NICOSIA – With Turkey cracking down in the wake of a failed coup attempt, unity talks on Cyprus have been sidelined and face a major test.
Negotiations will resume between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who must answer to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, target of the coup plot.
Cyprus has been divided since an unlawful Turkish invasion in 1974 and a parade of diplomats have failed for decades to make any progress in negotiations to bring it back together again.
Anastasiades and Akinci have talked so far about a proposed Federal state, security and external guarantees but gotten nowhere on thornier issues such as compensating Cypriots whose homes were occupied by Turks.
Anastasiades said optimism the previous months was “poisoned” by Turkey’s Prime Minister Benali Yildirim who blamed the Greek Cypriots for the failure of previous negotiations and warned that the current UN-mediated effort is the “last chance” for a settlement.
Tugrul Turkes, the Turkish Deputy Prime minister, restated Ankara’s position that any agreement “should guarantee the political equality, legitimate rights and security of the Cypriot Turks,” and called this a “national case,” the Irish Times reported in a feature.
Trkish Cypriots have insisted on both a Turkish guarantee and the deployment of Turkish troops, demands rejected by Greek Cypriots, which remains a major sticking point.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has said a settlement must “make all Cypriot citizens safe.
“In such a system there is no room for treaties of guarantee (involving Britain, Greece and Turkey or the presence of Turkish troops,” he said.
Turkey refuses to remove its 30,000-man standing army in the northern third it unlawfully occupies and will not recognize Cyprus – a member of the European Union which Turkey wants to join – and as Cypriot ships and planes are still barred.
Greek Cypriots also demand the adjustment of the boundary between the Greek Cypriot-majority south and the Turkish Cypriot north, repatriation of a proportion of mainland settlers, and Ankara’s write-off of €17 billion spent to subsidize the north.
Both sides fear Ankara could unilaterally annex the northern breakaway state by conducting a referendum, which would be decided by devout, conservative mainland Turkish settlers who support Erdogan, the Irish Times said.
Generally secular and liberal, Turkish Cypriots have become increasingly concerned over Erdogan’s authoritarianism and his efforts to replace the Turkish secular system with a sectarian religious state.