Greek and Turkish officials will hold preliminary discussions to prepare their country’s leaders for a Jan. 12 meeting that will take place after Cyprus unity talks.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will meet in Geneva for the three days before that crucial meeting in a last-ditch attempt to break a deadlock over how much property stolen by Turks during an unlawful 1974 invasion should be returned to Cypriots.
That had led to breakdown in the talks earlier at a Swiss resort although both sides insisted there was no collapse in negotiations despite formidable obstacles that remain, including Turkey’s insistence it will keep a 35,000-strong standing army on the northern third of the island it has occupied for 42 years.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meeting to discuss those talks has been delayed but the newspaper Kathimerini reported that the Foreign Ministry’s General Secretary will visit Ankara and that his visit will be reciprocated by his Turkish counterpart Umit Yalcin.
There has been growing tension since Erdogan stepped up his rhetoric that he doesn’t recognize the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that set borders between the countries and that Turkey wants Greek islands off its coast returned.
The Jan. 12 meeting will include Turkey, the European Union, the United Nations’ incoming new Secretary Antonio Guterres and the United Kingdom and Greece is supposed to attend as a guarantor – along with Turkey and UK – of the island’s security.
Akinci dampened expectations by reiterating – after meeting Anastasiades for the last time in 2016 – missing the deadline they’d set for a resolution – that Cypriot insistence Turkey can’t keep an army on the island could scuttle the talks.
“In the realm of guarantees, we want to see Turkey guarantee the new setup. The Greek Cypriots do not accept this. There is a difference of position,” he said.
Anastasiades and Akinci both said that Turkey could be involved in becoming an energy hub through Cyprus if offshore drilling leads to lucrative finds of gas or oil.