NICOSIA, Cyprus – Greece’s foreign minister said Thursday that rival sides in talks to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus haven’t broken any new ground on the key issue of security that could pave the way to a peace deal.
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said that nothing new was presented in morning talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana which could bring the sides closer to a breakthrough agreement on security.
“The Turks are repeating positions they’ve held for the last decade and they think that they’re new,” Kotzias told reporters after emerging from the talks.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that it was a good discussion and that it will continue.
Officials are hoping the presence of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday would help nudge the sides closer to agreement.
Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the U.N. adviser on Cyprus, said Wednesday that Guterres’ plans to visit were simply aimed as a show of commitment by the U.N. chief to the talks — and not as a sign that an agreement was in the offing.
Talks between the island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci along with top diplomats from Greece, Turkey and Britain — the island’s so-called guarantor powers — are tackling the toughest issues left after two years of heady progress on a deal to reunify the island as a federation.
Security tops the list and revolves around the 35,000 troops that Turkey has kept in the Cyprus’ breakaway north since 1974 when it invaded following a coup led by supporters of union with Greece.
Greek Cypriots see the troops as a threat and want them to leave as part of any peace deal. Turkish Cypriots want troops to stay because they see Turkey as their only protector. Turkish officials have said a full troop withdrawal is a non-starter.
Anastasiades is proposing an international police force backed up by the U.N. Security Council to keep the peace. He also says that no third-country military forces have a place in a European Union member country.
Cyprus is an EU member, but only the Greek Cypriot southern part which is the seat of the island’s internationally recognized government, enjoys full benefits.
Parallel discussions on other issues including power-sharing on a federal level and how much territory will make up the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot federated zones are also being held.
The leaders will take up security in an evening session.