NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus' president has warned U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that time is needed to negotiate a deal reunifying the ethnically-split island without "deficiencies, gaps and ambiguities" that may lead Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reject it in referendums.
Nicos Anastasiades said progress has been made on "an important number" of issues including power sharing and the economy in an envisioned federation. But he said differences remain in "all chapters" and raising expectations that a deal is "within immediate reach" should be avoided.
"I believe that — despite our wish for the opposite — we should not present a picture that does not reflect the reality," Anastasiades said in a document obtained by the Associated Press on Monday from an official who provided it on condition of anonymity because he didn't want to be named breaching a confidentiality clause.
Anastasiades said even on issues the leaders see eye to eye, their complexity "demands time and careful planning so as to avoid reaching a solution with considerable gaps and constructive ambiguities that will negatively affect its viability."
The Cypriot president alluded to avoiding a repeat of earlier mistakes that scuttled a U.N. brokered accord in 2004. Turkish Cypriots approved and Greek Cypriots rejected the deal in simultaneous votes.
Anastasiades made the appeal to the U.N. chief during a meeting last month in Davos, Switzerland, that included breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci amid a recent flurry of remarks by foreign officials suggesting that a deal was in sight.
A peace accord has eluded numerous rounds of talks since 1974 when the island was split as a result of an invasion by Turkey that followed a coup aiming at union with Greece. Turkey still maintains more than 35,000 troops in the island's north and is the only country recognizing a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.
Anastasiades and Akinci resumed talks last May in what has been billed as the best chance at peace in decades. Both men say a deal is possible in 2016.
The Cypriot president said key issues have yet to be discussed, including how much territory will comprise the Greek and Turkish administrative zones, military intervention rights ceded to Greece, Turkey and Britain under Cyprus' existing constitution, timelines for the withdrawal of Turkish troops and drafting laws.
He said among the complex issues that needed to be ironed out is the cost of compensating property owners who will be unable to regain their property and where that money will come from.
Anastasiades said the cost will be "far less" if a "significant" number of owners get their properties back.
He said both sides need to feel the immediate benefits of peace to make the deal work — while Turkish Cypriots will have sea and air links to the world, Greek Cypriots will need to see the immediate return of some land and the withdrawal of a "significant" number of Turkish troops.
"Therefore, as it is obvious, for the immediate implementation of the above on Day 1, thorough preparation and considerable work that will last some months is needed, even before the referenda are held," Anastasiades said.