Cyprus talks address property dispute

Cyprus talks address property dispute

Nicosia remains the only divided city in Nato. Source: Wikimedia

The reunification of Cyprus is difficult but possible, a UN envoy has said as Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders met in Geneva where property issues dominated the first day of talks.

Special UN adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide praised both sides’ “courage” as they resumed talks to reunify the island.

Greek Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met in the first of a series of meetings scheduled for this week.

Previous attempts to create a federal Cyprus have failed.

The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will represent the EU as an observer, said his spokeswoman Margaritis Schinas.

“I can confirm that the president will be going to Geneva directly from Malta,” said Schinas.

The idea behind the 19-month-long talks is to share power between the two communities which were divided in 1974 by the Turkish invasion.

The leaders talked for around four hours on Monday, acknowledging that there were key issues that still needed to be agreed.

But if the talks make progress, the leaders from the three countries that guarantee the island’s security, Britain, Greece and Turkey, will join the talks.

The new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who is lauding a “historic opportunity”, will also be in Geneva.

However, there are still significant stumbling blocks before a deal can be made.

Discussions on Monday in Geneva looked at what should happen to the properties that Greek Cypriots abandon ahead of the 1974 invading forces. Questions about reclaiming property and compensation still need to be resolved.

Turkish Cypriots ask how their security can be guaranteed if Turkey’s estimated 30,000 troops leave. It is being asked if Turkish forces would be permitted to leave a garrison or retain the right to intervene.

It is not yet agreed who would act as a guarantor of any deal.

One proposal is for a shared presidency, rotating between the two communities but would a Turkish leader represent the island at EU summits? UN peacekeeping forces estimates that 165,000 Greek Cypriots fled in 1974 or were expelled from the north of the green line, and 45,000 Turkish Cypriots came from the south. Some estimates are far higher. Both communities would have to approve any agreement in separate referendums later this year. A UN reunification proposal was endorsed in 2004 by a majority of Turkish Cypriots but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.

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