Ter­ri­tory row looms over Cyprus show­down talks

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ri­val Cypriot lead­ers will broach a multi-bil­lion-euro ter­ri­tory dis­pute next week in Switzer­land as part of UN-backed peace talks aimed at solv­ing one of the world’s long­est-run­ning po­lit­i­cal crises. Ne­go­ti­a­tions are due to dis­cuss the pre­vi­ously in­tractable is­sue of ter­ri­to­rial ad­just­ments on the Mediter­ranean re­sort is­land-a main bone of con­tention dur­ing four decades of dis­cord be­tween its Greek- and Turk­ish-speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Cyprus has been di­vided since 1974, when Turk­ish troops oc­cu­pied its north­ern third in re­sponse to an Athens-in­spired coup seek­ing union with Greece. UN-bro­kered talks be­tween Greek Cypriot leader Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades and his Turk­ish Cypriot coun­ter­part Mustafa Ak­inci be­gan 17 months ago and have been billed as the is­land’s last best chance for an en­dur­ing peace deal.

Anas­tasi­ades this week urged both sides to “seize the op­por­tu­nity not only to elim­i­nate or re­duce ex­ist­ing dif­fer­ences... but to achieve such progress on ter­ri­tory which al­lows us to lead to a fi­nal set­tle­ment”. But talks have been be­set by prob­lems-in­clud­ing dis­putes over prop­erty and com­pen­sa­tion-and Turk­ish Cypriot for­eign min­is­ter Tahsin Er­tu­gru­loglu told AFP last month that the peace process was “ob­vi­ously a fail­ure”. An­a­lysts say that any deal hinges on the is­sue of ter­ri­tory swaps, which could see a num­ber of Turk­ish Cypri­ots dis­placed from their homes.

“Cer­tain psy­cho­log­i­cal bar­ri­ers have been bro­ken through if they can ac­tu­ally sit down with maps and share their po­si­tions with each other,” said Fiona Mullen, a Cyprus-based an­a­lyst at Sapi­enta Eco­nom­ics. The two lead­ers will at­tempt to agree on the in­ter­nal bound­ary be­tween two fu­ture con­stituent states, al­low­ing for the re­turn of some ar­eas in Turk­ish-held north­ern Cyprus to the Greek Cypri­ots.

Se­cu­rity ‘re­ally the endgame’

“Ter­ri­tory is nat­u­rally con­nected to prop­erty is­sues and se­cu­rity be­cause it af­fects the daily life of peo­ple liv­ing near the bor­ders,” Turk­ish Cypriot an­a­lyst Mete Hatay told AFP. With­out an agree­ment on ter­ri­tory there can be no de­ci­sion on how many refugees can re­turn to their for­mer homes or how the plans for restora­tion, ex­change or com­pen­sa­tion of prop­erty-which could run to bil­lions of eu­ros (dol­lars) — will work. “If they crack this is­sue then we will be on the way to the big, mul­ti­party dis­cus­sions on se­cu­rity,” Mullen said. “That’s re­ally the endgame.”

Al­though ini­tially costly, the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund be­lieves any deal would pro­vide a long-term boost for Cyprus, which needed a multi-bil­lion-euro bailout in 2013 to res­cue its tee­ter­ing econ­omy. “The po­ten­tial is a tre­men­dous op­por­tu­nity in terms of in­vest­ments and trade in the long run,” the IMF’s Cyprus rep­re­sen­ta­tive said this week. The EU’s for­eign af­fairs chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini, in Nicosia last week, said a Cyprus set­tle­ment would be a “game changer” for the en­tire eastern Mediter­ranean.

The last ma­jor peace push ended in 2004 when a pro­posal worked out by then-UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Kofi An­nan was ac­cepted by most Turk­ish Cypri­ots but re­sound­ingly dis­missed by Greek Cypri­ots. The is­land-home to sev­eral Bri­tish mil­i­tary bases-is an EU mem­ber but its divi­sion re­mains a ma­jor hur­dle in Turkey’s ac­ces­sion bid.

United Na­tions chief Ban Ki-Moon has said he would like to see a fi­nal set­tle­ment of the Cyprus con­flict be­fore he steps down on De­cem­ber 31. Any deal would then need to be voted on by both com­mu­ni­ties. “There’s a gen­eral feel­ing that this is the small win­dow to reach an agree­ment on all ma­jor po­lit­i­cal is­sues,” Mullen said. Ak­inci, dur­ing a speech this week, said: “This is not some­thing that we can keep dis­cussing af­ter 50 years for an­other 50 years. Ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the UN, is aware of this.” — AFP

LON­DON: Bri­tain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn gives a speech at the TUC Congress Cen­tre. — AP

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