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Turkish Cypriot leader wants Cyprus settlement this year July 28, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Turkey.
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The recently elected Turkish Cypriot leader challenged his Greek Cypriot rival to reach a peace deal this year that would reunite the divided Mediterranean island, saying “there must be a time limit.”

Dervis Eroglu said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press that after decades of negotiations and isolation for northern Cyprus, it’s time to reach a deal — and the United Nations, the European Union and the international community “have a responsibility in order to see these negotiations are successfully concluded.”

Cyprus has been divided between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north since 1974, when Turkey invaded after an abortive Athens-backed coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent republic in 1983, but it is only recognized by Turkey which maintains 35,000 troops there.

Eroglu’s election in April ousted leftist Mehmet Ali Talat who had held 19 months of negotiations with Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias.

His victory raised fears that the U.N.-brokered negotiations would be derailed because of his long-held support for separate sovereignty for Turkish Cypriots, but Eroglu agreed to build on progress made by Talat and Christofias.

Greek and Turkish Cypriots agreed in 2006 that a comprehensive settlement must be based on a federal state with two zones and political equality. Eroglu was still cautious, however, on just what sovereignty for a reunited Cyprus would mean.

“The kind of settlement that we are seeking will be a bi-zonal, bi-communal settlement with political equality,” he said. “It will be between two constituent states of equal status. This can be a federal settlement. It will have one international personality.”

Did he agree with Talat that Greek and Turkish Cypriots are now ready to share power?

“We’ll see this at the negotiating table, because words are cheap,” Eroglu replied.

“Former president Talat mentioned a single sovereignty, but regarding where this eminates from, and regarding how it will be exercised … that was only agreed in principle, that needs to be discussed and concluded like the other subjects,” he said.

Eroglu accused Christofias, the Greek Cypriot press and its allies of unfairly portraying him “as a separatist” who would bring negotiations to a standstill if elected. The “negative propaganda” campaign was designed to help Talat win the election because Christofias and Talat both have Communist backgrounds, he said.

“I believe in the necessity of a settlement in Cyprus,” Eroglu said.

“Negotiations can be concluded by the end of the year if there is the necessary political will,” he said. “We have the political will, and if Mr. Christofias demonstrates the same political will there is no reason we cannot find a settlement by the end of the year because all aspects of the Cyprus question have been discussed.”

But Eroglu said “at this moment the Greek Cypriot side does not accept either a timeframe, a timetable, or arbitration, or even mediation,” in the sense of the U.N. making proposals or recommendations.

Greek Cypriots fear deadlines would lead to some sort of U.N. arbitration favouring the Turkish Cypriots, in a reprise of the U.N. reunification plan that was rejected by Greek Cypriot voters and accepted by Turkish Cypriots in a 2004 referendum.

Eroglu held talks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier Monday and said he left “with the feeling that he (Ban) is of the opinion that there can be a settlement under my leadership, because we are sincere about it.”

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Ban encouraged Eroglu “to grasp the current political window of opportunity to reach a settlement” and expressed hope “that the two leaders would make serious advances in the coming months, understanding that this would require compromises on both sides.”

Eroglu said the toughest issues are property rights, territory and security guarantees, stressing that people should not be uprooted from their homes again.

Eroglu also supported the rights granted to Turkey, Britain and Greece under the existing Cyprus constitution to militarily intervene on the island.

“Since the Turkish and Greek Cypriot peoples do not yet trust each other, it is necessary that this system of guarantees continues in a future settlement,” he said.

Eroglu said Turkish Cypriots “want to find ways in which with the help of the international community we can motivate the Greek Cypriot side” to reach an agreement.

The secretary-general will issue a report in November and “if he points out the positive approach and behaviour of the Turkish Cypriot side and the fact that the Greek Cypriot side is not responding in the same way, then I think this will be very meaningful,” Eroglu said. Another possibility would be to end the isolation of northern Cyprus, he said.

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