EU urged to press Turkey on Cyprus negotiations

The EU has been urged to press Turkey to help speed up reconciliation negotiations on the divided island of Cyprus.

The appeal comes in the wake of the latest round of talks between leaders from the island's Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

According to a senior Greek Cypriot aide, the discussions, which took place in a UN-patrolled buffer zone in Nicosia on Wednesday, " failed to make any progress whatsoever" on the thorny issue or property rights.

This focuses on property and land Greek Cypriots were forced to abandon in the north of the island following the 1974 Turkish invasion.

Speaking exclusively to TheParliament.com, George Iacovou, a close aide of Greek Cypriot president Demetris Christofias, lambasted the Turkish Cypriot negotiators for making a set of "totally unreasonable" proposals at the meeting.

These included, he said, an insistence that even in any final agreement Cyprus should still retain "two economies and two foreign policies".

The Turkish side, he said, also insisted at the meeting that under any solution to the Cyprus problem, Turks should be afforded immediate freedom of movement in areas such as labour, goods and services, as is currently enjoyed in EU member states.

Up to 90,000 Greek Cypriots say that property and land belonging to them which they were forced to leave in 1974 should be returned.

But Iacovou said the Turkish Cypriot negotiators "merely" offered to pay compensation "and then only at one tenth of the actual value of these properties".

He said there were also "unworkable" proposals tabled on how EU affairs should be conducted under any reunification of the island.

Branding some of the demands as "obnoxious" he said the EU "must do more" to pressure Turkey to "come up with more reasonable proposals."

The Turkish prime minister has said he wants to see a solution thrashed out by the end of 2010.

But, speaking from his Nicosia base, Iacovou told this website, "If the Turkish Cypriot side continues to insist on such proposals there will not be any solution to the Cyprus problem."

The two-hour meeting was only the second to take place between Christofias and the newly-elected Dervis Eroglu, whose election has raised fears of a slowing down in the negotiating process.

Further talks will take place in two weeks.

As the negotiations are being overseen by the UN, the EU has only an advisory role. Its representative to the talks, Austrian diplomat Leopold Maurer, was not present at Wednesday's discussions.

Even so, Iacouvo, a former Greek Cypriot ambassador to Germany who has been leading the negotiations along with Christofias, says there is a "growing sense" that the EU has to take a "stronger line" with Ankara in order to speed up the process.

The EU has set up a steering committee, under commission president José Manuel Barroso, to monitor the talks.

But Iacovou said, "Increasingly, the question is being asked as to what exactly this group is doing. I would like to know."

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