NICOSIA – Peace talks between Cyprus’ rival leaders that broke down in a feud over a 1950 history referendum haven’t collapsed, United Nations Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide insisted.
Eide, who has for almost two years been predicting imminent breakthroughs that all collapsed and recently said obstacles over security could upset a deal, again said he believes Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will find common ground.
Eide said although the meeting “was not a very happy one” and “ended up abruptly” the next round would still go ahead as planned next week.
“I am glad to convey to you that both leaders are committed to the process and nobody sees this process as over, terminated or even suspended,” said Eide, Agence France Presse reported.
“There have been no cancellations as of now... no change to the program,” he said, stressing the next round would take place as scheduled on Feb. 23.
Tensions have soared over the approval by the Greek Cypriot parliament for schools in the south of the island to mark the 1950 referendum on “Enosis,” or union with Greece.
Akinci said that when the issue of scrapping the decision came up, Anastasiades said there “was nothing else to say, slammed the door and left”. “At that point there was nothing more to do as this meeting needs to be conducted in an atmosphere of respect so we also left the meeting,” he told reporters although Anastasiades blamed Akinci as the blame game continued.
Akinci earlier had said a 30,000-strong Turkish army won’t leave the island and that Turkey would, in keeping with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s line, retain the right to militarily intervene when it wanted, which could scuttle the talks.
Akinci’s walkout was “unwarranted and without cause or reason,” Anastasiades said on TV, adding that Eide, chairing the meeting, had also been “unaware of what happened” and was essentially clueless.
Anastasiades said Eide had tried to persuade Akinci to return but he was “adamant” and left, AFP reported. Eide himself later explained what happened. “The meeting ended abruptly, which is unfortunate,” he said laconically.
“At some point in an emotional meeting that was difficult for all participants, Akinci himself said that he left this meeting.”
The 1950 referendum - before Cyprus won independence from colonial ruler Britain -- overwhelmingly approved Enosis but had no legal value although it’s a volatile symbol as Turkey unlawfully invaded in 1974 saying it was fearful of Greece making moves on Cyprus to gain control and support.