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Rival Cyprus leaders focus on territory issues

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TAGS: Cyprus, Analysis

We've been here before. Whether it was Geneva in Switzerland, Troutbeck in New York or Greentree in Pennsylvania, the leaders of Cyprus' rival Greek- and Turkish-speaking communities have often locked horns in foreign resorts to thrash out a deal that would end this tiny, eastern Mediterranean island's decades of ethnic division.

And they have failed.

But maybe just maybe – this time, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci, the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, may boldly go in five days of talks beginning Monday in the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin where their predecessors have not gone before.

They plan to focus on territory issues this time. If all goes well, this could be the precursor to one last summit to sort out the final details of a peace deal for Cyprus. Here's a look at their positions:

42 years of (failed) talks

A Turkish invasion in the summer of 1974, a few days after a coup aimed at union with Greece, sliced the island along ethnic lines. It was divided into a breakaway, Turkish-speaking north and a Greek-speaking south that retained international recognition as the Republic of Cyprus. The minority Turkish Cypriots declared independence almost a decade later, but won recognition only from Turkey, which still keeps more than 35,000 troops in the north.

Numerous rounds of UN-brokered talks aimed at reunifying the island of roughly 1.1 million people have gone nowhere. The closest the two sides got to a deal was in 2004 when the Annan plan – named after then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan – was put to a vote. Two-thirds of Turkish Cypriots approved it, but Greek Cypriots rejected it by a landslide. It didn't help that the Annan plan was written by UN staff. Now those supporting a peace deal believe any accord must be negotiated by Cypriots themselves.

What’s at stake

What's the big deal with reunifying this tiny island, if a relative calm has reigned for 42 years?

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says a peace deal would be a "game changer" for the European Union and for a conflict-wracked region. If Greek Cypriot Orthodox Christians and Turkish Cypriot Sunni Muslims could run a country together it would be a positive signal. It would also promote cooperation between not-so-friendly neighbors on pumping out huge gas deposits from beneath the eastern Mediterranean seabed.

What do Greek Cypriots want?

Greek Cypriots want a government that works, and for as many of their people who lost homes and property in the north during the war to be able to reclaim their property or be properly compensated. They also want to make sure that Turkey no longer has any troops on the island. Turkey's increasingly authoritarian ways and aggressive rhetoric does little to inspire confidence among Greek Cypriots.

What do Turkish Cypriots want?

Turkish Cypriots want to be the masters of their own domain, having an administrative zone of their own to run without being dominated by the majority Greek Cypriots – or by Turkey, for that matter. Turkish Cypriots see Turkey's military might as their sole protection but Greek Cypriots say no EU country needs third-country security guarantees, especially from a country they see as a threat.

Preparing for the endgame

Anastasiades and Akinci have said repeatedly that if all goes well, a deal by year's end is possible. The talks in Switzerland could pave the way for a multiparty meeting also bringing in Turkey, Britain and Greece to sort out the island's security quandary.

But officials warn if there's another failure this time, things in Cyprus won't remain static. Turkey has already hinted that it would move to further absorb the northern part of the island and make it some kind of offshore province. [AP]

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