Anastasiades Says No Unification Progress

ATHENS – A frustrated Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has joined a long list of government officials, envoys and negotiators to see a likely dead-end in hopes to reunify the island divided since an unlawful 1974 invasion by Turkey, telling Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras here there’s no progress.

As did his predecessor, former Cypriot leader and Communist chief Dimitris Christofias, who grew so exasperated that Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu wouldn’t budge an inch that he decided not to run again, Anastasiades has blamed what he called Turkish intransigence for the latest breakdown.

Anastasiades had earlier predicted there could be a breakthrough but than ran into Eroglu who has been a stonewall hardliner unwilling to make any concessions, even though the Cypriot leader offered so many before the talks began that one of his coalition parties walked out of the government in protest.

The 40th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion and occupation of the norther third of the island which it still holds and calls a Republic no other country in the world recognizes has just passed and Anastasiades said he was so vexed at the lack of progress he feared a permanent partition with no hope of unifying the two sides.

Turkey, which wants to join the European Union, still keeps a standing army on Cyprus and refuses to recognize the government.

Anastasiades told Samaras the main stumbling blocks remain the same as have been obstacles in decades of fruitless and broken-off talks: Turkish-Cypriots want to keep the properties they unlawfully seized chief among them.

In comments after the meeting – which was attended by Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the PASOK leader who is a partner in the government, and his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides – Samaras said that Turkey was responsible for the low expectations for a solution.

“Talks will continue but will only lead to a settlement if the other side displays genuine political will,” said Samaras, who has otherwise tried to build a cozy relationship with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Greece and Cyprus will continue our peaceful struggle to overturn the fait accompli of the Turkish occupation,” he said, adding that Turkey has yet to fall in line with international law and its EU obligations.

Analysts say volatility in the Middle East and upcoming Presidential elections in Turkey have moved the Cyprus issue down on Ankara’s political agenda. Anastasiades will meet opposition leaders in Athens on July 29th.

In May, Turkey said it wouldn’t pay $123 million in damages to Cyprus that was ordered by Europe’s top human rights court. The furious Turks said it was a big blow to peace talks on the island and refused to recognize the order of a court despite its EU ambitions.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey must pay the damages to Cyprus for its 1974 invasion and the island’s subsequent division.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the ruling unfair and said it put all the blame for Cyprus’ division on Turkey. He said the ruling was “non-binding” because Turkey does not legally recognize Cyprus’ government.