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Greeks hold fast to demand over guarantees

Greek Foreign Minister Nicos Kotzias

As reunification talks resumed here on Monday, and with a firm date having been set for a multi-party conference for January 12, Greek politicians from across the political spectrum held fast to the position that the abolition of guarantees is a precondition for a Cyprus settlement.

Speaking on Sunday at a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Greece’s chief diplomat Nicos Kotzias reiterated that the presence of any Turkish troops in Cyprus post-solution was unacceptable.

“A solution must be based on EU and international law. I do not think there is a European nation that would want an EU member state to be subject to guarantees and the presence of an occupation army,” Kotzias said in remarks in Thessaloniki.

His comments came even as the leaders in Cyprus had agreed to meet in Geneva on January 9, 2017. On  January 11 they will present their respective maps, and on January 12, a conference on Cyprus will be convened with the added participation of the guarantor powers – Greece, Turkey and the UK.

The Greek foreign minister has been leading the charge in what some would call a rigid stance on the Cyprus issue.

Following the collapse of the second round of talks at Mont Pelerin in late November, Kotzias distributed via email a non-paper laying out Greece’s conditions on the matter, namely that Turkey must agree to abolishing guarantees before the Greek government consents to attending a multi-party conference.

In his non-paper, which Kotzias subsequently withdrew, the Greek foreign minister went so far as to argue that without Greece there can be no amendment to the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. In short, the document stated that Greece would use this instrument to block a deal on Cyprus, even if the two communities were to reach an agreement.

In other remarks, Kotzias has said: “If by ‘solution’ some people really mean capitulation, that the Turkish occupation army should remain on the island, let them say so.”

An opinion piece penned by Demetris Papadopoulos, and published by Politis on Monday, observes that Kotzias is missing the mark.

The item notes that Kotzias is making the case that Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus has effectively voided the Treaty of Guarantee. However, the author notes, this reasoning is obviously flawed: the Treaty of Guarantee continues to remain in force, and Cyprus has never repudiated the treaty, even after the 1974 invasion.

The reason, the author argues, is that the Treaty of Guarantees is an integral part of the Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.

However, Kotzias’ hard-line views seem to be resonating with other political figures in Greece.

Over the weekend, Greece’s deputy foreign minister Georgios Katrougalos stressed that a multi-party conference cannot be held while other chapters – such as territory – remain open, because that would give the Turkish side a bargaining chip for the issue of guarantees.

And in an interview with Greece’s public broadcaster ERT, Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the Cyprus problem is primarily an international, rather than a bi-communal, issue.

“That is why we say to [Turkish president Tayyip] Erdogan and to [Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa] Akinci that…there can be no solution for the Republic of Cyprus that is not consistent with the EU acquis.”

A European solution, Pavlopoulos added, meant “first, a federal state – a confederation is out of the question – and secondly, a single sovereignty, which rules out occupation troops and guarantor powers.”

These sentiments were echoed by Greece’ former prime minister Antonis Samaras, of the right-wing New Democracy party.

In statements to a Greek newspaper, Samaras sought to defend Kotzias against his critics.

“The [Switzerland] talks were deadlocked because once again Turkey exhibited intransigence. Period. And not because Kotzias ruined them, as some say. It is Turkey which is responsible for the dead end, and no one else.”


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