British Envoy Says Cyprus Unity Talks Need Quick Reboot

FILE - The gated entrance of the Royal Air Forces base in Akrotiri, near the coastal city of Limassol in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Thursday, April 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA – The British High Commissioner in Cyprus, Matthew Kidd, said collapsed talks to reunify the island should restart quickly and that the United Kingdom, one of the guarantors of security on the divided island, was ready to be a key broker.

Negotiations between Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci broke off in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana after Turkey refused to remove an army is has kept on the northern occupied third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion and wanted the right to militarily intervene.

The UK was the former Colonial ruler and still keeps a military base on the island. Turkey and Greece are the other guarantors of security, a system that Anastasiades should be replaced by an international police force. The United Nations has peacekeepers on the dividing line too for now.

In an interview with the Cyprus News, Kidd said Britain was ready to be part of any new conference on Cyprus as it had been during the previous talks in Crans-Montana without indicating why there would be any different result.

That came after Anastasiades and Akinci had dinner on April 16, meeting for the first time since the Swiss debacle, if only to break bread and not pick up the talks. Kidd said the two leaders  “seem to have agreed that they both want to use the idea of consultation missions by the UN to clarify the way forward which is good because it implies that they do both want there to be a way forward,” even if no one knows what that is yet.

“I do think that it is important that whatever is going to happen should happen quickly because after such a long delay since last summer and with other things… the world is not waiting, the challenge of making progress gets harder and not easier. So the sooner… the better,” Kidd added.

He said that the framework proposed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was also at Crans-Montana and then released report blaming nobody for anything, was “a really important piece of machinery” although the talks have essentially been kept secret from Cypriots and Turks who would be affected.

“But exactly how it is used wasn’t ever discussed. So you cannot really say that there is a method of using it that was agreed in July and can be put into practice,” said Kidd.

“It was a method, a concept, a very useful one, but there will still need to be a discussion, an agreement about how to use it, how to get from the very general way in which it was discussed in July into something that can lead directly into a completely ripe conclusion,” he added with no explanation of what the framework was.

He said that Turkish warships blocking foreign energy drilling rigs from reaching Cypriot waters where they are licensed to look for oil and gas was another obstacle creating more mistrust on both sides.
“Even without being directly part of the process and they [hydrocarbons] never have been, they now constitute part of the climate, part of the backdrop, within which any resumed process needs to take place,” he said.

The Turkish-Cypriots want a say in the energy exploration and said otherwise they’d begin their own with Turkey’s backing.