New Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci – taking a shot at Greece – said he hopes he and his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades can work out a deal to reunify the island this year.
Cyprus has been split since 1974 after an unlawful Turkish invasion and decades of negotiations have failed to make any advances. Turkey still keeps a standing army in the northern third it occupies and has taken a hard line toward resolution.
Akinci, a moderate who has indicated a willingness to compromise, said he wants Greece to remain the guarantor power in Cyprus despite a statement from new Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos that it doesn’t want that role.
Akinci said that was enshrined in a treaty that Greece signed in 1960 – with Turkey and the United Kingdom – and can’t be withdrawn by a single minister’s statement. Kammenos is an ultra-nationalist who has taken a hard line toward Turkey.
The reunification new hopes didn’t get off to a good start after a May 2 scheduled meeting between Akinci and Anastasiades was cancelled with no reason given.
Anastasiades was coming back to the negotiating table only because Turkey withdrew a warship and energy research vessel it sent into Cypriot waters in search of oil and gas and as Ankara demanded Cyprus share in any finds.
“Our hope is that these negotiations will culminate in a positive result in 2015. We have discussed this issue with (Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister) Mr. Arinc and Turkey’s wishes are in this direction,” he said, according to the Cyprus Mail.
That is contradictory to what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said when he rebuked Akinci for saying Turkish-Cypriot will act independently of Turkey, which has always given marching orders to its leaders on the party of Cyprus it controls in violation of international law.
Despite his hopes for a deal, he also said he was unhappy that he thinks Anastasiades doesn’t really want to share power.
He was referring to a meeting between Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus, as well as the Nicosia Accord, an initiative that he said is “indicative of the Greek-Cypriot mindset, that they are the only sovereign power”.
“The Greek Cypriot side operates under the assumption that it is the only sovereign country and the sole protector of citizens’ rights,” he said.
“I believe this is wrong. Natural gas is wealth belonging jointly to both communities. And I believe that this resource can fund the solution. It is wrong for it to be turned into a point of friction, even before it is unearthed,” the paper said.
“The Greek Cypriot side, arguing that ‘I am the state, the entire world recognizes me as the state’ has been extremely tight on the issue of sharing power,” Akinci said. Only Turkey recognizes its own territory in Cyprus as legitimate.’
“If they accept that on this island they are politically equal with us, then we will have overcome the most important obstacle. Agreement on all other issues will become easier,” he added.
He also said the confidence-building measures unilaterally announced by Anastasiades don’t go far enough and indicated he should have been consulted first.
“It was hardly appropriate to announce these through the press,” Akinci said. Anastasiades said he was willing to give the Turkish-Cypriots showing where minefields had been put.
“It is noted that maps to minefields on the Pentadaktylos mountains will be handed over. And yet, this is an issue that concerns public safety and should have been announced much earlier. “I don’t wish to react negatively, but much more needs to be done, like lifting the embargo (against Turkish Cypriots,)” he concluded.