Hopes Fade Again as Cyprus Unity Talks Sputter: UN Says It Will Keep Pushing

FILE - U.N. Special Advisor of the Secretary-General Espen Barth Eide leaves the presidential palace after a meeting with Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, May 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA – The resumption of collapsed negotiations to try to reunify Cyprus, split by an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion, were teetering again before a critical meeting of rival leaders with the United Nations Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide, who has been predicting imminent breakthrough for almost two years.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have bee unable to agree on how to proceed after a key obstacle was settled, a vote by the Cypriot Parliament to recognize a 1950 referendum vote on Enosis, unity with Greece.

Anastasiades and Akinci met May 17 at the old Nicosia airport but judging from reports and the statements made by both men, not much progress was made, setting off jitters that continued optimism for a resolution was being dashed again after both sides kept saying they had made significant progress when results showed they hadn’t.

The Turkish-Cypriot side is reportedly seeking to make a settlement contingent on the issue of oil and gas drilling and exploration off the island’s coast as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who won’t recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes even as he wants to get Turkey into the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member, is planning to send an energy vessel into Cypriot waters where international companies are planning to drill.

Turkish Cypriots are calling for a conference in June and a suspension of gas exploration scheduled in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in July, effectively telling Anastasiades he can’t authorize work in his country’s own waters.

Eide, who has said he had secret plans he couldn’t reveal to bring about a compromise – which he didn’t – had been accused by Anastasiades of favoring Turkey, poisoning the well and leading to the talks status to deteriorate.

The rival leaders were trying to find common ground to return to Geneva, Switzerland for another summit series after being unable to come to terms over major issues blocking a deal.

Akinci is pushing for a conference well before drilling begins in July while Anastasiades says he is not opposed but needs more preparation, the Cyprus Mail said

Eide has reportedly told the leaders either they agree to an international conference or the whole process will be deemed a failure but that the UN won’t give up even it is.

The two leaders discussed how the negotiations process will continue but Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said they were more designed to find a new direction instead of setting key obstacles, such as Turkey’s demand to keep its army on the island and the right to invade further when it wants.

Christodoulides, speaking on public broadcaster Cybc, said if there was to be a continuation of the negotiations in Geneva it would involve not just the leaders but also the guarantor powers of Greece, the United Kingdom and Turkey

Anastasiades has said he is not opposed to a new Geneva conference if enough preparation is done in advance. “I do not think that on the 17th there will be a decision, but there may be a direction for how the process will proceed,” Christodoulides said, echoing similar previous vague statements which produced essentially nothing before the talks resulted in another stalemate.