First Published: 2017-02-15

Turkish Cypriot leader says talks at risk over Greek schools marking referendum
Akinci warns fragile UN-backed talks to reunify Cyprus under threat as Greek Cypriots mark in schools non-binding 1950 referendum to merge island with Greece.
Middle East Online

Akinci fears 'great damage' to peace process

NICOSIA - The Turkish Cypriot leader on Wednesday warned talks to reunify the island were being undermined by a move from Greek Cypriots to mark in schools a 1950 referendum on unifying the island with Greece.

The Republic of Cyprus and breakaway Turkish Cypriot north have in recent weeks engaged in a fragile UN-backed process to reunify the island.

But Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci warned that the talks were being endangered by the approval by the Republic of Cyprus parliament to mark the 1950 plebescite in schools.

The 1950 referendum -- before Cyprus won independence from colonial ruler Britain -- overwhelmingly approved "Enosis" (union) with Greece but had no legal value.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Akinci warned that the move would cause "great damage" to the peace process.

With new talks coming in March, he said it was "not compatible" with UN calls for the parties to take confidence-building steps for a solution.

The Greek Cypriots should "refrain from further complicating such a challenging job for a viable and long lasting solution through such steps," he was quoted as saying.

In later comments, he added: "We will, or won't we, continue to work together for a solution for this island? This is now a very critical question."

Turkey's foreign ministry warned that the issue showed how difficult it would be to reunify Cyprus.

"As long as a fundamental change does not take place in such a Greek Cypriot mentality... it will be difficult to achieve results from efforts aiming towards a settlement in Cyprus."

The bill, sponsored by the far-right ELAM party, essentially calls for secondary school pupils to mark the referendum anniversary by learning about the event and reading leaflets dedicated to understanding the Enosis cause.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Akinci, born in Limassol which is now in the Greek Cypriot south, has been an outspoken proponent of a deal along with his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades.

UN Cyprus envoy Espen Barth Eide met both leaders separately in a bid to defuse the row after Akinci cancelled their meeting on Tuesday.

"This is not the best climate," Eide admitted in Nicosia after the talks. The two leaders are due to meet for crucial face-to-face talks on Thursday.

 

Saudi, allies unveil Qatar 'terrorist' blacklist

Israel dismantles metal detectors from holy site

Trump says Syrian rebel aid program was 'dangerous and wasteful'

Iran gets more involved in Iraq militarily

600,000 Yemenis expected to contract cholera in 2017

Palestinians demand removal of Jerusalem 'security' measures

Key challenges in Libya's chaos

Where Afghanistan is heading and what it means for the Arab Gulf

Saudi raises $4.53 bln in oversubscribed bond issue

Jordanian mourners chant 'death to Israel'

14 Saudis face ‘imminent’ unfair execution says Amnesty

Rival Libyan leaders hold talks in France

Amnesty International urges EU to 'reset' Turkey relations

Erdogan urges Muslims to ‘protect’ Jerusalem

US sanctions protecting Iranian tech sector

Air strike kills civilians in Syria despite truce

278 Europe-bound migrants rescued off Libya

Beirut, the upcoming start-up hub in MENA region

Cardinal hails 'rebirth' of Iraqi Christian town

Top UN delegation visits crisis-hit Yemen

Trump aide due in Israel to ease holy site tensions

Libya’s coastguard rescues 150 Europe-bound migrants

EU warns Turkey economy at risk in Germany row

Saudi crown prince takes temporary charge

Israel strikes Gaza after missile across border

Hezbollah says fight on Syria border ‘nearing end’

Staff of Turkey opposition paper stand trial

Tehran’s judiciary chief accuses US of jailing innocent Iranians

Palestinian arrested after attack in Tel Aviv

Maghreb future is tied to resolving Western Sahara conflict

MENA countries particularly vulnerable to climate change

UN-backed Libya PM to meet eastern strongman near Paris

Saudi Arabia and allies insist demands non-negotiable as GCC crisis continues

Netanyahu faces mounting pressure over holy site

Two Jordanians killed at Israeli embassy in Amman

Erdogan holds talks with Gulf leaders on Qatar crisis

Arab League accuses Israel of 'playing with fire' at holy site

Erdogan seeks to defuse standoff around Turkey’s Qatar

Syria warplanes strike near Damascus despite ceasefire

US warns Iran over imprisoned Americans

Kuwait protests to Lebanon over Hezbollah training

30 extremists in Sinai operations

Three Palestinians shot dead in Jerusalem

Nearly 360 injured in Turkey by magnitude 6.7 quake

UN says Saudi to blame for deadly Yemen strike on civilians