NICOSIA – In what could be a deal-breaker, Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said he wants a Turkish army to stay on the island as part of any unity deal.
Turkey has a 35,000-strong army on the northern third it has unlawfully occupied since a 1974 invasion and Akinci, readying for three days of talks in Geneva starting Jan. 9, 2017 with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, said it will stay.
Anastasiades has said the army wouldn’t be allowed under any deal but it could be left up to the guarantors of security on the island – the United Kingdom, Turkey and Greece – to decide when they join the talks on Jan. 12, along with the European Union and United Nations.
Akinci told the Turkish service of the BBC that if Greece and Cyprus insist on a settlement which includes “no guarantees and no armies,” then “negotiations will end before they even begin.”
Greece wants to end its role as a guarantor but Turkish-Cypriots want their army as a safeguard and Akinci said it’s needed
“I want a preventive force so that we don’t live such days (of war) again,” he said, although he added that Turkey would not annex the island’s occupied part in the event that negotiations and the summit do not lead to a solution.
The Greek Foreign Ministry’s General Secretary Nikos Paraskevopoulos and his aides landed in Ankara on Dec. 29 for talks with Turkish officials, and to lay the groundwork for a possible meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said while Greece still supports Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union – even though Erdogan refuses to recognize Cyprus, which is already a member, and bars its ships and planes – that this “doesn’t depend on us or the EU, but on their choices and their will.”