Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias reiterated Wednesday his country’s supports for a solution to the Cyprus problem as long as there are no interventionist rights from other countries.
Kotzias, who met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow during an official visit, embarked on a series of discussions on bilateral relations between the two countries as well as recent developments in the wider region.
The Greek top diplomat later gave a talk at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where he spoke on Greek foreign policy, relations with countries in the Balkan, and the Cyprus problem.
Kotzias took the position that Greece ought to be pro-active in geopolitics and take initiatives, citing the ongoing negotiations on the 'name question' between Athens and Skopje, a highly contested issue that has been a long and protracted debate between the two capitals.
'The ratio is one soldier for every two Turkish Cypriots or one soldier for every family, if one takes the settlers into account'
On the Cyprus problem, he reiterated Greece’s position on the issue of military troops and guarantees, dismissing the notion that a continuation of such an arrangement would be compatible with a modern state.
“Greece stands for a solution to the Cyprus problem that ensures Cyprus will be a normal state, member of the EU, member of the UN, and that will enjoy fully its rights as a normal state without interventionist rights from third parties,” Kotzias said.
The foreign minister was referring to the position of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots, who argue military guarantees make up a necessary deterrent, a position that is anathema to Greek Cypriots.
“But the question remains. What is the fundamental issue at the core of the Cyprus problem?” Kotzias asked his audience.
“The issue of security, the problem of an illegal occupation of the northern part of Cyprus,” he said, adding that the northern part of Cyprus is the most militarized area in Europe.
Kotzias also said that last year there were 44,000 soldiers in a place with just 92,000 Turkish Cypriots and another 200,000 Turkish nationals.
“The ratio is one soldier for every two Turkish Cypriots or one soldier for every family, if one takes into account the settlers,” the Greek foreign minister said.
Cyprus has been ethnically divided for half a century, split in two following a Turkish military invasion in July 1974 in response to a short-lived coup engineered by Athens. The Republic of Cyprus represented by Greek Cypriots in the south is a recognised state in the UN and EU while a self-declared state in the north is not recognised by any country except Turkey.
Talks to reunite the island are currently frozen, with the latest negotiations collapsing one year ago in Switzerland’s Crans Montana and UN officials trying to explore whether there is a possibility to restart the process.
Kotzias represented Greece during the Crans Montana peace talks, along with his counterparts from Turkey and the UK, with all three countries being guarantors in Cyprus. Greece has said they are in favour of teminating guarantees, while Turkey wants to the agreement to continue. The UK has kept a neutral stance officially on the issue.