French president offers support to key Cyprus peace talks

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 4:31 PM
French president offers support to key Cyprus peace talks

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — France is willing to help rally international support for a summit next month aimed at clinching an agreement to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus, the country's president said Friday.

President Francois Hollande said his country could play a "useful role" in getting the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council engaged in the Jan. 9-12 summit in Geneva, Switzerland.

Hollande said European Union leaders must also become engaged in the process and that Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades would sound them out during an EU Council meeting next week.

"The Cyprus problem which has lasted for many years must today be solved, and we're willing to contribute to reaching such a solution," Hollande said after talks with Anastasiades in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus.

A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup intended to unite Cyprus with Greece split the island into a internationally recognized Greek-speaking south and a breakway Turkish-speaking north. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.

The goal of the Geneva summit is an agreement on the thorniest issues that have stood in the way of a comprehensive peace accord. Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci already have been negotiating for over 18 months.

Cyprus' so-called 'guarantors' — Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler Britain — will also take part in the summit.

A key sticking point remains how security would work in an envisioned federal Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots want Turkey to retain military intervention rights and to keep troops on the island; Greek Cypriots who see a Turkish troop presence as a threat insist that as an EU member, Cyprus doesn't need its security overseen by a third country.

Greek Cypriot officials feel the presence of the U.N. Security Council 'permanent five' at the summit could keep in check potential Turkish demands to weave military intervention rights and a troop deployment into a peace accord.

Hollande met Anastasiades after visiting pilot crews and other military personnel aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle that's currently deployed in the east Mediterranean. The warship is taking part in strikes against Islamic State group targets in Syria and Iraq.