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Greece Rejects Turkey’s Demand for Two States on Cyprus

Αssociated Press

This image provided from Cyprus press and information office, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, left, and Greece s Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis talk as they walk after their meeting at the presidential palace in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. (Stavros Ioannides, PIO via AP)

NICOSIA -- A planned United Nations-sponsored meeting to discuss how - or whether - to proceed with reunification talks for Cyprus shouldn’t proceed if Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots keep up demands for two separate states, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who presided over the last found of failed talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, was to bring together officials from Cyprus as well as the three guarantors of security for the divided island: Greece, Turkey and the former Colonial ruler The United Kingdom.

But Mitsotakis said the exploratory sit down shouldn’t even happen if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the new hardline Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar won’t discuss anything other than permanent partition.

Erdogan and Tatar want recognition for the occupied northern third of the island seized in an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion, in which a self-declared republic was set up, unaccepted by any other country in the world.

Mitsotakis though said Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot side should stick to a long-standing failed framework of pursuing a two-state accord that defies a UN  and European Union-endorsed framework for federation.

That idea has gone nowhere for decades and seen a long line of diplomats, envoys, political leaders and others try to bring accord only to see the hopes dashed by clashing claims between the two sides.

Mitsotakis said that in their public statements, the leaders of Turkey and the breakaway Turkish Cypriots are “outside the framework” of an envisioned federation made up of Greek and Turkish speaking zones that the two sides agreed would form the basis of a peace deal more than 40 years ago.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Tatar - who said he would do what Erdogan tells him - said federation isn't feasible and that any arrangement should be negotiated between “two equal sovereign states.”

That would, if accepted, give the occupied territory parity with the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government that is a member of the EU that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005, prospects worsening under Erdogan

Mitsotakis said after talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades that both Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots “must be aware that a resumption of a substantial dialogue is possible only within the existing and binding margins.”

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab urged compromise to boost the UN bid to restart Cyprus peace talks. Raab pledged support in helping to “break the logjam” that has blocked a peace deal for nearly a half-century, fueled tensions over offshore energy reserves and encumbered Turkey’s relationship with the European Union.

Greek-Cypriots strongly reject any deal that would legitimize the east Mediterranean island nation’s ethnic partition and another obstacle is insistence by Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots to take part in licensing of foreign companies to drill for energy offshore - Turkey already doing so in violation of soft EU sanctions.

Turkey also keeps a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side and its refusal to remove it, along with a demand for the right of further military intervention, collapsed the Swiss talks.

Key impediments to an accord include a Greek Cypriot rejection of a call by the minority Turkish-Cypriots to be granted veto powers on the island where they are only about 20 percent of the population on the island.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)