ATHENS – Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said Greece and Turkey should come to terms about security on Cyprus, where they are two of the guarantors of safety, before collapsed reunification talks could be restarted.
The United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler which still keeps a base on the island, is the other guarantor of security along with a United Nations peacekeeping force that’s kept the two sides apart since an invasion in 1974 that saw Turkey occupy the northern third.
Negotiations to try to reunify the island collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never agree to removing an army kept there and as they wanted the right as well to militarily intervene when they wanted.
The failed talks were brokered by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and then-envoy Espen Barth Eide of Norway, who gave up after the debacle and became the latest diplomat to throw up his hands and be unable to help find a solution.
Speaking on radio station Sto Kokkino, Kotzias he was asking for Turkey to work with Greece and go over how security could be maintained on the island if a deal were reached. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades wants an international police force.
Kotzias blamed Eide for the collapsed talks, saying the Norwegian diplomat was the reason why preparatory work on Greece’s proposal wasn’t finished last year, which the minister said was why security and guarantees were mixed with all the other issues.
Kotzias said troops shouldn’t be kept on the island, a deal breaker for Erdogan and Akinci and offered no clue why he thought the Turkish leaders would bite this time on his proposal after refusing previously.
Turkey, which wants to join the European Union to which Cyprus belongs – while refusing to recognize the legitimate government and bars Cypriot ships and planes – wants to be the only foreign power to have an occupying army in an EU country.
Kotzias said Greece, which backs Turkey’s entry into the EU even though Erdogan is keeping hostage two Greek soldiers who accidentally strayed across the border March 1 while in patrol in bad weather, said there should be no guarantors of security on Cyprus.
An attempt to reunify the island under a bicommunal, bizonal, federal system failed in a referendum in April 2004, days before Cyprus joined the EU after Cypriots voted against it, nullifying approval by Turkish-Cypriots.