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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.