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World News

Turkey needs military rethink over Cyprus - Greece

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Greece urged its NATO partner Turkey to rethink it military presence in ethnically divided Cyprus on Tuesday, saying its neighbour needed to help itself if it were to gain a footing in the EU.

Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou (L) and Cyprus' President Demetris Christofias hold a news conferance in Nicosia October 19, 2009. Greece urged Turkey to rethink it military presence in ethnically divided Cyprus on Tuesday, saying its neighbour needed to help itself if it were to gain a footing in the EU. REUTERS/Andreas Manolis

The two countries have been at loggerheads over Cyprus for decades, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots live separately.

“Turkey has every reason to reconsider its position on security,” Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told parliamentarians in Nicosia.

“Relationships should not be based on military might or threats, but on the basis of European principles and mutual obligations.”

The island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup. There are deep disputes over security in peace talks.

Turkey has had a large military presence in northern Cyprus since 1974. It is one of three states entrusted to guarantee the sovereignty of Cyprus. The other two are Greece and Britain, Cyprus’s former colonial ruler.

Cyprus’s division is harming Turkey’s bid to join the EU, where the Greek Cypriot south represent the island in the bloc. Neither Greece nor Cyprus however advocate anything short of full membership of Turkey in the EU.

Widely credited with fostering closer ties with Ankara, Papandreou is expected to be more hands-on than his predecessor in coaxing a deal on Cyprus. His first visit after winning Greek national elections on Oct. 4 was to Turkey, and then to Cyprus.

Diplomats say one of the thorniest issues requiring resolution in peace talks is the guarantee system. Greek Cypriots want it scrapped, while Turkish Cypriots say it must remain intact. Diplomats say the dispute is a red line for both.

“Issues like the protection of human rights are guaranteed by the EU, not by military force,” Papandreou said.

In an EU report last week, Turkey was urged to support a deal on Cyprus, and open its ports to Greek Cypriot traffic. Papandreou said it was important this was done by December.

“Greece and Cyprus will insist Turkey meets its obligations in its entirety, that it meets these obligations until its assessment by the European Council, by December,” he said.

Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Alison Williams

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