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Turkey warns Cyprus talks are last chance for reunification

Associated Press logo Associated Press 29/06/2017 By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press
A supporter for peace waves a flag reading in Greek and Turkish "Peace" during a protest with Greek and Turkish Cypriots to call to the rival leaders of the two communities for a peace in the island at Ledras main crossing point inside the U.N buffer zone that divided the Greek and Turkish Cypriots controlled areas, Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Several hundred Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots gathered in the divided capital's medieval center at a checkpoint along the U.N.-controlled buffer zone to voice their support for peace. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias) © The Associated Press A supporter for peace waves a flag reading in Greek and Turkish "Peace" during a protest with Greek and Turkish Cypriots to call to the rival leaders of the two communities for a peace in the island at Ledras main crossing point inside the U.N buffer zone that divided the Greek and Turkish Cypriots controlled areas, Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Several hundred Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots gathered in the divided capital's medieval center at a checkpoint along the U.N.-controlled buffer zone to voice their support for peace. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Turkey's foreign minister on Thursday scolded Greece and Greek Cypriots to "wake up from their dream" that Ankara will withdraw all of its troops from Cyprus and give up military rights there as part of any deal to reunify the ethnically divided island.

Turkish troops and security "guarantees" are at the core of United Nations-sponsored negotiations between Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci now underway in Switzerland.

The top diplomats from the island's 'guarantors' — Turkey, Greece and Britain — also are participating in the talks, which Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Thursday were the last chance for Cyprus' reunification.

"This is the final conference. We cannot be negotiating these issues in this way forever," Cavusoglu told reporters at his hotel in the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.

At the same time, he strongly rejected one of the top terms sought by Anastasiades and Greece: complete removal of the more than 35,000 troops Turkey keeps in the island's breakaway northern third.

"That is their dream. They should wake up from this dream and they should abandon this dream," said Cavusoglu, adding that Greek and Greek Cypriot negotiators should come up with "more reasonable proposals."

Anastasiades said Thursday's second day of meetings made no real progress and that the talks are procedurally log-jammed.

But he said that Cavusoglu indicated he would soften his proposals on security to make them more palatable to Greek Cypriots if there's progress on other key issues that remain to be sorted out in parallel negotiations.

A key issue on which Turkish Cypriots are insisting is a rotating presidency that would have them sharing power with Greek Cypriots — an arrangement they consider to be the truest test of their acceptance as equal partners in a federal Cyprus.

"This conference is not just about security and guarantees," Cavusoglu said. "Either there is an agreement on all issues, or there is no agreement at all."

Officials are hoping the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres at the negotiations on Friday will help break the logjam and bring the sides closer to agreement.

Turkey has kept its soldiers deployed the island's Turkish Cypriot north since 1974 when it invaded after a coup led by supporters of union with Greece. Ankara invoked military intervention rights accorded to the 'guarantors' under Cyprus' 1960 constitution to initiate the military action.

Greek Cypriots see the troops as a threat and want them to leave as part of any deal reunifying the island as a federation. They also want the military intervention rights of Turkey, Greece and Britain rescinded.

However, the minority Turkish Cypriots want the troops to remain because they see Turkey as their protector.

Anastasiades has renewed a proposal for an international police force backed up by the U.N. Security Council to keep the peace. He says outside military forces have no place on Cyprus, arguing that European Union statutes guarantee ample security measures.

Cyprus is an EU member, but only the Greek Cypriot southern part that is the seat of the island's internationally recognized government enjoys full benefits.

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Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara and Jamey Keaten in Geneva, Switzerland contributed.

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