NICOSIA, Cyprus – The leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots said Wednesday he has asked U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to step in and settle a dispute over Cyprus’ complex history that he insisted threatens to harm ongoing peace talks.
Mustafa Akinci said he wants the U.N. chief to get Greek Cypriots to rescind a recent law making the annual commemoration of a 1950 vote for union with Greece compulsory in their schools. He said the legislation “sows the seeds of division” among young people.
He faulted a Greek Cypriot bid for union with Greece that culminated in a 1955-59 guerrilla campaign against British colonial authorities as being the root of the island’s current problems.
Cyprus gained independence in 1960 but was split 14 years later when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that the 1974 “Cyprus peace operation” aimed to end “the humanitarian tragedy caused by a mentality rooted in delusions” of union with Greece.
Some Greek Cypriot party leaders questioned the necessity of the law, since the vote in which more than 95 percent of the Greek Cypriots voted for union with Greece is already being taught in schools.
But in a joint statement, Greek Cypriot parties unanimously condemned what they saw as a “deliberate distortion” of the law’s purpose to suggest a change in a long-standing policy to reunify the island.
U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide says the deterioration in the climate over the peace talks brought on by the feud is worrying.
Eide also said progress had been made on a compromise formula regarding how the Mediterranean island’s security will be enforced after reunification.
But he told The Associated Press there’s still “a long way to go” on setting up a structure to meet the security concerns of rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as well as the island’s “guarantors” — Greece, Turkey and Britain.
Security has long stumped the peace Cyprus talks. Cyprus’ constitution granted the guarantors intervention rights to protect the young republic from unravelling. The minority Turkish Cypriots insist on keeping Turkish troops and intervention rights in place in a reunified Cyprus, something Greek Cypriots reject.
The two sides and top officials from Britain, Greece and Turkey will again deal with security in a meeting in Geneva next month.
MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press