British High Commissioner Sees Tough Road for Cyprus Unity Talks

FILE - A British soldier walks at the gate 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)

Even as an American diplomat is reaching out to see if there are grounds to resume collapsed unity talks, the British Higher Commissioner’s (BHC) office said it will be difficult unless both sides on divided Cyprus are willing to make concessions.

It’s not official but the United Nations Special Representative and head of the UNFICYP peacekeeping operation on Cyprus, Canadian diplomat Elizabeth Spehar has reportedly been talking with Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot officials about rebooting collapsed unity talks.

There’s no official UN envoy to replace Norway’s Espen Barth Eide, who last year became the latest in a long line of diplomats to give up trying to find an agreement after talks collapsed in July at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would never remove an army on the northern third occupied since an unlawful 1974 invasion and wanted the right to militarily intervene again.

That led Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to walk away and turn toward a re-election campaign he easily won this year and then say he was receptive to starting again – if the Turkish side dropped its demands.

Turkey is a guarantor of security on the island, along with Greece and the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which still has a military base there, but hasn’t agreed on who should the official UN envoy should be, leaving Spehar in a kind of limbo.

She said she was carrying out a round of contacts with political parties on the island to “touch base,” the Cyprus Mail reported.

In a statement released UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released his report on the lack developments in Cyprus, “A settlement will require tough choices and compromises,” the BHC statement said.

“But with real political will, we judge an agreement remains within reach, building on the progress made at Crans Montana, to the benefit to all Cypriots and the wider region,” it added, although all talks have failed for decades and there’s no sign Turkey is willing to get them started again.

Guterres, who failed to broker a deal at the Swiss talks, said the future of the island is a responsibility of all Cypriots, but that the leaders bear the primary responsibility for the negotiations.

“In the coming period, I intend to send a senior UN official to conduct in-depth consultations with the parties. The consultations will provide a more formal, structured, and detailed channel for the parties to convey to the UN the outcomes of their reflection since Crans-Montana and to help determine whether conditions have or have not matured at this stage for a meaningful process. I encourage the parties to recognize the importance of this exercise and to seize the opportunity accordingly,” Guterres said.

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