Cyprus president: Turkey’s aim for control scuppers peace

International
Nicos Anastasiades

Cyprus’ president Nicos Anastasiades smiles during an interview with the Associated Press at the presidential palace in capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday Sept. 17, 2019. Anastasiades says Turkey’s “obsession” to permanently station troops, secure military intervention rights and extend its influence over Turkish Cypriots in any peace deal is fanning fears that it wants to turn the island into a “protectorate.” (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkey is undercutting efforts to quickly revive peace talks aimed at solving Cyprus’ decades-long ethnic split by imposing unacceptable terms, the island nation’s president said Tuesday.

Nicos Anastasiades said Turkey’s “obsession” to permanently station troops, secure military intervention rights and entrench its control over all of Cyprus under any peace deal is unsettling Greek Cypriots and diminishing the prospects of a peace accord.

Anastasiades said Turkey’s demand to grant the Turkish Cypriots decision-making parity within an envisioned federal government “would, in effect, enable the minority community to determine policy and make the decisions.”

He said the Turkish Cypriots’ economic dependence on Turkey and the “imposition” of Turkey’s will in their internal affairs means that ultimately, decisions would be made in Ankara.

“It’s another way of controlling the whole of the new state of affairs or the entire state, which will essentially be transformed into a protectorate,” Anastasiades told the Associated Press in an interview.

“You can’t accept such provisions that would turn a state into the puppet of another state, but also become the only example in the world where potentially a peace deal would collapse the next day.”

Numerous rounds of peace talks have gone nowhere since the island was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north.

Anastasiades faulted Turkey for scuttling a mediation effort by U.N. envoy Jane Holl Lute earlier this month aimed at outlining the parameters under which a fresh round of formal negotiations would begin.

He said although he had sketched out with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci what those parameters would be, Turkey’s diktats to make Turkish Cypriot decision-making parity a precondition to a resumption of talks set the process back.

Anastasiades said although he’s ready to get peace talks going immediately, they can’t resume as long as Turkey continues to unlawfully drill for gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

“This is where Turkey will be tested on whether it wants talks or not,” said Anastasiades. “I don’t think anyone can negotiate under threat.”

The Cypriot presidentsaid Turkey’s call for Cyprus to suspend its drilling in exchange for Ankara to cease its activities in Cypriot waters is a non-starter because it would “equate legal actions with illegal ones” and undermine Cyprus’ sovereign rights.

He said Akinci’s proposal for a joint Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot committee to oversee drilling activities was dismissed on the same grounds.

Anastasiades said he pitched a counter-proposal that included the establishment of an escrow account into which a portion of future gas proceeds earmarked for Turkish Cypriots — roughly proportionate to their population size — would be deposited. Turkish Cypriots would even be able to access those funds even before a peace deal is signed as long as Turkey recognized the borders of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

The Cypriot president said Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots would think long and hard about “forcefully provoking the international community” by moving ahead with a stated intent to settle the fenced-off, uninhabited suburb of Varosha. He said such a move would clash with United Nations Security Council decisions prohibiting such actions.

Anastasiades said Cyprus’ strengthened relations with neighboring countries including Egypt and Israel coupled with strained U.S.-Turkey ties has enhanced the island nation’s role as an agent of regional stability.

He said U.S. interests are well-served by Cyprus’ closer ties to Washington on many levels including steps to counter money laundering and capital movements in aid of terrorism.

Anastasiades said bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio that aims to lift an “ill-advised” U.S. arms embargo imposed on Cyprus more than 30 years ago would be a symbolic gesture underscoring improved ties.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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