Erdoğan says solution for Cyprus should not be expected without Turkey

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) arrives followed by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (L) and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (R) arrive to give a press conference following UN-sponsored Cyprus peace talks on January 12, 2017 in Geneva. / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that a solution to the Cyprus problem should not be expected without Turkey, a day after UN-hosted talks broke up in Geneva with no final settlement.

Speaking to reporters after Friday prayer in İstanbul, Erdoğan said: “We have told Cyprus and Greece clearly that they should not expect a solution without Turkey as guarantor. We are going to be there forever.” He also added that it was out of the question for Turkish troops to pull out of Cyprus unless both sides pulled out.

Following Erdoğan’s remarks, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı said at a press conference in Geneva that there should not be any taboos for either side in the UN-brokered talks.

“If we say that these issues are taboo, that we cannot even discuss them, and everything should remain as it is, it is also a non-starter,” Akıncı said.

He also underlined that eventually, a balanced deal could be agreed by both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

According to Reuters, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ mood also seemed closer to Akıncı’s as both leaders are considered moderates on an island where wounds still run deep.

Anastasiades said the resumed talks should produce a “radical” change in the island’s security situation by reaching a mutually acceptable solution on security and guarantee issues.

Since Turkey intervened in Cyprus in response to a short-lived coup by Greek Cypriot militants seeking union with Greece in 1974, Cyprus has been partitioned into ethnic Turkish and Greek zones.

Greece, Turkey and Britain were assigned as “guarantor” powers in a treaty adopted when Cyprus gained independence in 1960.

Greece seeks abolition of the guarantor system, accusing Turkey of abusing it through its 1974 intervention and the continued stationing of some 30,000 Turkish troops in the north while it has a batallion of about 1,100 troops on Cyprus.

According to the talks on Wednesday, the sides submitted proposals on how to define the post-settlement boundaries.

Reuters reported that under the proposals, Turkish Cypriots would retain between 28.2 and 29.2 percent of total Cypriot territory, down from the current 36 percent.

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