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Politics

Cyprus’ New President Wants Talks With Turkish Occupied Side Chief

February 20, 2023

NICOSIA – As a former foreign minister he knows a lot about the difficulty but now Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides, fresh off being elected, will have another shot at trying to reunify the island split by 1974 Turkish invasions.

Christodoulides said he wants to persuade the leader of the Turkish occupied northern third of the island, Ersin Tatar – who said he doesn’t want unity – to sit down and at least talk about it.

The two are due to meet informally and Christodoulides, who broke away from the ruling Democratic Rally (DISY) party to run independently, said he would get into it “with absolute seriousness… to see how we can break the deadlock ….”

“Things are not easy, I know the situation very well but that does not mean that we will not try from our side to do everything that is possible,” he added, reported The Cyprus Mail.

The two men will meet Feb. 23 at the residence of the United Nations Special Representative Colin Stewart in the UN-controlled Nicosia airport, prospects dim after Tatar said he would talk only about his demand the world recognize the isolated occupied territory that keeps 40,000 Turkish troops on standby.

He also mentioned the European Union council meeting due at the end of March, which would be his first as President and give him a chance to meet fellow member state leaders.

He wants the EU to be involved in negotiations, already ruled out by Tatar and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with Turkey drilling for oil and gas offshore in defiance of soft sanctions brought by the bloc.

Christodoulides said has a ‘working document’ to which he referred during the campaign, designed to explain why the EU can help break the Cyprus deadlock without explaining that could happen if Tatar isn’t interested.

Noting that the March EU summit would also be attended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Christodoulides said his team had already sent a message, “it would be a very positive development,” unclear why the UN chief – who was at the last round of failed talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana – wouldn’t want to talk to him.

Tatar said he’ll have a coffee and chat with Christodoulides but won’t talk business at that setting but that, if “the other side accepts our sensitivities, our red lines, our sovereign equality, formal negotiations can always begin”.

The head of the nationalist National Unity Party (UBP), Ertugrul Hasipoglou, said the Turkish side believes claimed Christodoulides hardline stance at the Swiss meeting scuttled the talks, the Cypriot side walking away when the Turkish side refused to remove its army.

“Christodoulides was completely the bad cop. In the same team was his (Presidential opponent Andreas) Mavroyiannis – the chief negotiator for the Cypriots – who always played the good cop,” he added of the meeting.

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