NICOSIA – Despite the failure of more than two dozen envoys, diplomats and United Nations Secretary-Generals over more than a half century to bring peace to Cyprus, President Nicos Anastasiades wants another one dispatched to try.
The last one, Norway’s Espen Barth Eide, gave up after three years when July, 2017 talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana between Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci collapsed over Turkish demands to keep an army on the island and the right to militarily intervene again, as Turkey did when seizing the northern third in a 1974 invasion.
Anastasiades said it’s up to UN leader Antonio Guterres, who was at the Swiss talks and then wrote a report blaming nobody for anything, to decide whether to send an envoy.
Anastasiades made the remarks after a UN hosted dinner April 16 with Akinci that was designed to be about breaking bread and small talk and not set conditions for the resumption of talks, the first time they’d met since last year’s debacle.
Anastasiades said the discussions covered all the differences between the two sides, but both remain entrenched in their positions indicating the 44-year-old stalemate had continued with no likelihood of success.
However, he and Akinci agreed to open this year two more crossing points across a UN-patrolled buffer zone that separates the occupied territory from the internationally recognized south which is a member of the European Union that Turkey wants to join while not recognizing the legitimate government and barring Cypriot ships and planes.
Canada’s Elizabeth Spehar, who had a shot in 2008 that didn’t work, has taken over on a kind of interim basis representing the UN but Guterres has shown no desire to get the talks rolling again after failing last year to get a deal.
That came after almost giddy reports the previous two years that the moderates Anastasiades and Akinci could work something out and with the two of them seen having drinks on the dividing line looking optimistic before they, too, went nowhere fast.
The two leaders “had a frank and open exchange of views” in the one-on-one meeting in the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, the UN said in a statement, diplomatic boilerplate which generally means nothing happened and there was no movement on either side.
The dinner meeting was hosted by Elizabeth Spehar, who held several separate meetings with the two leaders before bringing them together, the Chinese news agency Xinhua said.
The organizers of a rally, people from both sides of the island gathered outside the entrances to the old Nicosia airport which serves as the headquarters of the UN peace mission in Cyprus and said they wanted to “mobilize and impress” the two leaders, the news report added.
A delegation of the bi-communal Peace Initiative United Cyprus, which brings together more than 70 organizations working for peace and reunification, had a meeting with Spehar earlier in the day.
They handed her a message addressed to the two leaders urging them “to live up to the expectations” of Cypriots and reconvene a negotiation process that would lead to an agreed solution.
Anastasiades wants the negotiations to start from where they left off last July and be conducted in line with a framework set down by Guterres but Akinci, who reports to Erdogan, wants a deadline for a resolution and for Turkish-Cypriots to have a say in energy exploration by foreign companies off the coast in Cypriot waters.
The opening of the crossing points, on which work has been going on for several months, has been demanded by organizations from both communities working towards a reunification of Cyprus.
A group of Greek and Turkish Cypriots who had gathered outside the venue voiced hope that Anastasiades and Akinci would make headway, Agence France Presse reported.
Another obstacle emerged with Turkish warships setting up a blockade off Cyprus to keep foreign energy companies who are licensed to drill for oil and gas from reaching waters they want to begin operations.
The EU denounced Turkey for the blockade then, needing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s help against terrorism and to keep him from flooding Greek islands with more refugees and migrants, praised and thanked him for doing that.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)