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Iraq PM says Turkish troop problem solved soon
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Jan 7, 2017

Erdogan, UK PM say Geneva talks 'real opportunity' for Cyprus
Istanbul (AFP) Jan 7, 2017 - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday agreed that key talks on Cyprus next week in Geneva were a "real opportunity" for a fair and lasting solution to the division of the island.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and President Nicos Anastasiades of the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus are due to meet in the Swiss city for talks from Monday in a bid to give new momentum to the process.

From Thursday, they are expected to be joined by the three guarantor powers of Cyprus -- former colonial power Britain, Greece and Turkey -- amid expectations of a major breakthrough in the UN-backed talks.

May and Erdogan discussed the upcoming talks in a telephone conversation, where the British premier also expressed her condolences for the latest terror attacks in Turkey.

"They expressed the wish the upcoming talks in Geneva will be the occasion for a lasting and fair solution to the Cyprus problem," Turkish presidential sources said.

A Downing Street spokesman added they agreed on the importance of reaching a successful resolution in Geneva.

They saw the talks as a "real opportunity to secure a better future for Cyprus and to guarantee stability in the wider region," the spokesman added.

May would visit Turkey "early this year", the spokesman said, without specifying when.

Sticking points in the talks are set to be the presence of Turkish troops on the island, property issues and how much of the island is controlled by the two entities in a bizonal federation.

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

The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is only recognised by Turkey. The Republic of Cyprus is however an EU member.

Anastasiades and Akinci, who are among the most outspoken proponents of a deal, are under huge pressure to deliver progress in the talks. But any agreement they reach will have to be approved by their respective communities in referendums.

Akinci, born in Limassol which is now in the Greek Cypriot south, has said a referendum on reunifying the island could be held in the summer if the talks went to plan.

Cypriots on both sides of the island in 2004 voted in referendums on a UN plan to reunite Cyprus. It was overwhelmingly approved by Turkish Cypriots but also overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots.

Iraq and Turkey's prime ministers held talks Saturday in Baghdad which both said reflected progress in resolving a bitter row over the presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said at a joint press conference after meeting Turkey's Binali Yildirim that the issue would be solved soon.

"The prime minister and the delegation accompanying him confirmed that this issue will be solved in a satisfactory manner soon," he said.

Turkey has for some time maintained troops at a base near Bashiqa, a town just northeast of Mosul, and reinforcements dispatched there in 2015 led to a deterioration in relations between the two neighbours.

Baghdad has accused Turkey of violating its sovereignty but Ankara has insisted rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who are based in northern Iraq should be dealt with.

Yildirim on Saturday said Abadi had provided such assurances.

"This is very important for us. We were very pleased with this and it shows in the best way what we can do in the fight against terror," he told reporters.

The PKK, a Turkish organisation, and its local allies control key areas in the Sinjar region, which lies between Mosul and Syria, south of the Turkish border.

Ankara has blamed a number of recent deadly attacks in Turkey on the PKK and has hinted it would not hesitate to cross the border to hunt down the Kurdish separatists.

- Mosul battle -

Abadi said he had a deal with the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region for its forces to establish control over the Sinjar area.

"It should be under the full control of Iraqi forces and any outside forces are not allowed to control this area," Abadi said.

Yildirim said his government was committed to respecting and supporting Iraq's sovereignty.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces on October 17 launched a broad offensive, the country's largest in years, to retake Mosul from the Islamic State jihadist group.

The Turkish troops based outside Bashiqa, which was recaptured from IS in November 2016, have offered some artillery support but largely stayed out of the battle.

Ankara has insisted Mosul must keep its Sunni Arab Muslim majority which it had before IS took over the city from woefully unprepared Iraqi troops in 2014.

Yildirim suggested that Turkey would pull its troops out of Bashiqa once the battle for Mosul is over.

While Abadi has said a victory in Mosul could take three more months, many observers argue the timetable is optimistic.

Exactly which Iraqi forces secure the city will also be significant, with Turkey particularly wary of Shiite-dominated militias loyal to Tehran attempting to gain a foothold in northern Iraq.

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