UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres held “highly constructive” talks on Cyprus with key parties, enabling a clear vision of what could lead to a settlement, the UN said on Saturday. Guterres met yesterday with President Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek-Cypriot leader who heads Cyprus’s internationally-recognised government, and his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci. He also met with the so-called guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and Britain.
Guterres’ spokesman said the series of talks, held in the Swiss alpine resort of Crans-Montana, was “highly constructive… a positive, results-oriented meeting.” “A clear understanding emerged of the essential elements of a package that might lead to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus,” the spokesman added.
The talks continued “at the political level” yesterday and Guterres “remains fully engaged” in the effort, the spokesman’s statement said. The negotiations have been billed as the best chance for resolving one of the world’s longest-running political crises.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and later occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired putsch seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains more than 35,000 troops there.
Hopes of reunification depend greatly on a drastic reduction of Ankara’s military presence. Several previous peace drives have stumbled over the issue, with Greek-Cypriots demanding a total withdrawal of what they say is an occupying force and minority Turkish-speakers fearful of ethnic violence in the event of a pullout.
A diplomatic source told AFP that Ankara was prepared to slash its troop numbers by as much as 80 percent, but Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu went on national television Thursday to deny a withdrawal was planned. The talks began in an upbeat mood on Wednesday.
However, a source close to the discussions said that the atmosphere hardened on a number of issues — particularly the Turkish-Cypriot demand for an alternating presidency in any future united state. Cavusoglu also told reporters the Crans-Montana talks would be the “final conference” on the Cyprus problem, adding: “We need to reach a settlement.”