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Posts tagged ‘United Island of Cyprus’

Germany considering Jordan, Cyprus for anti-IS base

May 17, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s defense minister says her office has drafted a list of eight locations where it could move aircraft supporting the anti-IS mission if Turkey continues to block German lawmakers from visiting troops at the Incirlik base.

Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday a team is already in Jordan to assess a site there for its Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane, and Cyprus is also being considered. Nonetheless, she stressed talks with Turkey were still ongoing.

Germany has granted asylum to some soldiers Turkey believes were involved in a failed coup attempt last summer. That has prompted Turkey to block a request for German lawmakers to visit some 270 troops serving with the coalition against the Islamic State group at the Incirlik air base.

UN chief to meet rival Cyprus leaders in New York

May 31, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — United Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet the rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus at U.N. headquarters in New York amid faltering reunification talks, officials said Wednesday.

Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that the meeting Sunday evening will aim to carry out a review of the state of play in negotiations that are now at a standstill. Aleem Siddique, a U.N. spokesman in Cyprus, said the U.N. chief looks forward to welcoming the leaders to New York.

Last week, U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide broke off mediation efforts after the island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, failed to agree on how to move the peace process toward a final summit aiming for a comprehensive accord.

Guterres has intervened in an apparent bid to prevent the two year-old talks, which have made significant headway at reunifying the island as a federation, from unravelling. On Tuesday, Anastasiades warned that talks were now at risk of deadlock because of an insistence by Turkey and the breakaway Turkish Cypriots to keep Turkish troops deployed on the island even after a peace deal.

Turkey has maintained 35,000 troops in the country’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since mounting an invasion in 1974 in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Greek Cypriots see the troops as a threat and want them removed as part of any peace deal. Anastasiades has proposed the deployment of an international police force to oversee security.

The minority Turkish Cypriots say a peace deal must include the deployment of Turkish troops they see as their only security guarantee. Anastasiades insists on prioritizing at a final summit in Geneva an agreement on withdrawing Turkish troops before resolving all other outstanding issues.

Akinci maintains that all issues should be discussed in a give-and-take process.

Greek, Turkish Cypriots link arms across border for peace

May 27, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Dozens of Greek and Turkish Cypriots have linked arms across a U.N.-controlled buffer zone cutting across ethnically divided Cyprus’ capital of Nicosia to voice their support for a reunification agreement.

Beating drums, blowing whistles and singing traditional Cypriot folk songs, the demonstrators said real peace lies in the hands of ordinary people from both sides of the divide as the Mediterranean island’s reunification talks appear to be faltering.

Protesters said Saturday’s event was to remind politicians not to let ordinary people down. On Friday, a U.N. envoy called off meditation efforts with the island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci after failing to find “common ground” on convening a final summit for an overall reunification deal.

But officials insisted talks haven’t collapsed.

Cyprus reunification talks restart, tough challenges ahead

April 11, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Against the backdrop of Turkey’s referendum on expanding presidential powers, talks aimed at reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus were restarted Tuesday with rival leaders hoping to claw back diminished trust and lost momentum after a two-month halt.

But the United Nations-mediated negotiations still face difficult challenges, with the island’s Greek Cypriot president accusing the breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader of backpedaling on key issues at Turkey’s prompting after many months of solid progress.

The minority Turkish Cypriots, meanwhile, say Greek Cypriots pay lip service to their core demand of equal partnership in the running of an envisioned federation — especially on holding the federal presidency alternately.

It’s still unclear if talks can result in a deal both sides can rally behind. Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. A breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the island’s north is recognized only by Turkey which keeps more than 35,000 troops there.

With talks delving deeper, bargaining has become more complicated. President Nicos Anastasiades said Turkish Cypriot conditions on how they’ll be represented in decision-making bodies would “paralyze” the state. Moreover, he said Turkey’s demand that its citizens be granted the freedom to relocate and transfer money, services and goods to Cyprus as part of any peace deal would mean “Cyprus’ takeover through peaceful means.”

Compounding the difficulties is Turkey’s condition for its troops and military intervention rights to stay in place after reunification, something that Turkish Cypriots say ensures their security but Greek Cypriots strongly reject.

Meanwhile, acrimony over legislation making a brief reference to a 1950 referendum on union with Greece mandatory in Greek Cypriot schools has sharpened divisions among Greek Cypriots. The legislation was reversed last week following Turkish Cypriot protests, but the move splintered Greek Cypriot opinion between those who saw it as necessary to get talks back on track and those who saw it as acquiescing to Turkey’s will.

Anastasiades called the legislation kerfuffle a pretext for Akinci to halt talks ahead of Sunday’s referendum on whether to concentrate more power in the hands of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sought to project toughness in order to woo the nationalist vote.

Divided Cyprus’ leaders conclude ‘historic’ map exchange

January 11, 2017

GENEVA (AP) — The rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus exchanged maps Wednesday outlining the zones the island’s Greek and Turkish communities would control in a hoped-for federation, the first time such a swap has occurred after decades of reunification talks.

The maps now have been locked in a United Nations vault due to the sensitive nature of the proposed boundaries, which indicate how many people displaced by the nation’s division may be eligible to reclaim lost homes and property relatively quickly.

Discussions to thrash out a single, compromise map will be scheduled for a later date, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said. He said it would be up to Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anasastaides and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to decide when those negotiations take place.

“This is not the end of the road,” Christodoulides told reporters. “This is the beginning of negotiations on a very important chapter of the Cyprus problem.” Turkish Cypriot spokesman Baris Burcu said both maps conformed to already agreed upon criteria for how much of the island’s land would go to the Turkish Cypriot zone — between 28.2 and 29.2 percent.

In the meantime, the talks will move in an international direction on Thursday. The foreign ministers of Cyprus’ so-called guarantors — Turkey, Greece and former colonial power Britain — are set to join a discussion on the pivotal issue of post-unification security arrangements.

Anastasiades and Akinci have been meeting in Geneva since Monday to discuss a number of outstanding issues that could restore unity to the island split by ethnic divisions for almost 43 years. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to a coup aiming to unite the island with Greece. Many residents were stripped of homes and property when Cyprus divided into an official Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish north where Turkey has more than 35,000 troops stationed.

Top leaders from the European Union, which counts Cyprus as a member, are also expected to join the talks Thursday that will concentrate on how to ensure and who will oversee post-settlement security.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on Wednesday that the talks were “the very last chance to see the island being recomposed in a normal way.” However, United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide, who is facilitating the talks, sought to downplay expectations. Eide said that the process remains on track to overcome major obstacles.

He pointed to “historic” advances happening at the summit, such as the exchange of boundary maps and the participation of the three guarantor powers at such a high-level. But a deal likely won’t emerge immediately from the summit since important technical details need to be sorted out before Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish communities can vote on an overall agreement, Eide said.

“So don’t expect that we will be walking home from Geneva — or rather flying — to Cyprus with a comprehensive settlement in our hands,” Eides told reporters. “But we will go home with a sense that it is coming.”

Hadjicostis reported from Nicosia, Cyprus. Raf Casert contributed from Brussels, Belgium.

Endgame looms in efforts to reunite Cyprus after 43 years

January 07, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The division of Cyprus is now in its 43rd year. Next week may mark the decisive moment when the small eastern Mediterranean island nation starts to be stitched back together again.

After 19 months of talks aimed at reunifying the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, the final details of a peace deal are set to be thrashed out, potentially bringing some good news to a region wracked by conflict and distrust.

But many hurdles remain — hurdles that have not been cleared in previous reunification attempts. The Conference on Cyprus is scheduled to start on Jan. 12 in Geneva, and is intended to hammer out some of the toughest aspects of a peace deal — including how to ensure security for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots once an aimed-for federation is established. The leaders of Greece, Turkey and the former colonial power Britain — the so-called guarantors — are widely anticipated to make an appearance at the summit.

Making sure there’s no repeat of the events of 1974 is key. In the summer of that year, Cyprus was split into two after Turkey invaded in the wake of a Greek-backed coup that aimed to unite the island with the rest of Greece. Following the invasion, the country was cleaved along ethnic lines with the Turkish Cypriots controlling 36.5 percent of Cyprus’ land mass backed by more than 35,000 Turkish troops deployed in the north. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey.

Before the official opening of the summit, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have earmarked three days from Jan. 9 to clear up a string of outstanding issues — including the pivotal matter of how much territory each side will control in a federation.

Here’s a look at where things stand:

MY LAND, YOUR LAND

Talks almost broke down in November because Anastasiades and Akinci couldn’t agree on how much territory the Greek and Turkish federal zones would control.

The difference was marginal — just a percentage point. Its impact was immense.

Greek Cypriots say enough territory must be returned under their control in order to allow at least 90,000 Greek Cypriots displaced by the 1974 invasion to reclaim lost homes and property in a relatively short time. The argument is that an agreement on those lines would reduce the financial burden of a peace deal by limiting the compensation amounts that will have to be paid to those not able to reclaim their homes and land. It would also potentially boost Greek Cypriot support for a deal when it’s put to a vote — a previous peace deal in 2004 was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a referendum.

Turkish Cypriots, on the other hand, want to limit the numbers that relocate. Telling Turkish Cypriots to leave what they have considered home for decades is unlikely to go down well with many in any subsequent referendum.

Both Anastasiades and Akinci are expected to produce maps showcasing their intentions. Anastasiades said without maps to sort out a final deal, talks won’t move to the top issue — security.

GUARANTORS

There’s another layer when it comes to Cyprus, an island that’s seen its share of big power intrigue through the centuries, from Alexander the Great’s invasion in the fourth century B.C., through Roman times, the Crusaders and most recently the British.

Legally, negotiations that touch on Cyprus’ security must include Greece, Turkey and Britain because Cyprus’ 1960 constitution accorded them “guarantor” status. The idea was to have the three protect the fledgling democracy at its independence from British rule which had followed four years of a guerrilla campaign by Greek Cypriots aimed at unifying the island with Greece — something the minority Turkish Cypriots deeply opposed.

Turkey invoked its intervention rights from its status as a guarantor in 1974.

SECURITY

Trust is therefore essential.

Turkish Cypriots fear that the majority Greek Cypriots could overwhelm them in the future. That’s why they are insisting that Turkish troops should remain as a bulwark.

Greek Cypriots, meanwhile, have worries over the might of Turkey and insist that a country outside the European Union — of which Cyprus is a member — should neither keep troops on the island nor the right to militarily intervene. EU officials have backed that notion.

Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian ways and recent security problems, evidenced further in the New Year’s Day attack in Istanbul that killed 39 people, have done little to either assuage Greek Cypriot fears or foster trust. United Nations officials are reportedly trying to work out a formula that would answer the security fears of both sides.

SUMMIT

Word is that Greece, Britain and Turkey will be represented at the Cyprus Conference at the highest levels. Top EU officials including Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini are said to be going, too. Anastasiades said that U.N. Security Council members may also attend on the sidelines if they so wish.

U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide has said the talks may expand to include issues that affect EU-Turkey relations, such as what to do with all the refugees who have fled Syria for Europe. Akinci has said that if a deal is struck in Geneva, it may take a few more months to thrash out the legal details before accord is put to a vote in the summer.

STAKES ARE HIGH

A peace deal would bolster regional security and ease cooperation in tapping potentially huge oil and gas reserves beneath the Med seabed.

For the wider region, a deal could be a beacon of hope.

Greeks and Turks, Muslims and Christians working things out could send a powerful message of peace.

UN chief sees ‘historic opportunity’ for Cyprus breakthrough

January 07, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes there is “a historic opportunity” for a breakthrough in upcoming negotiations that would reunite the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus after more than four decades, the United Nations said Friday.

The new U.N. chief will be opening and chairing a conference that starts Jan. 12 with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders and Cyprus’ three guarantors — Britain, Greece and Turkey — that will be seeking agreement on post-settlement security arrangements, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The Geneva conference will follow three days of talks between the island’s Greek Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci starting Jan. 9 to try to reach a settlement.

“We’re at a very decisive phase in the Cyprus peace talks,” Dujarric said. “At this point it’s really about being supportive of the process and seeing how the parties can finally bridge the final gaps.”

The island was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by Cypriot supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and keeps 35,000 troops there. While the island joined the European Union in 2004, only the internationally recognized Greek-speaking south enjoys full membership benefits.

Guterres met Thursday with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and late Friday afternoon with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias. Kotzias called it a “very nice” meeting but refused to comment on the Cyprus talks.

Dujarric said Guterres “expressed his appreciation for Greece’s continued support to the Cyprus talks and commitment to a comprehensive settlement of the issue.” “He recognized the historic moment for Cyprus” presented by the conference starting Jan. 12 and “lauded the unprecedented progress made by the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities,” Dujarric said.

The secretary-general “appealed to all parties to use this opportunity to find creative and mutually acceptable solutions that address the concerns of both communities,” Dujarric said. Earlier, Dujarric said that Gutteres emphasized “the historic opportunity” in his meeting with and “underlined the need for mutually acceptable solutions that address the concerns of both communities.”

He said the secretary-general also “expressed hope that all parties would demonstrate the necessary creativity in seeking innovative solutions.” The two sides have been trying to strike an accord for decades, with U.N. support.

Cavusoglu told reporters Thursday he is “more optimistic than ever” that an agreement can be reached, but stressed that there are still “serious issues” regarding territory, the map, security and guarantees.

The summit is seen as the apex of 19 months of talks between the two leaders that have produced significant progress on how an envisioned federation will function after an accord is approved in separate votes on both sides of the island.

Associated Press Writer Menelaos Hadjicostic contributed to this report from Nicosia, Cyprus.

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