Cyprus security talks to conclude this month: source

NICOSIA (Reuters) - A working group due to convene on Jan. 18 to hammer out security arrangements for a post-settlement Cyprus will meet for two to three days only, followed by another round of high-level talks, a source close to the Turkish Cypriot side said on Sunday.

Talks in Geneva last week failed to produce a breakthrough in a conflict spanning decades, though the three countries which are stakeholders in Cyprus - Britain, Greece and Turkey - agreed to set up the working group to look at security arrangements after these turned out to be a major sticking point.

The Greek Cypriot side has previously said there was no time frame for the talks.

The working group made of technocrats from all countries involved were scheduled to meet at the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin on Jan. 18.

“The general agreement is that (working group session) should not take place for more than two or three days,” the source told Reuters, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of present discussions.

This would be followed by a new summit of politicians, possibly at a ‘higher level’ than the foreign ministers who met in Geneva last week, the source said.

“All this should take place within January.”

Cyprus was split among its ethnic Turkish and Greek populations since Turkish troops invaded in 1974 in response to a short-lived coup by Greek Cypriot militants seeking union with Greece. But intercommunal violence had simmered since the 1960s when a power-sharing system collapsed soon after independence from Britain.

There are also unsettled issues on redrawing the boundaries between the two sides, settling property disputes and on how to co-govern.

Greece, Turkey and Britain were assigned as “guarantor” powers in a treaty adopted when Cyprus gained independence of London in 1960.

The Greek side seeks abolition of the guarantor system, accusing Turkey of abusing it through its 1974 invasion and the continued stationing of some 30,000 Turkish troops in the north. The Turkish side says some form of presence must be maintained to protect the minority Turkish side from a repeat of the turbulent 1960s.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said a total pull out of Turkish soldiers from the island is not possible.

Any deal should address how constitutional order should be respected in a united island, as well as protecting it from ‘external threats’, the Turkish Cypriot source said.

Cyprus is on the verge of the volatile Middle East, and less than 100 kilometers away from war-torn Syria.

Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky