Monday, 16 July, 2018

Cyprus talks break up over schools controversy

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci
Melinda Barton | 17 February, 2017, 01:39

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) President Mustafa Akinci said Thursday's unification talks ended abruptly when Anastasiades angrily walked out of the room.

Cyprus gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960, but was split 14 years later when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Replying to a question, the President expressed the view that the stance of the Turkish Cypriot side during today's meeting had been decided in advance.

"I don't accept that it's possible after two years of intensive negotiations and progress for the process to halt for an insignificant matter, something that's understood by everyone", Anastasiades told reporters. Akıncı said that when the school issue was discussed, Anastasiades said there "was nothing else to say, slammed the door hard and left", despite Eide's effort to provide conciliation.

There is a still "a long way to go" to set up a security structure that addresses the concerns of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as well as Greece, Turkey and Britain - countries to which the island's constitution grants intervention rights as "guarantors" of the young republic's security, United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide told AP.

He emphasized that the Greek Cypriot side and himself remain fully committed to the achievement of a viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem, and the continuation of the dialogue as agreed before the UN Secretary General on the 12th of January 2017.

Akinci said it's up to the Greek Cypriots to get negotiations back on solid footing.

"At that point there was nothing more to do as this meeting needs to be conducted in an atmosphere of respect so we also left the meeting", he told reporters.

That decision sparked two decades of escalating tensions between the Turkish and Greek-speaking communities on the island culminating in the 1974 war.

The schools legislation, sponsored by the far-right ELAM party, essentially calls for secondary school pupils to mark the referendum anniversary by learning about the event and reading leaflets dedicated to understanding the Enosis cause.

Anastasiades said that celebrations and commemorations aim to pay homage rather than signal any policy shift away from reunifying Cyprus as a federation. According to Cavusoglu, Ankara and Turkish Cypriots consider the recent decision to be inappropriate.

The Greek Cypriot parliament voted Friday to introduce in public schools a yearly commemoration of a 1950 referendum when 96 percent of Greek Cypriots voted for the island to be annexed to Greece.