Turkey won’t withdraw troops from Cyprus if Greece doesn’t, Turkish president Erdogan warns

Turkey won’t withdraw troops from Cyprus if Greece doesn’t, Turkish president Erdogan warns 1

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The withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Cyprus is “out of the question” according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unless Greece reciprocates by removing some of its soldiers from the south of the island, Turkey’s president said on Friday.

Erdogan’s remarks came at the end of a week of crucial negotiations in Geneva over the reunification of the island, which has been divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974.

Key obstacles to a deal also include the return of property to tens of thousands of Cypriots who fled their homes in 1974, as well as the presence of troops.

“It is out of the question for Turkish soldiers to pull out completely, and we’ve discussed this before,” President Erdogan told Turkish media.  “If something like this is being considered, then both sides should pull their troops out of there.”

Turkey has around 30,000 soldiers in the northern third of Cyprus while Greece has about 1,000 soldiers in the south.  President Erdogan said that even if troops were withdrawn, Ankara would want to maintain a presence in the island as one of its guarantors.

“We have told Cyprus and Greece clearly that they should not expect a solution without Turkey as guarantor. We are going to be there forever,” he said in Istanbul.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, has previously described the Turkish troops on the island as a “force of stability” but the Greek Cypriot side disagrees.

On the other hand, President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, said the Turkish soldiers were “a source of instability, which is why the Cyprus problem has been open 43 years.”  But he welcomed Turkey’s participation in the negotiations. “While the dialogue is alive and steps are taken which allow a dialogue, I live in hope,” he said.

The next meetings are likely to begin next week and Mr Erdogan also added he was not happy with the possible rotating presidency on Cyprus. Instead of seeing four Greek Cypriot presidencies for every one by Turkish Cypriots, Mr Erdogan said he wanted a 2:1 balance in Greece’s favour instead.

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.