Britain says Cyprus solution within reach


Nicosia / AFP

Rival Cypriot leaders can overcome their differences in stalled peace negotiations if they show “flexibility”, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Wednesday after talks with the two sides.
“I welcome the progress that has been made in recent months and I salute the courage and determination that is being shown by the leaders on both sides,” Johnson said after talks with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders.
“I’m convinced that with further flexibility and creativity on both sides a solution can be reached and that the remaining difficulties can be overcome,” Johnson told journalists.
The latest round of UN-brokered negotiations between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci ended earlier this month with no agreement.
The talks were supposed to produce a map of the internal boundaries of a future federation on the island, but the two sides remain far apart on the issue of territorial adjustments.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern third of the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
Former colonial ruler Britain is a guarantor power—along with Turkey and Greece—for the sovereign integrity of Cyprus under a 1960 treaty used by Ankara to justify its invasion.
Johnson’s predecessor Philip Hammond said in January that Britain would be “quite happy” to give up its guarantor role if the divided island’s two communities demanded it.
Britain also retains military bases in Cyprus that are sovereign British territory. Cyprus is one of the world’s longest-running geopolitical disputes and has been a key stumbling block in Turkey’s EU accession bid.
More than a third of the island’s territory is controlled by the Turkish Cypriots and it has always been agreed that some of it will be ceded to Greek Cypriot control in any peace deal.
Johnson said Britain was “ready to help” but stressed that the talks were a Cypriot-led process.
A prominent campaigner for Britain to leave the European Union, he said his country was keen to preserve its clout in Europe.
“We may be leaving the treaties of the EU but we are emphatically not leaving Europe,” he said.

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