Cyprus talks fail, dash­ing unity hopes

The Guardian Weekly - - International news - He­lena Smith

What had been billed as the best chance to re­unify Cyprus has col­lapsed, fu­elling fears that the Mediter­ranean is­land is head­ing to­wards per­ma­nent par­ti­tion. UN-spon­sored talks in the Swiss Alps were brought to an abrupt halt last Fri­day after ne­go­ti­a­tions de­scended into “yelling and drama”, end­ing the great­est hope yet of re­solv­ing the 43-year dis­pute.

The Turk­ish Cypriot leader Mustafa Ak­inci, who had staked his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer on a so­lu­tion, pre­dicted that fu­ture ef­forts to re­unite Cyprus un­der a fed­eral um­brella would be ex­cep­tion­ally dif­fi­cult. “I wish the next gen­er­a­tion good luck on this and that one day maybe Turk­ish Cypri­ots and Greek Cypri­ots will de­cide to­gether that there is no longer a need for troops on the is­land.”

The is­sue of main­tain­ing mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion rights – in­sisted upon by Turkey – un­der a tri­par­tite “guar­an­tor power” se­cu­rity sys­tem con­ceived when Cyprus won in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain lay at the crux of the col­lapse.

While the UN spe­cial ad­viser Espen Barth Eide, who had chaired the talks, de­scribed the po­si­tions of both sides as “close but not close enough”, diplo­mats said it was spar­ring over troop pres­ence and guar­an­tor sta­tus that ul­ti­mately scup­pered progress.

Turkey has kept an es­ti­mated 40,000 soldiers on the is­land since in­vad­ing and seiz­ing its north­ern third in re­sponse to a rightwing coup in 1974 aimed at unit­ing Cyprus with Greece.

The Turk­ish for­eign min­is­ter, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, at­trib­uted the break­down to the in­sis­tence of Athens and Greek Cypri­ots that Ankara pull out, say­ing: “For Turkey and the Turk­ish Cypriot side it is not ac­cept­able for troops to be with­drawn.”

Greece’s for­eign min­istry spokesman Stratos Efthymiou said it was sim­i­larly im­pos­si­ble for the Greek side to coun­te­nance an en­vi­sioned fed­eral Cyprus with oc­cu­pa­tion troops on its soil and Turkey cling­ing to the right of uni­lat­eral in­ter­ven­tion.

“This is a non-starter for us,” he said. “We were will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate [troop num­bers] but Cyprus is an in­de­pen­dent EU state. It is not ac­cept­able for a third state to have the uni­lat­eral right of [mil­i­tary] in­ter­ven­tion.”

Mem­o­ries of Turk­ish in­va­sion are vivid among the ma­jor­ity pop­u­la­tion of Greek Cypri­ots, one in three of whom be­came refugees.

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