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‘Excellent cooperation with Greece’ Anastasiades says

Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias

President Nicos Anastasiades said on Thursday that cooperation with the Greek government remains excellent, following media speculation that Greece’s foreign affairs minister Nicos Kotzias may have scuttled the Switzerland talks.

Following the collapse of the second round of talks between Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in Mont Pelerin, Kotzias on Tuesday distributed via email a non-paper which repeated Greece’s conditions on the matter, namely that Turkey must agree to abolishing guarantees before Greece consents to attending a multi-party conference.

Kotzias withdrew the non-paper a few hours later.

The multi-party conference to discuss security and guarantees was to take place after the two leaders would reach an agreement on the issue of territory.

“I want to make it clear once and for all that there is excellent cooperation with the Greek government, and this does not include just the prime minister, but the entire government,” Anastasides said when asked to comment on Kotzias.

During a period as critical as this, certain quarters should stop circulating rumours of a crisis in relations between Cyprus and Greece, he added.

Kotzias himself refuted criticism on Wednesday that his position – ending the guarantees and the withdrawal of Turkish occupation troops from Cyprus – amounted to downright nationalism.

Speaking at an event in Thessaloniki, Greece, Kotzias also dismissed claims that he had threatened to resign over the settlement negotiations of the Cyprus problem. He said these rumours were an orchestrated attack against him.

Kotzias pointed out that from the beginning of this round of talks, in March 2015, Greece had put forth the issue of security and guarantees.

“We are the first Greek government that supported (the talks), did not judge, did not express opinion, did not interfere. We support all the actions and positions of the Cypriot government,” he said.

Greece is a guarantor power – along with the UK and Turkey –but it does not wish to be one anymore, he added.

“We said that there cannot be a status of guarantees, nor should there be an occupation army. This is outdated.”

Kotzias noted that the situation was different in 1960, when the Cypriot state was being established and where certain powers had made decisions over its creation, “and it is another thing, 55 years later, “now that a Cypriot state exists and it is a UN and EU member.”

“It was also a different era, back when the Turks, the British and Greece were deciding on the fate of Cyprus, and it is a different (era) today where Cyprus is an EU member state and decides whether Turkey should become a member or not,” he said.

Greece, he added, wants a united Cyprus with both its communities and all three of its minorities enjoying full rights. “Our aim is the security of Cypriots and not the geostrategic interests of a third country”.

The attacks against him in the last 24 hours, Kotzias said, as regards his positions on the issue of guarantees, come “from those who blame the patriotic Left for nationalism, while they themselves are agents of nationalism of the other side.

“So insisting on the abolition of guarantees and the withdrawal of Turkish occupation troops is nationalism, while the occupation by Turkey of European territory is modern Europeanism?” Kotzias asked rhetorically.

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