Any deal to unite the Greek and Turkish halves of Cyprus would require hundreds of thousands of Turkish settlers to leave the island nation, Cyprus’ foreign minister said.
Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said the Republic of Cyprus would be willing to let 40,000 to 50,000 Turkish settlers with Cypriot family ties remain on the island.
But “we cannot accept the 200 or 300 thousand settlers who have come illegally to the occupied areas during the last 37 years,” Mrs. Kozakou-Marcoullis told The Washington Times. “They have to leave.”
Government officials from the Greek and Turkish halves of Cyprus are to meet next month at the United Nations to discuss an agreement on uniting the island, where large reserves of oil and gas have been found offshore.
“Whether or not we will reach an agreement is yet to be seen,” said Dervis Eroglu, president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, according to World Bulletin.
With a population of 1.1 million, Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey began occupying the northeastern half. Efforts to reunite the island have failed, in part, over the issue of Turkish settlers.
“Turkey is committing a crime against humanity by bringing these settlers into the occupied areas,” Mrs. Kozakou-Marcoullis said, citing a Geneva Convention ban on nations allowing their civilians to settle in occupied territories.
Several countries, including Turkey, have cited the ban with regard to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Mrs. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis accused Turkish officials of applying “double standards.”
Pavlos Anastasiades, Cyprus’ ambassador to the U.S., told The Times that the issue of Turkish settlers is “something we oppose very strongly, not only to U.S. officials but all our interlocutors.”
“They share our concern that this is one of the key issues that has to be resolved in the context of negotiations in a way that is acceptable to both sides,” he said.
Mrs. Kozakou-Marcoullis said that efforts to resolve the settler issue and other aspects of the Cyprus conflict had undergone “a serious regression,” and blamed Turkey’s administration on the island.
Turkey, which is seeking membership in the European Union, is the only country that recognizes its administration in Cyprus, which it supports with a 30,000-member military force.
Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and has vowed to freeze ties with the European Union when Cyprus assumes the body’s rotating presidency in July.
Mrs. Kozakou-Marcoullis expressed regret over Turkey’s decision on the EU, saying Turkey cannot expect to join a club when it does not recognize all of its members.
Mr. Eroglu and Cypriot President Demetris Christofias are scheduled to meet in New York next month before the U.N. summit.