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.

 

Egypt Christians bury victims with tears, anger

UN says nations bombing IS must protect civilians

Palestinians end mass hunger strike in Israel jails

Probe finds over 100 Mosul civilians killed in US air strike

Syria girls escape war with Snow White

Egypt hits jihadists as IS claims deadly attack on Christians

Britain arrests two more in Manchester attack probe

Turkey charges opposition newspaper staff

Death toll in Tripoli clashes reaches 52

Hundreds of migrants rescued in major operation off Libya

Ramadan in Libya: little cash, much violence

UN braces for up to 200,000 Iraqis to flee Mosul

Iraq forces launch broad attack on IS holdouts in Mosul

Civilians flee IS-held Syria cities after deadly strikes

At least 28 dead in Tripoli clashes

26 killed in attack on Egypt Christians

Turkey identifies 'intelligence weaknesses' before coup attempt

Tunisia opens trial over 2015 beach massacre

Syria army takes control of key road

US-led strikes kill 35 civilians in east Syria

Palestinian president says US should mediate hunger strike

Libya says working closely with Britain over concert attack

EU leaders, Erdogan meet in bid to ease tensions

Myanmar to deport Turkish family wanted for alleged coup links

Iran says it has built third underground missile factory

Trump gets rough ride in EU, NATO meeting

Saudi minister confident on oil output deal

Egyptians brace for austere Ramadan

Qatari FM says country victim of smear campaign, particularly in US

Britain probes jihadist network amid row with US intelligence

Egypt blocks several media websites including Jazeera

IS suicide bomber kills five in Somalia

Israel uneasy over 'crazy' regional arms race

Algeria president replaces Prime Minister

16 civilians dead in coalition strikes near Raqa

4 arrested in Tunisia anti-corruption drive

German MPs call off Turkey visit as tensions fester

Palestinian hunger strike row draws solidarity, controversy

Britain raises terror alert, deploys troops after concert massacre

Qatar probes state news agency hack

At least 20 migrants killed in Mediterranean

Israeli joy at Trump visit lacks substance

Oman evacuates Australian man from Yemen

Bahrain police open fire on Shiite protest, kill five

Turkey arrests hunger strikers on terror charges