Working group on Cyprus starts duty in Switzerland

Working group on Cyprus starts duty in Switzerland

MONT PELERIN, Switzerland
Working group on Cyprus starts duty in Switzerland A working group seeking a solution to the Cyprus conflict under the auspices of the United Nations and with the participation of the three guarantor powers has started its duty in Mont Pelerin in Switzerland on Jan. 18.

At the end of a five-party conference on Cyprus in Geneva on Jan. 12, the parties, which include Turkish Cyprus, Greek Cyprus as well as the three guarantor powers; Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, had agreed to meet again on Jan. 18 at a working group level represented by deputies to examine the security question, before a fresh attempt to forge a complete political deal.

Experts and technical officials were present at the Jan. 18 meeting, which is expected to last three days, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported.

 If all goes well, the foreign ministers of the five countries, who had attended the five-party conference too, will once again meet either in late January or early February. 

If a consensus at the foreign ministerial level meeting is reached, then the prime ministers of the five countries are expected to be invited to Geneva to agree on a final deal in order to solve the more than 40-year-old conflict. 

If a consensus is not met, however, the peace talks that started in May 2015, may come to a fruitless end without any significant success. 

The island has been divided since Turkey’s intervention in the north in 1974 after Greek Cyprus orchestrated a coup aimed at unification with Greece. 

The thorniest issues in the peace talks are the security and guarantee topics. While Greek Cyprus and Greece want the guarantor system to be scrapped and all Turkish troops on the island to withdraw, Turkish Cyprus, who were subjected to violence by Greek Cypriots before the 1974 intervention, and Turkey oppose the idea and say while the guarantor system needs to continue, Turkey could withdraw its troops as long as the same amount of soldiers are decided to be stationed on the two parts of the island. 

A source involved in consultations in Geneva between Greek, Turkish and British technocrats said security was a very difficult issue, adding that it might be “too ambitious” to assume a deal on settling security issues as part of establishing a two-state federation was in sight.

“We will try to ... maybe offer some alternatives for the political level to consider,” a source - who is close to the Turkish Cypriot delegation - told Reuters on Jan. 18 on condition of anonymity.

A second diplomatic source said one option under consideration was to establish four separate police forces - one for each post-settlement state, one for federal issues and a multinational force.

Greece sees progress in Cyprus, says Turkey should drop ‘aggressive’ talk

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Jan. 18 that progress had been made in ending a decades-old stalemate over the division of Cyprus, but urged Turkey to drop “aggressive rhetoric” to reach a deal. 

“We are optimistic but with prudence and responsibility, as this situation merits, we will continue to work hard...and hope that we have positive results in the near future,” Tsipras said in a speech in the Greek parliament. 

“A precondition to that is that the other side... particularly Turkey, come to negotiations in similar spirit, putting aside aggressive rhetoric, and work seriously and responsibly,” he said.  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier had accused Greece of “fleeing” efforts to reunite Cyprus.