CYPRUS: Nicosia says Turkish belligerence shows it has no interest in peace talks

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Turkey is deliberately undermining the resumption of UN peace talks by imposing unacceptable terms, Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades told the Associated Press.

He said Turkey's "obsession" to permanently station troops, secure military intervention rights and entrench its control over all of Cyprus under any peace deal is unsettling Greek Cypriots and diminishing the prospects of a peace accord.

Anastasiades said Turkey's demand to grant the Turkish Cypriots decision-making parity within an envisioned federal government "would, in effect, enable the minority community to determine policy and make the decisions."

He said the Turkish Cypriots' economic dependence on Turkey and the "imposition" of Turkey's will in their internal affairs means that ultimately, decisions would be made in Ankara.

"It's another way of controlling the whole of the new state of affairs or the entire state, which will essentially be transformed into a protectorate," Anastasiades told the Associated Press in an interview.

"You can't accept such provisions that would turn a state into the puppet of another state, but also become the only example in the world where potentially a peace deal would collapse the next day."

Anastasiades faulted Turkey for scuttling a mediation effort by U.N. envoy Jane Holl Lute earlier this month aimed at outlining the parameters under which a fresh round of formal negotiations would begin.

He said although he had sketched out with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci what those parameters would be, Turkey's diktats to make Turkish Cypriot decision-making parity a precondition to a resumption of talks set the process back.

Anastasiades said although he's ready to get peace talks going immediately, they can't resume as long as Turkey continues to unlawfully drill for gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

"This is where Turkey will be tested on whether it wants talks or not," said Anastasiades. "I don't think anyone can negotiate under threat."

The Cypriot president said Turkey's call for Cyprus to suspend its drilling in exchange for Ankara to cease its activities in Cypriot waters is a non-starter because it would "equate legal actions with illegal ones" and undermine Cyprus' sovereign rights.

He said Akinci's proposal for a joint Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot committee to oversee drilling activities was dismissed on the same grounds.

Anastasiades said he pitched a counterproposal that included the establishment of an escrow account into which a portion of future gas proceeds earmarked for Turkish Cypriots — roughly proportionate to their population size — would be deposited.

Turkish Cypriots would even be able to access those funds even before a peace deal is signed as long as Turkey recognized the borders of Cyprus' exclusive economic zone.

He advised Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to think long and hard about "forcefully provoking the international community" by moving ahead with a plan to settle the fenced-off, uninhabited resort of Varosha.

He said such a move would clash with United Nations Security Council decisions prohibiting such actions. (source AP)