British Prime Minister Theresa May / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday agreed that key talks on Cyprus next week in Geneva were a “real opportunity” for a fair and lasting solution to the division of the island.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and President Nicos Anastasiades of the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus are due to meet in the Swiss city for talks from Monday in a bid to give new momentum to the process.
From Thursday, they are expected to be joined by the three guarantor powers of Cyprus — former colonial power Britain, Greece and Turkey — amid expectations of a major breakthrough in the UN-backed talks.
May and Erdogan discussed the upcoming talks in a telephone conversation, where the British premier also expressed her condolences for the latest terror attacks in Turkey.
“They expressed the wish the upcoming talks in Geneva will be the occasion for a lasting and fair solution to the Cyprus problem,” Turkish presidential sources said.
A Downing Street spokesman added they agreed on the importance of reaching a successful resolution in Geneva.
They saw the talks as a “real opportunity to secure a better future for Cyprus and to guarantee stability in the wider region,” the spokesman added.
May would visit Turkey “early this year”, the spokesman said, without specifying when.
Sticking points in the talks are set to be the presence of Turkish troops on the island, property issues and how much of the island is controlled by the two entities in a bizonal federation.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is only recognised by Turkey. The Republic of Cyprus is however an EU member.
Anastasiades and Akinci, who are among the most outspoken proponents of a deal, are under huge pressure to deliver progress in the talks. But any agreement they reach will have to be approved by their respective communities in referendums.
Akinci, born in Limassol which is now in the Greek Cypriot south, has said a referendum on reunifying the island could be held in the summer if the talks went to plan.
Cypriots on both sides of the island in 2004 voted in referendums on a UN plan to reunite Cyprus. It was overwhelmingly approved by Turkish Cypriots but also overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots.