Try, Try Again: US Pushes for Cyprus Unity Talks Reboot

Αssociated Press

FILE - A general view show the Turkish delegation and Turkish Cypriot delegation on the left side, the UN delegation on the center, and the Greek Cypriot delegation and Greek delegation on the right side at the beginning of a new round of the conference on Cyprus under the auspices of the United Nations, in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

UNITED NATIONS — It hasn't been successful for more than four decades but the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution urging the rival leaders of Cyprus, divided since an unlawful 1974 invasion that saw Turkey seize and occupy the northern third, to sit down again and work out a plan to bring the island together again.

Using vague diplomatic language that has been its hallmark during 44 years of failure, the UN resolution said the talks should resume “ "within a foreseeable horizon” without specifying what that was.

Negotiations collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said there was no sense talking anymore because Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would never remove an army on the island and wanted the right to militarily intervene when they wanted.

The resolution approved by the UN's most powerful body expresses regret at the lack of progress toward a Cyprus settlement urged both sides "to seize the important opportunity" of consultations with senior U.N. official Jane Holl Lute "on a way forward."

Lute, an American diplomat, is the latest to be dispatched by the UN into what is called “The Graveyard of Diplomats,” because no envoy has come close to finding an answer to the dilemma and as Akinci warned permanent partition is looming otherwise.

Cyprus was divided into a Turkish-speaking north and a Greek-speaking south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by Cypriots who supported uniting the island with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and still maintains around 35,000 troops there.

In his latest report to the Security Council this month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated that he believes "prospects remain alive for a comprehensive settlement within a foreseeable horizon,” without explaining his optimism as he was at the Swiss talks that failed.

The British-drafted resolution uses that tepid language and called on Anastasiades and Akinci "to actively and meaningfully engage with openness and creativity, fully commit to a settlement process under UN auspices, use the UN. consultations to restart negotiations, and avoid any actions that might damage the chances of success."

The Security Council also urged the implementation and development of new confidence-building measures, including those aimed at improving mobile phone and electricity connectivity on the divided island.

Deputy British Ambassador Jonathan Allen endorsed Guterres' view that prospects remain alive and said the resolution sends "a clear message to all sides: to work towards the resumption of talks."

The resolution extends the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force, which was established in 1964 to prevent fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, until July 31.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador Roger Cohen stressed the international community's strong sentiment that "peacekeeping operations must support political solutions" and the urgency the United States sees for the Cypriot leaders "to come together."

"The United States has made clear, in reviewing all peacekeeping missions, that we will not support the status quo for missions where political processes are stalled," Cohen said.


(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)