Cyprus peace deal nudges closer as hurdles still to overcome
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- Diplomats are meeting Wednesday in the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin, charged with figuring out if the differences are bridgeable in a deal to reunify ethnically split Cyprus.
The report they produce over three days will determine whether the Cypriot leaders and the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and Britain will reconvene in Geneva to thrash out a security agreement that will likely pave the way to an overall reunification accord. A complex web of interlocking interests has scuttled previous rounds of talks that have trudged on in successive failures since the island was split in 1974.
Here's the state of play as talks get underway:
WHERE WE'RE AT:
After 20 months, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have sketched out the basic framework of a deal reunifying the island as a federation that they feel can earn the backing of the majority of both communities in separate votes. If all goes well, the referendums could happen by mid-year. The two men have made much progress on how to share power in a federation, as well as on the economy and how the federation will function as a member of the European Union.
What remains are issues that lie at the heart of Cyprus' division - highly emotive issues that play on the deepest fears of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Both sides have submitted maps delineating the territory they believe their respective federal zones should control. The difference is a single percentage point - the Turkish Cypriots want 29.2 percent of Cyprus' land mass - down from the more than 36 percent they now control - while the Greek Cypriots have proposed 28.2 percent.
Although it seems like a small difference, neither side is happy.
Greek Cypriots want what was previously densely populated territory to be returned under their control in order to allow at least 90,000 Greek Cypriots displaced from the 1974 invasion to reclaim lost homes and property relatively quickly. They say the more people who reclaim homes, the less costly a peace deal in terms of compensation for those who cannot get their property back, and the more support for the deal.
Conversely, Turkish Cypriots want to limit the number of people now living in Greek Cypriot-owned homes who have to relocate.
MY TURN, YOUR TURN
The two sides also remain stuck on the concept of a rotating presidency.
The Turkish Cypriots insist the future federation's presidency should alternate between the Greek and Turkish communities to ensure reunified Cyprus would be a genuine partnership.
Greek Cypriots oppose the idea, arguing that according executive parity to the minority Turkish Cypriots would warp democratic principles. Some of the more suspicious Greek Cypriots see a rotating presidency as Turkey running the country by proxy.
Officials said the two sides didn't even take up the issue last week because the two sides are so far apart.
GUARANTORS, SECURITY, MILITARY INTERVENTIONS
Cyprus' 1960 constitution accorded Britain, Greece and Turkey the right to underwrite the security of the island. Turkey invoked its intervention rights from its status as a guarantor to justify its 1974 invasion following a coup aiming to unite Cyprus with Greece. It still keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north that don't answer to Turkish Cypriot civilian authority.
Greek Cypriots are deeply concerned about the military might, especially as Turkey descends into deeper authoritarianism. They insist no non-EU country should station troops on the island or have the right to intervene militarily. Anastasiades has proposed the deployment of an international police force.
On the other hand, the minority Turkish Cypriots see Turkish troops as their sole insurance against possible hostilities. Akinci has said this can come under review after a number of years when fear and mistrust melts away.
Pan Pylas in Davos, Switzerland, and Cinar Kiper in Istanbul contributed to this report.