Rival Cyprus Leaders Fail to Find Way Forward at UN Talks
(Bloomberg) -- Rival leaders from the island of Cyprus failed to agree on how to settle nearly five decades of division, the United Nations said Thursday, after a recent deterioration in ties deepened already entrenched positions.
“We have agreed that I’ll convene in the near future another meeting of the 5+1 with the objective of finding common ground to allow for formal negotiations to start,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told reporters in Geneva, suggesting that might take two to three months.
Officials from Turkey, Greece and the U.K. -- guarantor powers under the agreement that ended British colonial rule in Cyprus -- had joined top Greek- and Turkish-speaking Cypriot politicians in Geneva for three days of talks. Guterres had hoped to breathe new life into a UN-mandated push for reunification, a position opposed by the Turkish side.
Proponents of reunifying the island point to the economic and security prizes it offers, including a boost for plans to tap eastern Mediterranean oil and gas and stronger ties between NATO partners in the region as Russia seeks to expand its influence.
But Turkey’s unilateral energy exploration in contested waters has inflamed its ties with both Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, while Ankara’s purchase of missile technology from Moscow soured relations with European powers.
At the talks, Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, supported by Turkey, said partitioning the island into two states was the only option.
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There’s no meaning to talks without a recognition of a “sovereign equal state and equal status” of the Turkish Cypriot administration,” Tatar said.
That position was immediately rejected by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, backed by Greece, who insists on the UN framework for a bizonal federation.
“There’s no chance that we, the UN or the international community will accept something that’s not within the UN framework,” Anastasiades said.
The Mediterranean island -- less than half the size of New Jersey -- has been divided since Turkish forces captured its northern third in 1974, following an attempted coup inspired by the military junta then ruling in Athens that sought to unite the island with Greece.
To this day, the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state is recognized only by Turkey, while the Republic of Cyprus is a European Union member and officially has sovereignty over the entire island. Numerous UN-led efforts to reunify the island have failed, most recently in 2017.
Anastasiades said he proposed that some sea and airports in the northern part of Cyprus be opened to international traffic under the auspices of the UN and the European Union, in return for the reopening of the ghost city of Famagusta. He also suggested that Turkey allow Cypriot-flagged ships to call at its ports.
That was an attempt “to change the agenda,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters following the talks.
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