Cyprus leaders tackle power-sharing in Geneva peace talks
Posted January 10
GENEVA — The leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus delved Tuesday into how power would be shared if the country is reunified as a federation, while a presidential spokesman said swift agreement was not expected on the remaining issues standing in the way of an accord.
During the second day of a summit at United Nations offices in Geneva, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci also were discussing how a federated Cyprus would function within the European Union and the country's economy.
A 1974 Turkish invasion, prompted by a coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece, split the island into a breakaway Turkish-speaking north and a Greek-speaking south. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.
After 19 months of complex reunification negotiations, Anastasiades and Akinci agreed to meet in Geneva to clinch agreement on how much territory would go to each of the two, partially autonomous zones that would make up the country. They are expected to exchange maps detailing the respective zones' boundaries on Wednesday.
The talks will take on an international dimension Thursday with the arrival of leaders from Britain, Greece and Turkey to hammer out agreement on post-reconciliation security arrangements.
Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told reporters during a break in the summit that the more progress Akinci and Anastasiades make, the better the chances the security talks will be successful.
He said that as the negotiations stood Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would not be attending Thursday's conference.
"No one expected that there would immediately be convergence or consensus on these issues," Christodoulides said. "They are difficult."
A key point of contention remains the concept of a rotating presidency. The Turkish Cypriots insist the future federation's presidency should alternate between the Greek and Turkish communities to ensure the reunified Cyprus would be a genuine partnership.
Greek Cypriots oppose the idea, saying that according political parity to the minority Turkish Cypriots would undermine democratic principles.
Turkish-Cypriot Chamber of Commerce President Fikri Toros said the relative size of the Turkish and Greek communities in Cyprus should not matter or get in the way of a power-sharing agreement.
"We are not talking about numerical equality here, we are talking about political equality," Toros told The Associated Press in Geneva. "They must understand and give us that, because it is our minimum expectation."
Meanwhile, hundreds of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot demonstrators gathered inside the United Nations-controlled buffer zone cutting across the Cypriot capital late Tuesday for a peace rally to urge the leaders to come back with a reunification deal in hand. Demonstrators danced Cypriot folk songs and held aloft placards reading "Nicos and Mustafa, come back with a solution."
"My message to the leaders? Just get it done," said demonstrator Elias Allayiotis.
However, a cordon of riot police prevented a group of around 20 supporters of the far-right Greek Cypriot party ELAM from approaching the peace rally. The ELAM supporters chanted slogans against a federal solution they denounced as a sell-out before dispersing without incident.
Hadjicostis reported from Nicosia, Cyprus.