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Troubled Turkey Sets Off Jitters Over Cyprus Unity Talks

A failed coup in Turkey and an imposed State of Emergency has raised worries that hopes to reunify Cyprus will be lost.

With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan distracted by the military-led attempt to overthrow him, diplomats and political leaders are anxious that the Cyprus talks will be set aside or marginalized.

Turkey provides military and financial support to the northern third of the island it has unlawfully occupied since invading in 1974 and where it keeps a standing army of some 30,000 troops.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish peer, Mustafa Akinci, have been talking for a year and there was optimism in some quarters a deal could be reached by the end of the year despite some setbacks.

In a feature report, the Reuters news service outlined the reasons for the growing anxiety and the timetable being upended.

Diplomats have previously said the current round of peace talks is the best chance in generations for ending a conflict that has become a perpetual irritant between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, and an obstacle to Turkey joining the European Union.

“Nobody actually knows if it will have an effect,” one official close to the unity talks told the news agency. “But it is overshadowing negotiations … There are elements that are big unknowns.”

Erdogan had the last word on what his country’s stance will be for the negotiations, not Akinci, another wild card.

“We are talking about a system that will make all Cypriot citizens safe,” said Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulides. “In such a system there is no room for treaties of guarantee or the presence of Turkish troops,” he told reporters in Athens.

Under a treaty which granted the former British colony independence in 1960, Britain, Greece and Turkey have intervention powers to restore constitutional order.

Among others, Ankara needs to agree to a pullout of Turkish troops, adjusting military-controlled boundaries between the north and south and writing off an estimated 17 billion euros ($18.8 billion) it considers as Turkish Cypriot debt to Ankara.

“If they don’t write that off there is no way there can be a settlement,” said the official.

James Ker-Lindsay at the London School of Economics said Turkey’s crisis should be an alarm bell for both sides to find a resolution fast.

“Its a wake-up call for both sides…it doesn’t appear like Turkey has any anchor to the West anymore. All the logic, seen from the outside, is that they (Cypriots) should get a solution, get a solution now,” he told Reuters.

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