Turkey backs continued Cyprus peace talks, warns Greek Cypriots

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildrim addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey backs U.N.-led reunification talks for Cyprus, but sees this round of negotiations as the last chance for Greek Cypriots to show a constructive approach and reach a deal, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday.

In his first public comments on Cyprus since Turkey’s failed military coup on July 15-16, Yildirim reaffirmed Ankara’s strong support for the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state, where it keeps around 30,000 troops stationed.

Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots worry that the fallout from the abortive coup could affect their reunification talks, which diplomats say now offer the best chance in generations for ending a conflict that has long soured Ankara’s ties with NATO ally Greece and with the European Union.

“The peace negotiations are continuing. Let them continue ... The Turkish Cypriot side has, with full sincerity, acted constructively,” Yildirim told a joint news conference with the Turkish Cypriots’ prime minister, Huseyin Ozgurgun.

“This is the last chance for the Greek Cypriot side, which has always acted as the game spoiler. We recommend they use this chance wisely,” Yildirim said, adding that the status quo could not be sustained indefinitely.

Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since a 1974 Turkish invasion that followed a brief Greek-inspired coup.

Only Turkey recognizes the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Governments and organizations around the world, including the European Union that Turkey aspires to join, view the Greek Cypriot government in the south as the sole legal authority for the whole island.

Reunification talks have typically floundered on issues such as re-drawing boundaries between the two sides, the property rights of thousands of displaced persons and the status of tens of thousands of mainland Turks transferred to northern Cyprus after the war, a source of resentment to some Cypriots.

Reporting by Ercan Gurses and Ayla Jean Yackley; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by David Dolan and Robin Pomeroy