February 11, 2016 / 6:13 PM / 2 years ago

Cypriot president says peace talks make progress but work needed

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades addresses the session 'Reuniting Cyprus' at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

ATHENS (Reuters) - Peace talks in ethnically split Cyprus have shown progress on several fronts, but disagreements persist and work is still needed before a blueprint might be put to a public vote, the country’s president said on Thursday.

On-off peace talks between estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriots have shown promise since the election of a moderate Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, in early 2015.

“In spite of the remarkable progress achieved, time is needed before presenting a comprehensive solution to the people,” President Nicos Anastasiades told Cyprus’s parliament.

Cyprus was ethnically split between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations in 1974, a move triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup, but the seeds of partition were sown a decade earlier in a constitutional crisis which saw the breakdown of co-governance.

Any agreement must be approved by the two communities in separate referendums. An earlier attempt failed in 2004, when Greek Cypriots rejected a plan prepared by the United Nations.

The blueprint “should have no ambiguities”, Anastasiades, who attends peace talks in his capacity as leader of the Greek Cypriot community, told lawmakers in a rare appearance in parliament.

The Greek Cypriot south represents the whole island in the EU. The north is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey.

Specifying for the first time where progress had been made, Anastasiades said the two sides reached a “common understanding” on certain elements of power sharing, how to handle property claims from people displaced in past violence and how the legislature and judiciary of the future union would work.

Territorial trade-offs have not yet been negotiated, and there were disagreements on a rotating presidency sought by the Turkish Cypriot side, he said.

The earlier UN blueprint, which Anastasiades had supported as an opposition leader, had called for rotating terms in a presidential council.

The Cyprus conflict reverberates beyond its small borders as a source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey. It is also an obstacle to Turkey’s joining the EU, since Greek Cypriots have veto rights over Ankara.

In principle, the Cypriot sides agree to a loose two-state federation, but talks over the years have repeatedly foundered on the evolution of that union, ownership rights, territorial adjustments and security issues.

Turkey has thousands of troops stationed in northern Cyprus, which the Greek Cypriots insist should be withdrawn.

“Everyone - Greek and Turkish Cypriots - should understand that the solution sought must be the outcome of a dignified compromise ... and will not allow the imposition of the majority on the minority, or vice versa,” Anastasiades said.

Choosing his words carefully, Anastasiades avoided speaking of “convergences” in talks - a phrase which could be construed as the basis for an interim agreement on sectoral issues that are, however, deeply intertwined.

“Nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed,” he said.

Reporting By Michele Kambas, editing by Larry King

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