‘Realistic’ UN chief as Cypriot rivals seek ‘middle ground’ – Naharnet
The UN chief was “realistic” as rival Cypriot leaders and their supporters were due to start informal talks in Geneva on Tuesday, his spokesman said, four years after their last peace talks failed.
The United Nations is trying to negotiate a deal for the divided island, nearly six decades after the deployment of the first peacekeepers.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres traveled to Geneva to oversee the three-day talks in different formats.
“The secretary general is realistic,” his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told journalists in Geneva.
“It’s a question he knows well. He’s been in discussions before. So he’s realistic.”
The spokesperson stressed that the talks were “informal” and aimed “to determine whether there is common ground for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus issue within a foreseeable horizon”.
The two participating Cypriot delegations will be led by Nicos Anastasiades, Head of the Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus and his counterpart from the Separatist Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Ersin Tatar.
Turkey was also invited to the final talks, alongside Greece and Britain – the three guarantors of the island’s independence in 1960.
– Divided since 1974 –
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey occupied the northern third in response to a coup orchestrated by an Athens-backed junta seeking to annex the island to Greece.
The area occupied by Turkey then declared its independence, but remains heavily dependent on Ankara.
A UN-controlled buffer zone separates the separatist state from areas controlled by the EU member, the Republic of Cyprus.
Negotiations for a solution have repeatedly failed, with the last round stalled in 2017.
These talks, which were held in Switzerland, aimed to ensure reunification within a federation.
But they floundered on the withdrawal of tens of thousands of Turkish troops and on Ankara’s status as a guarantor power.
And since then, several factors have added to the traditional sticking points over security guarantees, political equality, territorial adjustments and refugee property rights.
Obstacles to the process include rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over conflicting offshore oil and gas claims involving Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.
Speaking on a plane en route to Geneva on Tuesday, Anastasiades said this week’s talks were “crucial”.
He said his delegation was going with “determination and political will”, and was eager to find a way to “restart substantive negotiations”.
“I hope that the other side will come with the same will and the same assessment, because any hijacking will be done not only at the expense of the Greek Cypriots, but also at the expense of the Turkish Cypriots,” he said.
– “New vision for Cyprus” –
But after decades of negotiations based on the idea of reunifying the island through the creation of a federal state, the TRNC is now advocating that this approach be abandoned in favor of a two-state solution.
On Saturday, Tatar, an extremist and protégé of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan elected in October, urged the international community to “recognize the existence” of two states in Cyprus.
“We are going to Geneva with a new vision for Cyprus, based on the realities of the island,” he said in a statement.
“There are two peoples with distinct national identities, running their own affairs separately.”
This diverts from the UN mandate to provide a federal solution for a reunified Cyprus.