Turkish troops and security “guarantees” are at the core of United Nations-sponsored negotiations between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci now underway in Switzerland.
The top diplomats from the island’s ‘guarantors’ — Turkey, Greece and Britain — also are participating in the talks, which Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Thursday were the last chance for Cyprus’ reunification.
“This is the final conference. We cannot be negotiating these issues in this way forever,” Cavusoglu told reporters at his hotel in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
At the same time, he strongly rejected one of the top terms sought by Anastasiades and Greece: removal of the more than 35,000 troops Turkey keeps in the island’s breakaway northern third.
“That is their dream. They should wake up from this dream and they should abandon this dream,” said Cavusoglu, adding that Greek and Greek Cypriot negotiators should come up with “more reasonable proposals.”
Turkey has kept its soldiers deployed the island’s Turkish Cypriot north since 1974 when it invaded after a coup led by supporters of union with Greece. Ankara invoked military intervention rights accorded to the ‘guarantors’ under Cyprus’ 1960 constitution to initiate the military action.
Greek Cypriots see the troops as a threat and want them to leave as part of any deal reunifying the island as a federation. They also want the military intervention rights of Turkey, Greece and Britain rescinded.
However, the minority Turkish Cypriots want the troops to remain because they see Turkey as their protector.
Anastasiades has renewed a proposal for an international police force backed up by the U.N. Security Council to keep the peace. He says outside military forces have no place on Cyprus, arguing that European Union statutes guarantee ample security measures.
Cyprus is an EU member, but only the Greek Cypriot southern part that is the seat of the island’s internationally recognized government enjoys full benefits.
Earlier Thursday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said that nothing new was presented in morning talks that would bring the sides closer to a breakthrough agreement on security.
“The Turks are repeating positions they’ve held for the last decade and they think that they’re new,” Kotzias told reporters after emerging from the talks.
Officials are hoping the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres at the negotiations on Friday will help nudge the sides closer to agreement.
Parallel discussions on other issues including power-sharing at the federal level and how much territory will make up the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot federated zones are also being held.
“This conference is not just about security and guarantees,” Cavusoglu said. “Either there is an agreement on all issues or there is no agreement at all.”
Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Jamey Keaten in Geneva, Switzerland contributed.