Cyprus leaders under pressure to strike deal deal in Swiss resort
NICOSIA – Agence France-PresseRival Cypriot leaders at a make-or-break summit in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to seal an elusive peace deal for their divided island or face the consequences.
“We are looking for a final settlement... We expect both parties to come with determination, will and leadership for a final settlement,” a U.N. spokesperson told AFP.
“We are expecting all parties to come to the table and settle this once and for all, including Greece, Turkey and Britain,” the three guarantor powers of the former British colony.
Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akıncı are to resume the U.N.-led reunification talks on June 28 in the Alpine ski resort of Crans-Montana.
The conference is expected to run for at least 10 days, according to officials. Apart from the guarantor powers, a representative of the European Union will attend as an observer.
It has yet to be confirmed if U.N. chief Antonio Guterres will take part.
U.N.-backed Cyprus peace talks held in Geneva in January failed to make any headway.
The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops intervened in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in Turkish Cyprus.
The Cyprus talks moved to Switzerland after negotiations on the island hit a dead end more than two years into the U.N.-brokered process.
Top of the agenda is a new security arrangement for a post-settlement federal Cyprus. This would involve the guarantor powers, which retain the right of military intervention.
Unlocking security would allow Anastasiades and Akıncı to make concessions on other core issues.
But major differences remain over a new security blueprint.
The Greek Cypriot side seeks an agreement in Switzerland on the Turkish military presence, while the Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory.
Anastasiades’s government, backed by Athens, is pressing to abolish the intervention rights and for Turkish troops to withdraw from the island on a specific timeline.
On the other side, Turkish Cyprus and Turkey will argue to retain some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north.
A diplomatic source told AFP that Turkey is ready to bring a proposal to the table.
“The Turkish side is willing to reduce troop numbers by 80 percent and put this on the table. It is not realistic for the Greek Cypriots to say ‘no troops’ and ‘no guarantees’,” said the source.
Analysts also view the security issue as the key battleground.
“What we can hope for is progress on the security chapter which will determine the outcome of the meeting in Switzerland,” said Hubert Faustmann, a political science professor at the University of Nicosia.
“In the best possible case, Turkey offers a security deal that has a sunset clause for the presence of the Turkish troops, anything less than that and Anastasiades is unlikely to agree and the conference will fail,” he added.
The United Nations, which has 950 peacekeepers serving in Cyprus, could have some oversight role to implement new security arrangements.
Faustmann argued that failure in Switzerland could prompt the world body to seriously review its peacekeeping mission (UNFICYP) on Cyprus.
“There will be consequences within the UNFICYP mandate, if the talks fail the UN’s Good Offices will be closed.”
Negotiations have focused on creating a new federation in Cyprus but disagreements over the return of property, territorial adjustments and power-sharing have yet to be fully resolved.
A group of Greek and Turkish Cypriots has been organizing protests across the U.N.-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia urging the leaders to go the final mile.
“They more or less know what a final settlement will look like. The only thing necessary now is to have the will and courage to make the political decisions to get there,” said peace activist Esra Aygın.
The talks are also complicated by a Greek Cypriot presidential election next February and the island’s search for oil and gas that Ankara wants suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.
After a U.N. reunification blueprint was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a referendum in 2004, Cyprus joined the EU still a divided island, with Turkish Cyprus recognized only by Turkey.
Any Cyprus peace accord will have to be put to a new vote.