Cyprus Mail

Greece and Turkey hold fast on Cyprus

File photo: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

Outwardly at least, the leaders of Greece and Turkey on Thursday held on to their respective positions on Cyprus, a major dispute between the two neighbouring nations.
The decades-long division of the island was among the issues discussed during Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s official visit to Greece – the first by a Turkish head of state in 65 years.
During a joint news conference in Athens following talks, Erdogan and his host Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras engaged in somewhat chafed – if courteous – crosstalk on Cyprus.
“I am 43 years old and for 43 years this [Cyprus problem] has been an open issue,” Tsipras said.
“For as long as l can remember, one side has blamed the other for the failure in negotiations. But we must not forget that this is happening because 43 years ago Turkey carried out an illegal invasion and occupation of Cyprus.”
Responding, Erdogan remarked that, due to his age, he was perhaps better versed in the ins and outs of the Cyprus issue.
On the continued presence of Turkish troops on the island, the Turkish leader said no foreign troops would be stationed on Cyprus today had the Greek Cypriots voted for the Annan Plan in 2004.
But, he added, the Greek Cypriots made “the mistake” of rejecting that blueprint for a settlement.
Greece and Turkey, he said, are the “mother countries” and guarantors of Cyprus, and both nations desire a just and viable solution.
Referring to the reunification talks in Switzerland earlier this year – which ended in stalemate over disagreements on security and guarantees – Erdogan said it was the Greek Cypriots who walked out.
There are certain issues which over the years have been used as pretexts, last-minute subterfuges to prevent the two sides from reaching an agreement, he added pointedly.
For his part, Tsipras expressed the hope that Cyprus talks would resume as soon as possible.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said Nicosia was monitoring the Greek-Turkish talks in Athens but that it would be premature to comment on their outcome while Erdogan’s visit was still in progress.
The Greek Prime Minister will be giving President Nicos Anastasiades a full briefing on the Athens talks when the two meet in Brussels next week on the sidelines of the European Council.
Christodoulides said Nicosia and Athens are in sync that any new multilateral conference on Cyprus must be preceded by thorough preparation and talks between the two guarantor powers – Greece and Turkey.
“The message from the Greek government, in consultation with the Republic of Cyprus, is clear: there needs to be a preparation, a dialogue between the two countries [Greece and Turkey] on the chapter of security and guarantees, so that we can determine whether the groundwork exists for a re-convening of the conference of Cyprus with a real chance for a successful outcome.”
In Crans-Montana the talks collapsed due to the Turkish positions, Christodoulides noted.
“Should Turkey persist with the same positions, then a new conference would fail,” he said, adding that this is an eventuality the government wants to avoid.
Also on Thursday, Erdogan met with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, after which the two men reiterated their respective outlooks on how a Cyprus solution may be achieved.
Pavlopoulos said any settlement should be consistent with international law and the EU acquis.
For his part, Erdogan accused the European Union of failing to deliver on its promises to the Turkish Cypriots.
On Friday, the Turkish leader is due to travel to northern Greece and visit the Muslim community there.
Earlier, Erdogan riled his hosts with suggestions of revisions to a 1923 treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne, which established the borders of Turkey and therefore of Greece.
Back in Nicosia, Diko leader and presidential candidate Nicolas Papadopoulos said one should manage expectations of Erdogan’s historic visit to Greece.
“Turkey is unwilling to budge from its long-standing and inflexible stance on Cyprus.”
That was because Ankara has no incentive for wanting to solve the problem, he added.

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