Cyprus talks stumble over fate of Turkish troops

Hopes for a peace deal in Cyprus stalled on Friday over a decades-old dispute, with the rival sides at loggerheads over the future of Turkish troops on the divided island.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Athens and Greek Cypriots still have “different expectations” on resolving the Cyprus problem from their Turkish counterparts, after crunch talks this week in Geneva.

A week of UN-brokered talks in Geneva between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci sparked optimism that an agreement to reunify the island could be at hand.

But any settlement will require an agreement on Cyprus’s future security, with key players Greece, Turkey and former colonial power Britain needing to sign on.

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

And a key sticking point remains the presence of some 30,000 Turkish troops in the north of the island.

Ankara and Akinci have insisted that some Turkish military presence is essential for Turkish Cypriots
to feel safe in a prospective united country.

Anastasiades on Friday restated his position that a timeline must be agreed for those troops to eventually withdraw.

And Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said there can be no solution to the four-decade division of Cyprus while Turkish “occupation” troops remain.

“A just solution (to division) means, first of all, eliminating what caused it, namely the occupation and presence of occupation forces,” Kotzias said, according to a ministry statement as he left Geneva.

But Erdogan declared that a full withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Cyprus was “out of the question.”