Security remains a stumbling block in Cyprus peace talks

AP News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2017 4:09 PM
Security remains a stumbling block in Cyprus peace talks

GENEVA (AP) — Turkish proposals on how to maintain security in Cyprus if a deal reunifying the ethnically divided island nation is reached fell short of its president's expectations Wednesday.

President Nicos Anastasiades, a Greek Cypriot, said after the first day of crucial peace talks in the Swiss alps that the plan Turkey offered to overcome one of the key stumbling blocks to an accord were unsatisfactory.

Anastasiades didn't elaborate on what the proposals contained. However, he has clashed with Ankara and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots over the 35,000 or so troops that Turkey has kept in northern Cyprus since 1974.

"Regarding the Turkish proposals all I have to say is that they don't satisfy us at all," Anastasiades told reporters after the United-Nations sponsored negotiations ended for the day.

Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are meeting at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana to try to bridge the remaining issues preventing a reunification agreement.

Joining them were top officials from Cyprus' three so-called 'guarantors', Greece, Turkey and Britain. Their input is essential in formulating a new post-reunification security structure for the riven island with an overall population of 1.1 million.

Earlier Wednesday, U.N. officials struck an upbeat note on the course of discussions, saying "creative ideas" on security had been exchanged.

"There was, I would say a remarkably positive attitude," U.N. Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman told reporters.

Feltman added that he felt reassured over the "forward-looking nature" of the comments made at the talks.

Security is a pivotal part of any deal to reunify Cyprus as a federation — and by and large one of the most difficult issues to resolve.

Greek Cypriots want Turkey to call back the troops it keeps in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. Turkey has maintained a military presence on the island since it invaded following a coup led by supporters of unifying Cyprus with Greece.

The internationally recognized Greek Cypriot-led government also wants the military intervention rights granted to the guarantor countries under Cyprus' 1960 constitution expunged.

But the minority Turkish Cypriots regard the troops as a necessary for their protection and want them to stay. Turkish officials have said the removal of all troops is a non-starter.

Anastasiades previously proposed an international police force that would be overseen by the U.N. to provide security.

U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide said achieving a comprehensive deal at Crans-Montana is "hard, but not impossible." Short of that, the goal is a breakthrough that would "lead the leaders to tell each other that Cyprus will reunify," he said.

Along with security, the discussions will address other outstanding issues, such as how power would be shared on a federal level and how much territory would comprise the two sides' federal zones.

If there is a deal, it will be put to a vote in both communities later this year, the U.N. envoy said.

In Cyprus, several hundred Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots gathered in the divided capital's medieval center at a checkpoint along the U.N.-controlled buffer zone to voice their support for peace.

Singing Cypriot folk songs and waving flags reading "peace" in Greek and Turkish, the demonstrators called on the leaders to deliver.

"Our country is too small to be divided," demonstrator Kate Christodoulou said. "We can all live together in peace. We never lose hope."