Turkey: Turkish Cypriot power parity key to new peace talks

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Relaunching talks to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus encountered another obstacle Monday when Turkey’s foreign minister said Greek Cypriots had to agree Turkish Cypriots would have decision-making parity in governing the country before negotiations could resume.

The minority Turkish Cypriots “cannot compromise” on having an equal say in how the central government of an envisioned federated Cyprus is run, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

Greek Cypriots turned down an earlier Turkish Cypriot demand for veto power on the decisions of any federal government, concerned it could lead to ceding direct or indirect control to Turkey.

Cyprus split into Greek and Turkish sides in 1974, after Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at uniting with Greece.

Turkey is the only country that recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence for the northern third of the island and keeps more than 35,000 troops there.

Greek Cypriots reject allowing a permanent Turkish troop presence on the Mediterranean island nation if it reunifies.

Turkish Cypriots see decision-making parity as key to avoiding junior status in any partnership with the majority Greek Cypriots.

U.N. envoy Jane Holl Lute left Cyprus empty-handed after spending last week shuttling between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to prepare the ground for an eventual return to formal talks.

After talks with Akinci Monday, Cavusoglu addressed another thorny issue: Turkey’s drilling for natural gas in waters where Cyprus’ internationally recognized government has exclusive rights.

The minister said the exploration would continue as long as Greek Cypriots reject a proposal to jointly run a hydrocarbons search with the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

Cavusoglu dismissed a counter-proposal from Anastasiades: splitting potential gas proceeds with the Turkish Cypriots in proportion to their population if Turkey agreed to negotiate the borders of Cyprus and Turkey’s offshore economic zones.

Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides on Monday accused Turkey of trying to lead the peace process to dead end. He said Cavusoglu’s statements confirmed the Greek Cypriot position that Turkey should have no role in a post-settlement Cyprus.