By Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu
ISTANBUL Jan 13 Turkish President Tayyip
Erdogan accused Greece on Friday of "fleeing" efforts to reunite
Cyprus and said Turkey would retain troops there forever to
protect minority ethnic Turks.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, striking a decidedly
more genial tone a day after Geneva talks adjourned with no
final settlement, said future negotiations should "find the ways
and means so that both communities of this beautiful island will
feel safe and secure."
"We need time. We can't have everything on day one," he
told a Geneva news conference.
Cyprus has been partitioned into ethnic Turkish and Greek
zones since Turkish troops invaded in 1974 in response to a
short-lived coup by Greek Cypriot militants seeking union with
Greece. But intercommunal violence had simmered since the 1960s
when a power-sharing system collapsed.
Focus of disagreement at the Geneva talks, widely regarded
as the best opportunity in decades of forging a settlement, was
the dispute over security guarantees for the two communities.
"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," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul after
Greece, Turkey and Britain were assigned as "guarantor"
powers in a treaty adopted when Cyprus gained independence of
London in 1960. Greece seeks abolition of the guarantor system,
accusing Turkey of abusing it through its 1974 invasion and the
continued stationing of some 30,000 Turkish troops in the north.
"It is out of the question for Turkish soldiers to pull out
completely, and we've discussed this before," Erdogan said. "If
something like this is being considered, then both sides should
pull their troops out of there."
Greece has a batallion of about 1,100 troops on Cyprus.
Erdogan says there is a plan for 650 Turkish troops and 950
Greek troops to remain on the island after a settlement.
Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades' mood seemed
closer to Aknici's - both men are considered moderates on an
island where wounds still run deep. He said resumed talks should
produce a "radical" change in the island's security situation.
"The fact that the U.N. announcement outlines a clear intent
by participants to reach a mutually acceptable solution on the
security and guarantee issues is a mandate to the working
groups to process new forms (of guarantees), acceptable and
radically different from the guarantee system of 1960," he said.
Technical talks on security are expected to parallel
negotiations on unresolved issues in areas such as property
restoration and boundaries for a bizonal republic with a central
administration that is likely to enjoy quite limited powers.
Foreign ministers of the guarantor powers attended the talks
on Thursday, a measure of hopes raised after four decades of
division. Efforts have been given some momentum by instability
in the neighbouring Middle Eastern region and by discovery of
large natural gas deposits off the eastern coast.
"Can you consider a situation where the natural gas
deposits, instead of triggering enmity, triggering trouble, it
becomes an area of cooperation?" Akinci asked.
There was no precise date set for the guarantors to meet
again, but officials said they would reconvene once the sides
had codified their positions.
Referring to a previous failed reunification bid overseen
by erstwhile U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Erdogan said:
"We had told Mr Annan that we would not be the side that
would run, and that the Greek side and Greece would be the party
to run. And you see now that Greece is fleeing."
A 2004 U.N.-backed blueprint was approved in a referendum in
the Turkish part of the island but rejected by Greek Cypriots.
In a groundbreaking move on Wednesday, the sides submitted
proposals on how to define the post-settlement boundaries. Under
the proposals, Turkish Cypriots would retain between 28.2 and
29.2 percent of total Cypriot territory, down from about 36
Britain has offered as part of any final peace deal to
relinquish about half of the 98 square miles it still
administers - equivalent to 3 percent of Cypriot territory.
Erdogan went into some detail over the talks, attacking a
rotating presidency for the central administration that would
allow Turks one term for every four Greek turns.
"The Northern Cypriot Turkish Republic will have leadership
for one term and the Southern side for two terms. This is what
is just," he said.
(Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; writing by Ralph