NICOSIA, Cyprus — About 200 Greek Cypriots gathered outside Cyprus’ presidential palace Friday to demand the return of their homes and farmland in any deal to reunify the ethnically divided island.
Morphou Mayor Charalambos Pittas said the peaceful demonstration was intended to get President Nicos Anastasiades to live up to his pledge of making his fertile town a part of the ongoing reunification talks.
“What counts for us is that the president keeps his word that Morphou is returned,” Pittas told the Associated Press.
Anastasiades and breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are meeting in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland for two days next week to negotiate how much territory each side would administer under an envisioned federation.
A domain agreement would pave the way for a final summit where Greece, Turkey and Cyprus’ former colonial ruler Britain would make post-settlement security arrangements.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Turkish Cypriots marched in the streets of northern Nicosia on Friday in support of peace, urging the two leaders to overcome any remaining hurdles during their talks in the Swiss resort.
A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece split the island into a breakaway Turkish-speaking north and an internationally recognized, Greek-speaking south.
Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence, and the country keeps more than 35,000 of its troops stationed in the north.
Former Morphou residents say having the town and its surrounding agricultural land under a Greek Cypriot administration would go far toward enabling around 100,000 people who lost homes and property in the war to reclaim it.
Up to 37,000 Greek Cypriots could reclaim property if Morphou is returned, Pittas said. At the time of the invasion, the town produced most of the island’s citrus exports.
Under any deal, Turkish Cypriots want to minimize the displacement of people now residing in Greek Cypriot homes. Many Turkish residents had to leave properties in the south and move north when the island was divided.
Michael Jordanou, 88, a Greek Cypriot whose family was forced to abandon 37 acres of citrus orchards in Morphou, said he hopes housing for the town’s Turkish Cypriots will be built so their relocation creates as little hardship as possible.
At the same time, Jordanou said he strongly doubts a peace accord can be reached without the town’s return.
“I can’t see any solution without Morphou,” he said.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.