UN Chief Guterres Still Wants Cyprus Unity Talks Restart

FILE - In this March 8, 2017 file photo, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the UN in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)

Having failed to broker a reunification deal when talks collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council he will try again.

In a report sent to the council, Guterres said he had asked his envoy, American diplomat Jane Holl Lute, to continue holding talks with Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders on the basis for re-starting negotiations, said Agence France Presse (AFP).

“It is my hope that the ongoing consultations will lead to a return to negotiations, to which I could devote the full weight of my good offices, with the aim of reaching a lasting resolution of the Cyprus issue,” Guterres said in the report the news agency said it obtained.

“The way ahead must be well prepared, with a sense of urgency and focus,” he added, without explaining how that would happen as Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci still aren’t talking to each other seriously yet.

Lute has gotten nowhere in her bid to get the two sides together again in a country called the “Graveyard of Diplomats,” with a long of envoys failing to make any headway.

A number of confidence-building measures have been agreed on mine clearance, on exchanging works of art between the two sides, on electricity transfers and on allowing mobile phone providers to operate on both sides, minor subjects.

Still, “the skepticism on both sides regarding the prospects for a resumption of talks continued to prevail” following the leaders’ private meetings, Guterres said, according to the news report.

Lute has traveled to Cyprus four times since October for talks on re-starting negotiations and has met with representatives from Greece, Turkey, Britain – all of whom are guarantors of security on the island – and with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The Security Council in January asked Guterres to report on his efforts to re-start talks after renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission for six months while the US warned that without progress towards a political solution, UN peacekeepers will not remain indefinitely on the divided island.

The talks collapsed when Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would never remove a 35,000-strong army on the northern third occupied by Turkey since a 1974 invasion and as they wanted the right to militarily intervene.