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Cyprus Peace Talks to Begin            06/26 06:06

   NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- It's back to Switzerland for Cyprus peace talks.

   This time the rival leaders of the ethnically-divided island will be meeting 
at the secluded Swiss resort of Crans-Montana. Previous summits were held in 
Mont Pelerin and Geneva.

   The talks kick off Wednesday and are due to last at least a week. They will 
likely determine whether a deal to reunify Cyprus, which is divided into a 
breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot 
south, is possible or not.

   The key issue is how security will be overseen if and when Cyprus is 
reunified as a federation. Other issues still to be resolved include how much 
territory the Greek and Turkish Cypriot federated states would be made up of 
and the process for allowing tens of thousands of displaced people to reclaim 
lost homes and property.

   Here's a look at what will be at play at the peace summit:

   ___

   MILITARY MUSCLE

   The issue is one of the toughest in the complex negotiations that officials 
say have made significant headway in the last two years and has been left to be 
tackled last.

   It revolves around the 35,000-plus troops that Turkey has kept in place 
since 1974 when it invaded Cyprus following a coup aimed at union with Greece. 
Turkey mounted the military action, invoking intervention rights that were 
granted under Cyprus' 1960 constitution to the island's "guarantors": Turkey, 
Greece and ex-colonial ruler Britain.

   Cyprus' Greek Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, and the leader of the 
Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, both tackled the security conundrum in Geneva 
during January talks. The foreign ministers of the "guarantor" nations also 
took part.

   But that meeting dissolved relatively quickly amid recriminations that 
neither side was unwilling to put its cards on the table and get down to hard 
bargaining.

   ___

   TROOPS, NO TROOPS

   The Greek Cypriot side wants military intervention rights expunged and 
Turkish troops gone to eliminate what is sees as an existential threat and 
Ankara's instrument of control over the island. Its argument is that no 
European Union member country would ever need third-country security guarantees.

   Anastasiades has proposed an international police force to oversee 
post-reunification security with the U.N. Security Council using its clout to 
back it up.

   The minority Turkish Cypriots see Turkey's troops as their sole assurance of 
protection in case a peace deal unravels and want them to stay.

   Akinci has said a rethink over the need for troops could happen around 15 
years after reunification. Turkish Cypriot and Turkish officials insist a Greek 
Cypriot call for a full troop withdrawal is a non-starter.

   An alternative proposal that's been floated unofficially would see small 
contingents of Greek and Turkish troops deployed on the island after a deal, 
while intervention rights would be amended to remove any clause for unilateral 
action.

   ___

   GO-BETWEEN

   Any compromise on security must pass muster with Greek and Turkish Cypriots 
who will vote on any peace accord in separate referendums before it would be 
implemented.

   U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide told The Associated Press in April that the 
world body has helped put together a compromise formula to overcome the 
security hurdle. He said the formula was the result of consultation with the 
Cypriot leaders, the European Union and the "guarantors."

   The Greek Cypriot side has insisted on prioritizing a security deal before 
other issues are tackled. Turkish Cypriots said all issues must be discussed 
concurrently as part of an overarching bartering process.

   To accommodate both sides, negotiations at Crans-Montana will be split into 
two rooms --- security in one, and everything else in the other.

   ___

   TIMING IS EVERTHING

   The aim at Crans-Montana is for the two sides to achieve a breakthrough on 
an agreed peace accord framework. More work will be needed over the weeks and 
months ahead to fill in the gaps and prepare the ground for putting the 
completed deal to a vote.

   Although it's said the talks will be open-ended, officials say it'll likely 
last a week to 10 days. And timing is essential.

   The Cyprus government is set to start promising exploratory oil and gas 
drilling off the island's southern shore in mid-July amid strong opposition 
from Turkey, and the Turkish Cypriots who warn of a potential "crisis" if 
drilling proceeds.

   Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots say a "unilateral" Greek Cypriot search for 
gas flouts their rights to the island's offshore mineral wealth. The Cypriot 
government insists drilling is it's sovereign right and that any hydrocarbon 
proceeds will be shared after a peace deal is sealed, signed and delivered.


(KA)

 
 
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