NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — An insistence by breakaway Turkish Cypriots to cede Turkey the right to militarily intervene under a hoped-for deal reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus is “excessive and unjustified,” the Mediterranean island’s president said Friday.
President Nicos Anastasiades said in a televised address marking Cyprus’ 56th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule that no modern state within the European Union has any need for third-country security guarantees.
Any negotiated settlement to the island’s 42 years of ethnic division must eliminate any dependence on third countries, Anastasiades said.
The president said that while he acknowledges Turkish Cypriot mistrust of Greek Cypriots, he would not “satisfy unjustified concerns” at the expense of “existing and legitimate” Greek Cypriot fears.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aimed at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence, and it keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus is an EU member, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full member benefits.
“Having in mind the tragic experience of the past, we must be the ones who will put our state above all else and beyond the interests of foreigners,” Anastasides said.
Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are locked in complex negotiations to reach a peace accord by the end of the year. Both leaders have said progress has been made in shaping a federated Cyprus, but key differences remain.
The thorniest issues are how to deal with property abandoned during the Turkish invasion, how much territory each side will administer and security — matters Anastasiades said would “tip the balance as to whether a settlement is achievable.”
Akinci has repeatedly said Turkish Cypriots trust no security arrangement other than Turkey’s protection of at least the zone they would run in case an accord unravels. He said he wants negotiations to stick to a strict timetable and to have the remaining and most difficult issues discussed in the presence of Turkish, Greek and British officials.
Anastasiades has rejected timetables, calling a deal by the end of 2016 “ambitious” but doable as long as Turkey “exhibits the necessary political will.”
Greek and Turkish Cypriots will vote on any agreed upon deal in simultaneous, but separate referendums.