Turkish Cypriot leader expects 'tough' talks in Geneva
Sunday 8th of January
NICOSIA, Jan 8, 2017 (AFP) - Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said Sunday he expects talks in Geneva this week on reunifying Cyprus to be "tough" but expressed hope they could lead to a new era.
Akinci is to meet with his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades from Monday for talks billed as a historic opportunity to end the island's decades-old division.
Leaving for Geneva from Ercan airport outside Nicosia, Akinci told reporters that the talks marked a "crossroads" and it was vital to "achieve positive results and not just meet up".
"We are not at a point where Geneva will mark the final conclusion. We need to be cautious," Akinci said.
"We are not pessimistic but we shouldn't assume everything is done and dusted. We are expecting a tough week."
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 each of the two components of a future bizonal federation.
After bilateral talks, the two Cypriot leaders will be joined from Thursday by the island's three guarantor powers -- former colonial ruler Britain, Greece and Turkey.
"If all the sides show responsibility and determination... it will be possible to start a new era where both communities can live in equality, freedom and security," Akinci said.
He said the Turkish Cypriot side wanted to see a bizonal federation with a rotating presidency.
"If it's not possible to reach a mutually acceptable solution, the TRNC has the option of continuing as a democratic and secular society," he added.
He was referring to the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared by Turkish Cypriot leaders in 1983 and recognised only by Ankara.
Turkish troops had occupied the northern third of the island in 1974 following an Athens-inspired Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.
Anastasiades, who heads the island's internationally recognised government, left for Geneva from Larnaca airport on the island's south coast.
He tweeted that he was heading to the talks "with hope, confidence and unity."
The two men, who have held more than 18 months of negotiations in the runup to the crunch talks in Geneva, have been among the most outspoken proponents of a deal within their own communities.
But any agreement they reach will have to be put to their respective voters.
In 2004, a majority of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of a UN reunification plan but it was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.