NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Talks aimed at reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus stumbled Tuesday when the Greek Cypriot president called off a meeting with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader after he attended a dinner of heads of state at the invitation of Turkey.
Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said in a brief statement that President Nicos Anastasiades “regretfully” called off the meeting with Mustafa Akinci scheduled for later this week in light of Monday’s “unacceptable actions.”
He said the invitation to Akinci aimed to diplomatically upgrade the breakaway north of the island, which only Turkey recognizes as an independent state and maintains more than 35,000 troops there.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aiming at union with Greece.
The dinner was held as part of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. Anastasiades, who attended the summit, was invited to the dinner but refused to go after he was told Akinci would also be there.
Anastasiades said he remains committed to the yearlong peace talks as long as “rules of mutual respect” are obeyed and both sides stick to the “jointly expressed will to reach a mutually acceptable solution” without “unilateral actions” aiming at the north’s diplomatic upgrade.
The statement also served notice to officials involved in the talks — including United Nations envoy Espen Barth Eide who is facilitating negotiations — not to act in a way that could scupper the talks.
“Similar actions by anyone involved, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative not excluded, not only do not help, but oppositely undermine the ongoing process,” the statement said.
Anastasiades and Akinci said much progress has been made in negotiations, but difficulties remain. Both said they aim for an accord that would reunify the island into two federal zones by the end of the year.
The internationally recognized government of Cyprus in the island’s Greek Cypriot southern half is strongly opposed to putting the breakaway north on an equal diplomatic footing because it considers the Turkish Cypriot government the product of an act of war which violated international law.
Neither Turkey nor the Turkish Cypriots recognize the Cypriot government.