Athens claims high ground as Erdogan warns troops will stay on Cyprus ‘forever’

Athens claims high ground as Erdogan warns troops will stay on Cyprus ‘forever’

Turkey’s dismissal of the demand for a full withdrawal of its forces from divided Cyprus in the event of a settlement, and its overall attitude at the international summit in Geneva on Thursday, confirmed, Athens claimed on Friday, Ankara’s unwillingness to be constructive in the bid for a solution.

“We told them clearly. When it comes to guarantees and security, do not expect Turkey not to be included. We will stay there forever,” Erdogan told reporters, highlighting the difficulties that lie ahead in the quest for a solution to a dispute that has defied mediation for more than 40 years.

Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci echoed similar thoughts, saying that if one side demands “no soldiers” as part of a deal, then there may be no room for negotiations.

The UN-hosted talks in Geneva ended on Thursday with a pledge that they will continue between technical groups from both sides of the divide to tackle the thorny issue of post-settlement security.

Greek government officials appeared confident on Friday that the Greek side won the moral high ground, as it was the one, they said, that showed a clear intent to find a mutually acceptable solution.

Sources told Kathimerini that Athens asked for the political negotiations to continue on Friday, but Turkey refused, citing the Syrian crisis and the country’s constitutional review as more pressing issues. The same sources said that Turkey’s refusal was an effort to defer the discussion of security and guarantees to a later phase.

Despite Erdogan’s remarks, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said on Friday he expects the technical groups to aim for security arrangements that will be “radically different” from present ones on the island.

“The fact that the UN announcement outlines a clear intent by participants to reach a mutually acceptable solution on the security and guarantee issues is a mandate to the working groups to process new forms [of guarantees], acceptable and radically different from the guarantee system of 1960,” he said.

Both Athens and Nicosia also also welcomed the submission of a map on Wednesday by Turkish Cypriots – for the first since the 1974 Turkish invasion – with the proposed territorial adjustments. Anastasiades said that although the map submitted by the Turkish Cypriots did not live up to expectations, it constituted a basis for negotiation.

Athens was also reportedly pleased that the European Union took part in the talks, as Greek government sources said it gave Brussels a clearer picture of the problems. Kathimerini understands that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accosted the European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, saying that Brussels should not threaten Turkey “with its money.”

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