Cypriot leaders press bid to reach peace deal

Akinci and Anastasiades have been negotiating for more than 18 months leading up to the UN-backed peace talks in Geneva, seen by many as a historic opportunity to reunite the island.

Cypriot leaders press bid to reach peace deal

World Bulletin / News Desk

Rival Cypriot leaders returned to the negotiating table Tuesday to press on with an ambitious bid to end decades of conflict, with talks centred on the island's future system of government.

As he arrived at the UN's European headquarters in Geneva for a second day of talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the negotiations had so far been "constructive".

He said the talks were being conducted in a "peaceful" climate, and that the sides were "working intensely in the hope that we can manage to achieve positive results."

But he acknowledged that "we have not yet reached" agreement on sufficient issues to seal a deal.

On Tuesday, the two leaders were pouring over the issue of how a reunited Cyprus should be governed.

"You can understand that we have difficult and sensitive issues. There is a will from both sides to have progress to reach agreements or understanding," Cyprus government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides was quoted as saying by the Cyprus Weekly Newspaper. 

The outcome of negotiations is far from certain, with deep divisions remaining on core issues such as property, territorial adjustments and security.

This is the third time the Cypriot leaders have met in Switzerland since November, but the two previous rounds were inconclusive.

And the two sides are still facing a range of thorny issues that have blocked progress for decades, including how to redraw boundaries and ensure security on the island.

 Maps on the table? 

 The three days of talks are set to wrap up Wednesday with the parties presenting maps of their proposals for the internal boundaries of a future bi-zonal federation on the eastern Mediterranean island.

If that goes to plan, they will be joined from Thursday for an international conference chaired by the UN's new Secretary General Antonio Guterres and attended by representatives of the island's three guarantor powers -- former colonial ruler Britain, Greece and Turkey.

UN envoy for the divided island Espen Barth Eide told reporters in Geneva Monday he wanted to see the powers represented "at the highest or the second highest level."

But according to Cypriot media, the participation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is highly uncertain if they see no significant progress in the talks between the two Cypriot leaders.

London meanwhile said that British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, not Prime Minister Theresa May, is due to attend.

 'Difficult' 

 "We are now in the final moment. We are now really at the moment of truth," Eide said Monday, while warning that some of the "most complicated or most emotional issues" remained to be agreed upon.

"This is going to be difficult," he said, but added: "It is possible."

On Tuesday, the two delegations were discussing the island's relations with the European Union as well as a future system of government for a prospective federal state and the economy, the UN said.

While Cyprus has been an EU member since 2004, Anastasiades's internationally recognised government exercises no control over the northern Turkish-ruled part of the island, and EU legislation is suspended there until a settlement is reached. 

The EU therefore has a vested interest in seeing the Cyprus conflict resolved, and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is planning to attend Thursday's conference as an observer.

They were also discussing the economic aspects of reunification, with representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund expected to take part in the afternoon meetings, the Cypriot news agency CNA reported.

On Monday, the two sides mainly discussed the difficult issue of property. According to CNA, however, they made no real progress on the topic.

They appear to remain far apart on how many Greek Cypriots should be able to return to homes they fled in 1974, with Akinci determined to minimise the number of Turkish Cypriots who would be displaced for a second time.

There are also still significant differences over security, with Anastasiades wanting Turkish troops to leave the island but Akinci determined to keep a military presence.

afp

Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Ocak 2017, 18:46
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