Cyprus: Ground not yet ready for peace talks resumption
Published Tue Feb 26 2019 16:10:59 GMT+0000 (UTC)
by By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Conditions aren't yet ready for a resumption of formal talks to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus because both sides remain apart on key issues regarding power sharing and security arrangements, the island nation's president said Tuesday.
Nicos Anastasiades, a Greek Cypriot, says efforts to restart negotiations are going through a "difficult phase," but that he and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have pledged to work to get negotiations back on track.
The United Nations hosted an informal meeting between the two men — the first in four months — in hopes they could clear the air on certain issues that would allow talks to resume on reunifying Cyprus as a federation.
High-level negotiations that also brought together top diplomats from guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and Britain collapsed in July 2017.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Both men said another meeting could happen in the next few months. But Anastasiades said "there doesn't appear to be the preconditions presently" for a return to full-fledged talks.
The key stumbling blocks include a Turkish Cypriot demand for equal say in all federal decision making, something that the majority Greek Cypriots fear is a form of veto power that could hamper the smooth functioning of the state.
To overcome that, Anastasiades has proposed allocating more decision-making power to the Greek and Turkish speaking administrative zones that will compose a federated Cyprus. But Akinci said no matter how decentralized a federal state, Turkish Cypriots are entitled to decision-making parity on a federal level.
Greek Cypriots also want an end to military intervention rights ceded to Turkey, as well as the withdrawal of all Turkish military forces from a reunified Cyprus which they see as a means of control by Turkey. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots say intervention rights and a Turkish troop presence are an essential security component for them.
Turkey has kept more than 35,000 troops in the north since 1974.
During the meeting, Anastasiades and Akinci agreed on several measures to boost confidence, including an arrangement enabling people living in the breakaway north and the internationally recognized south to use their mobile telephones on either side.