Turkey appeared to toughen its stance in talks to reunify Cyprus by insisting Tuesday that it won’t sign up to any deal involving the withdrawal of all its troops from the ethnically divided Mediterranean island nation.
At talks to end Cyprus’ 43-year ethnic divide at the Swiss ski resort of Crans-Montana, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, made it clear that a peace accord would not include a specific, agreed-upon date by which all Turkish troops would have to be pulled out.
"There will be no sunset clause … and Turkish troops will be staying on the island because this is the demand of the Turkish Cypriots," Cavusoglu said. "I mean, if there is anybody dreaming this they have to wake up, there will be no sunset clause."
Cavusoglu has previously stated Turkey’s opposition to a full troop withdrawal as part of a deal to unify the island as a federation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. But Tuesday’s remarks appeared unequivocal, leaving no negotiating room for Greek Cypriots who have been pushing for a full troop pull-out in order to remove what they see as a vestige of control from Ankara.
It’s unclear how Cavusoglus remarks will impact upon discussions between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci. In addition, Turkey, along with Cyprus’s two other "guarantors" – Greece and former colonial ruler Britain – are deeply involved in the negotiations, especially on the pivotal issue of the island’s future security.
Turkey has kept more than 35,000 troops on Cyprus since 1974, when it invaded in the wake of a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece. The minority Turkish Cypriots think their presence undergirds their security and want them to stay.
However, without specifying, Cavusoglu indicated that there was room to change the security regime that operated before the 1974 invasion. He said the military intervention rights and security guarantees accorded to Cyprus’s "guarantors" could be adapted for the current day.
But he repeated that complete abolition of those intervention rights and security guarantees is a "non-starter" for both Turkey and the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
The Greek Cypriots have proposed an international police force, backed by the UN Security Council, to keep the peace once the island is reunified.
The talks, which started June 28, are due to run until the end of the week.