NICOSIA, Cyprus – The Greek Cypriot president of ethnically divided Cyprus on Monday urged Turkish Cypriots to accept his proposal to deal first with the toughest issues holding back progress in troubled reunification talks rather than trying to address everything in one go.
President Nicos Anastasiades said a peace deal could come much quickly than expected, if the issues of post-reunification security and how much territory each side would administer are settled before other issues such as governance are taken up.
The talks, which have marked significant progress over the last two years, are now at a standstill while both sides try to set the terms for a final summit in Geneva, Switzerland. United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide is expected to shuttle between the two sides this week in search of a compromise formula paving the way for the summit.
Anastasiades said breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci's proposal to dive into a give-and-take process on all issues at the summit would lead nowhere and risk foisting responsibility for the failure on his shoulders.
"I can't possibly accept something that won't lead anywhere just so there won't be deadlock," Anastasiades said in a televised address.
He said he would be willing to stay in Geneva "as long as it takes" to reach an overall peace deal, if his proposal is accepted.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Anastasiades' proposal is designed to address the key Greek Cypriot concern of getting Turkey to discuss removing the more than 35,000 troops it still keeps in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview Sunday that there would be no peace deal without a Turkish troop presence.
Anastasiades also ruled out halting exploratory oil and gas drilling off the island's southern coast as demanded by Akinci.