With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepping up provocations, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said better relations between Ankara and Athens could have a spillover effect to bring the divided island together again.
Cyprus has been split since an unlawful Turkish invasion in 1974 that has seen the northern third of the island occupied since then. More than four decades of negotiations have gone nowhere to bring unity again and the last round of talks, in July at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, fell apart over Turkish demands to keep its army on the island and the right to invade further when it wanted.
Anastasiades is up for re-election next year and has a comfortable lead in polls despite authorizing the confiscation of 47.5 percent in 2013 of bank accounts of more than 100,000 euros ($116,565) to prevent the collapse of the economy and banks which teetered because of big holdings in devalued Greek bonds and bad loans to Greek businesses.
He said in an interview with the Greek newspaper Ethnos tis Kyriakis that if re-elected he would try to resurrect talks with Turkish-Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci after the two spent two years in sometimes optimistic hopes of reaching a deal.
With Erdogan due to visit Athens this month or in December to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – although Turkey has continued to send fighter jets into Greek airspace – Anastasiades hopes the two can come to terms to cool off tension and that the Turkish leader would somehow be disposed to re-think Cyprus.
But Anastasiades repeated that Turkey has to give up its army and the right of military intervention, which Erdogan said are non-starters, undercutting the Cypriot leader’s hopes of a change of heart.
“My hope and expectation is that President Erdogan has among the key objectives of his visit to Athens the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations, the full normalization of which, as repeatedly stressed by the Greek Government, goes through a settlement of the Cyprus problem,” Anastasiades said.
“Until the last day of my current term, I am ready and willing to take the boldest decisions in order to put an end to the unacceptable status quo, to resolve the Cyprus problem and to reunite my country. I wish there was a response from Turkey,” Anastasiades said.
He said the re-election is not an obstacle as claimed by Turkey, which blamed the legitimate government on Cyprus for the failure of the talks.
Anastasiades said that wasn’t so. “The obstacle is Turkey, which, at the crucial moment, was unprepared to make those moves on security issues, that is, on the issue of the guarantees and the withdrawal of the troops. If I am re-elected, I will certainly continue my efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue,” he said.