NICOSIA, Cyprus – Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots are ready to take part in a summit in Geneva to work out a peace accord reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus as long as Greek Cypriots drop unacceptable "conditions," Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday.
The island's Greek Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades insists on first dealing with the issue of the withdrawal of Turkish troops that Greek Cypriots consider a threat. More than 35,000 troops remain in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north after Turkey's 1974 invasion that followed a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Anastasiades has proposed that an international police force oversee post-reunification security, but the minority Turkish Cypriots see Turkish troops and military intervention rights accorded to Ankara as their only protection.
"If you're talking about zero troops and zero guarantees, then there's nothing left to talk about," Cavusoglu told reporters after talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.
The dispute over how a summit should proceed has brought two years of negotiations — which have made significant strides toward a deal — to a standstill. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet both Anastasiades and Akinci in New York on Sunday.
Cavusoglu said a Geneva summit must take place to determine whether a deal is reachable, adding that "this is the last window of opportunity."
The Turkish top diplomat also repeated a call for Anastasiades to cease a "unilateral" Greek Cypriot oil and gas search off the island's southern coast that he said ignores the rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
He said Turkey, which doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state, would take "steps" if the hydrocarbons search isn't put on hold.
The Greek Cypriot government says drilling is its sovereign right and that any potential gas proceeds would be held in escrow and divided up after a peace accord.
French energy company Total is set to start exploratory drilling in one licensed area, or block, in mid-July.