Cyprus Reunification Talks in Danger

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who is trying to deal with an economic and bank crisis, said hopes of resuming talks to reunify the island are close to collapsing because of what he called a refusal by Turkish Cypriot to negotiate in good faith.

Without going into details, he said the two sides can’t agree even on the “basic principles” of how to bring together the island that’s been split since an unlawful invasion by Turkey in 1974.

Since then, reunification has eluded a bevy of leaders among Cypriots and Turks as well as internationally and an attempt by the United Nations to broker a deal has failed utterly to get Turks and Cypriots to even talk to each other seriously in recent years.

Only Turkey recognizes the state it has established on Cyprus and where it still keeps 35,000 troops. A UN-patrolled buffer zone in the capital of Nicosia keeps the two sides apart.

Anastasiades insisted that a document outlining the key features of an envisioned federated Cyprus must precede any resumption of formal peace talks.

He said that Turkish Cypriots are seeking either two separate states or a confederation made up of two sovereign states and aren’t interested in bringing the country together again but instead want their government internationally recognized as a country.

He recently met with his Turkish counterpart Dervis Eroglu for a symbolic dinner and chat but even that broke down, leaving Anastasiades another in a long round of frustrated Cypriot leaders unable to make any headway with the Turks.

His predecessor, then-Communist party leader Demetris Christofias, vowed he would be the one to make Cyprus whole again and even offered to let his Turkish counterparts share the Presidency on a rotating basis.

Anastasiades’ remarks came as UN Special Adviser Alexander Downer said the broken-down talks were at a “sensitive stage,” even though there haven’t been any at all. He has been unable to get the two sides to make any progress.

That came after Downer met for an hour first with Anastasiades and then KEroglu, discussing “this joint declaration” that the two sides are working on but which turned out that they weren’t working on.

Speaking after his meeting with Anastasiades, Downer described efforts to agree on a joint declaration as a “crucial part of the process,” essentially saying that the two sides can’t even agree what to talk about or set the ground rules on what the negotiations should include.

“This is going to be a very important part of the whole Cyprus peace process, both sides want to feel comfortable with the joint declaration and it is important to be very careful in what people say about it publicly at this stage and I think the public will understand,” said the UN diplomat, according to The Cyprus Mail.

Asked when fully-fledged negotiations would resume, he said: “The talks will begin when the joint declaration is complete.” But Anastasiades said the Turks won’t even discuss what a joint declaration should be nor do they want one, suggesting they want an impasse to keep the status quo and hope for eventual recognition of their self-declared state.

Anastasiades said that the Greek Cypriot side was trying to make every effort so as “to ensure that the basic principles of the solution are safeguarded and the concerns of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots are met.”

But, he added: “It is with regret that I tell you today that we are heading towards a deadlock due to the Turkish intransigence.” He said that the Greek Cypriot side will persist on its stance, explaining that before the Cyprus talks resume, the basic principles of the solution of the Cyprus problem should be guaranteed.

Those principles, he said, are based on UN resolutions, which don’t question that the united Cyprus Republic should have a single international personality, a single sovereignty and single citizenship.

He said that Cyprus was drifting toward permanent status as a divided island with no solution even though he wanted one.

“We will not accept the fait accompli,” the President said that the coming days will be decisive for the Greek Cypriot side’s stance, which he said will depend on the Turkish Cypriot side’s behavior. “Unfortunately, so far, things have not been encouraging,” he said, echoing the disenchantment a long line of other politicians have felt trying to solve the Cyprus dilemma.

“The Cyprus problem is a problem of invasion and occupation,” he stressed. So far, Turkey has refused to even consider removing its troops and a UN plan put together by former Secretary-General Koffi Annan which won the approval of Turks in 2004 was resoundingly rejected by Cypriots.

There was no word on whether Anastasiades would make another attempt to get Eroglu to sit down at the bargaining table again.