Rival Cypriot leaders at a make-or-break summit in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to seal an elusive peace deal for their divided island or face the consequences. “We are looking for a final settlement… We expect both parties to come with determination, will and leadership for a final settlement,” a UN spokesperson told AFP.
“We are expecting all parties to come to the table and settle this once and for all, including Greece, Turkey and Britain,” the three so-called guarantor powers of the former British colony. President Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci are to resume the UN-led reunification talks on Wednesday in the Alpine ski resort of Crans-Montana.
The conference is expected to run for at least 10 days, according to officials. Apart from the guarantor powers, a representative of the European Union will attend as an observer. It has yet to be confirmed if UN chief Antonio Guterres will take part.
UN-backed Cyprus peace talks held in Geneva in January failed to make any headway. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The Cyprus talks moved to Switzerland after negotiations on the island hit a dead end more than two years into the UN-brokered process.
Top of the agenda is a new security arrangement for a post-settlement federal Cyprus. This would involve the guarantor powers, which retain the right of military intervention. Unlocking security would allow Anastasiades, who heads the island’s internationally recognised government, and Akinci to make concessions on other core issues.
But major differences remain over a new security blueprint. The Greek Cypriot side seeks an agreement in Switzerland on the Turkish military presence, while the Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory.
Anastasiades’s government, backed by Athens, is pressing to abolish the intervention rights and for Turkish troops to withdraw from the island on a specific timeline. On the other side, the Turkish Cypriots and Ankara will argue to retain some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north.
A diplomatic source told AFP that Turkey is ready to bring a proposal to the table. “The Turkish side is willing to reduce troop numbers by 80 per cent and put this on the table. It is not realistic for the Greek Cypriots to say ‘no troops’ and ‘no guarantees’,” said the source.
Analysts also view the security issue as the key battleground. “What we can hope for is progress on the security chapter which will determine the outcome of the meeting in Switzerland,” said Hubert Faustmann, a political science professor at the University of Nicosia.
“In the best possible case, Turkey offers a security deal that has a sunset clause for the presence of the Turkish troops, anything less than that and Anastasiades is unlikely to agree and the conference will fail,” he added. The United Nations, which has 950 peacekeepers serving in Cyprus, could have some oversight role to implement new security arrangements.