. In fact, perhaps if we had pushed south, and I say this as a child of the present, there would be no more south and north, and Cyprus would be completely ours.”

The “peace operation” refers to the Turkish invasion in July 1974 and a second round of military expansion the next month, while “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is the pseudo-state set up by Ankara on the areas of the island it occupies.