Cypriot leaders, key powers vow to push on towards deal | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 14, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 14, 2017

Cypriot leaders, key powers vow to push on towards deal

Rival Cypriot leaders have pledged to forge ahead with efforts to reunite the divided island after making "real progress" at a high-level international conference that wrapped up early yesterday.

The United Nations' new Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who hosted the conference in Geneva on his first foreign trip at the helm of the world body, said a final deal was "close" but warned against expecting a "quick fix".

And a government spokesman in Nicosia said the Geneva talks, which also brought together key players Greece, Turkey and former colonial power Britain, had represented a "historic conference for the Cyprus problem."

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Thursday's talks followed three days of negotiations between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci aiming to forge a united, two-zone federation.

Technical experts from all sides were set to continue negotiations in Geneva yesterday, but the British, Greek and Turkish foreign ministers were not expected to take part.

"We are coming very close" to a deal, said Guterres, while warning major work remained on how to implement and guarantee a lasting peace.

"You cannot expect miracles or immediate solutions. We are not looking for a quick fix," he said.

"We are looking for a solid sustainable solution."

British foreign minister Boris Johnson said "real progress" had been made.

"With continued commitment and political will, I believe a historical agreement is within reach," he said in a statement.

The UN said technical talks involving Turkey, Greece and Britain would start on January 18, alongside negotiations between the two rival Cypriot sides over outstanding issues.

A key sticking point however is the presence of some 30,000 Turkish troops on Cyprus as well as the role of Britain, Greece and Turkey, the so-called guarantor powers.

Under a 1959 treaty, those nations were allowed to intervene to defend the island's sovereign integrity, which Ankara used to justify its invasion.

Greece and the Greek Cypriot side wants the guarantor system scrapped and Turkish troops to leave Cyprus but Turkey is determined to keep a military presence.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters late Thursday that Turkish troops must remain on the island because "the reality is that Turkey's guarantorship is vital to Turkish Cypriot people".

Britain, which also retains military bases in Cyprus that are sovereign British territory, also said it was happy to do away with the guarantor system if Cypriots asked, while Turkey insisted the arrangement must be preserved.

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