Britain, Turkey, Greece meet to discuss Cyprus settlement

Foreign ministers of Britain, Greece and Turkey met in Geneva on Thursday in an attempt to thrash out a security deal for a reunited Cyprus, a conflict rooted in Britain’s colonial past and Greek and Turkish rivalry.

For the first time in decades, the three countries were to tackle a 1960 treaty which allows intervention in Cyprus, a pretext used by at least one of them to intervene on the island in the past.

The conference is being chaired by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his first major involvement in a deep rooted conflict which has been on the U.N.’s agenda for more than half a century.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was also in attendance. Cyprus is a member of the European Union, represented by its Greek Cypriots, and recent hydrocarbon discoveries in its region could help the bloc reduce its energy dependence on Russia.

Discussions were going to be held in private, the United Nations said.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 following a brief coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece. It has been divided since, with Turkish Cypriots in its north and Greek Cypriots in its south.

Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, the respective leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, have been in Geneva for four days trying to reach a deal which would see the country united again under a two-state federation.

“I welcome the continued courage and commitment that has been shown by both sides,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement. “The talks in Geneva on the Cyprus settlement offer both sides a unique opportunity to find a solution.”

London was willing to help in any way it could, he added.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras could join the Geneva summit if there were prospects for a solution, his spokesman said in Athens.

INTERVENTION IN FOCUS

Greek Cypriots want the guarantor system dismantled because of Turkey’s invasion in 1974. Turkish Cypriots, who were targeted by Greek Cypriot nationalists before the war, want Turkish guarantees maintained.

Property rights are also an emotive issue for thousands of people uprooted in conflict, though opinion polls have consistently pointed to security being an over-arching concern for all on the Mediterranean island.

In a groundbreaking move on Wednesday, the sides submitted proposals on how to define the boundaries between the two sides post-settlement.

The proposals ranged between 28.2 and 29.2 percent of Cypriot territory remaining under Turkish Cypriot control.

Some of the proposals are set out in maps presented by the two sides, which are now in a UN vault. Little of their contents have been made public.

Media reports suggested that a Greek Cypriot map proposes the return of 91,000 Greek Cypriot refugees in an area which would be under Greek Cypriot control, while a Turkish Cypriot map would permit the return of about 65,000 in land returned.

There are some 165,000 Greek Cypriot refugees from 1974, who fled to the island’s south, and about 40,000 Turkish Cypriots from pre-1974 conflict and a UN sanctioned population exchange in 1975.

Britain, the former colonial power in Cyprus, has offered to relinquish about 50 percent of territory it still retains on the island, known as sovereign base areas, to facilitate a deal. It at present administers 98 square miles, or 3 percent of Cypriot territory.

One of its two bases in Cyprus, Akrotiri, is a Royal Air Force outpost which has been instrumental in attacking Islamic State targets in Iraq.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyprus-conflict-conference-idUSKBN14W0YI

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