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Turkish Cypriot leader vows to continue talks February 6, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Turkey, Yunanistan.
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The leader of the Turkish Cypriots vowed on Friday to continue talks with his Greek Cypriot counterpart on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus dispute, in spite of an approaching presidential election in the Turkish Cypriot north that is clouding the prospects for a deal.

“Although we have elections in April, I’m not going to stop the talks. I have decided to continue until the end, because I don’t want to lose any momentum,” said Mehmet Ali Talat, leftist president of the self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot state. “If we stop, who knows how and when we would start again?”

Mehmet Ali Talat

Mehmet Ali Talat said he would not stop the talks ” If we stop, who knows how and when we would start again?”

Mr Talat’s negotiations with Demetris Christofias, the Greek Cypriot president, started in September 2008 and have reached a critical phase with the dawning realisation that the winner of the Turkish Cypriot election might be Dervis Eroglu, a hardline nationalist.

If Mr Eroglu were to triumph and the talks were subsequently to break down, experts fear Cyprus would risk permanent division, Turkey’s ambition of joining the European Union would be foiled and it would be all but impossible to build closer ties between the EU and Nato.

Mr Talat, speaking at a meeting of the European Policy Centre think-tank in Brussels, disclosed that he had proposed transferring the talks from Cyprus to a neutral location, in order to minimise pressures from each side’s domestic politics.

“My counterpart said he couldn’t do it, because he had other jobs to do. But in the end he accepted intensifying the talks and we made progress on some thorny issues,” Mr Talat said.

The idea of transferring the talks remained on the table, he added, recalling that as long ago as 1968 the two sides had once conducted negotiations in Beirut.

The Cyprus problem goes back as far as the 1950s, but it has been most acute since 1974, when Turkey’s armed forces invaded the north and partitioned the island after a Greek-inspired attempt at uniting Cyprus with Greece.

The present negotiations cover six areas – power sharing, EU affairs, the economy, property, security guarantees and territorial control.

Mr Talat and Mr Christofias agree on the fundamental idea of converting Cyprus into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with a single international legal personality, but even this common ground risks disappearing if Mr Eroglu wins the election, because he insists on recognition of the north’s separate statehood.

Mr Talat said the talks had settled some important points, such as the fact that a reunited Cyprus would have no armed forces, but rather a federal police force with joint investigating authority for crimes such as terrorism and money laundering, as well as police organisations for each of the two communities.

There was no agreement yet on property disputes, power sharing and territory.

Mr Talat said he was concerned that Greek Cypriots, especially young people with no memory of a united Cyprus, had little interest in a settlement because they lived in a state that had joined the European Union in 2004 and was recognised by the United Nations.

“It is the Turkish Cypriots who are in isolation and need an urgent solution,” he said.

But he stressed that he took heart from the fact that Greece, the traditional protector of the Greek Cypriots, was now governed by George Papandreou, the centre-left prime minister well known to Mr Talat in the Socialist International.


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