NICOSIA — Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has rejected a United Nations document that was supposed to act as a guide during a crucial summit in Switzerland beginning June 28 that will likely determine whether a deal reunifying the ethnically divided island is possible.
Anastasiades says the draft document prepared by U.N. Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide – who he accused of backing Turkey – disregards “issues of essential importance” for the Greek Cypriot side.
Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are due to meet in the resort town of Crans-Montana instead of Nicosia to resume talks that collapsed earlier in Geneva after Ankara insisted on keeping a 35,000-strong army on the northern third it has occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion, and wants the right to militarily intervene when it wants.
Turkey, along with England – the former Colonial ruler of the island which still has a military base there – and Greece are guarantors of security on the island where the UN also has a small peacekeeping force in the divided capital of Nicosia.
Two other issues are critical: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who refuses to recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes although he wants his country to become a member of the European Union to which Cyprus, apart from the occupied territories, already belongs, is planning to send an energy research vessel into waters where Anastasiades’ government has licensed international companies to drill for oil and gas, including an American firm.
The other sticking point is Turkey’s demand that a Turk be President every other term even though they are far in the minority on the island.
“My expectations are rather low,” Hubert Faustmann, Professor of History and Politics at the University of Nicosia told Reuters about the possibility of what could be the last, best chance to solve a dilemma eluding a raft of diplomats and envoys for four decades.
Turkey and Turkish Cypriots want the guarantor system, or some vestige of it, to remain in place. But if there is a compromise on that, everything else should fall into place.
“It will all depend on the security chapter … If they agree it will be a success, a breakthrough. If it doesn’t it will be a failure,” Faustmann said.
Christoforos Fokaides, the Cypriot Defence Minister, said any deal must allow peaceful co-existence on the island “without occupation troops, and the anachronism of guarantees,” a key issue that Turkey wants kept.
“There have been 50 years of negotiations. We have to make up our minds,” said the Turkish Cypriot official involved in negotiations, according to Reuters.
“Are we going to tell people we have a good deal? It might not be perfect but if you want to reach perfection you can talk a few more decades.”