GENEVA — As expected, bringing together all the players on Cyprus to determine if there was a political will to reunify the island went nowhere fast after the Turkish-Cypriot side occupying northern third demanded two states instead.
The sit down in Geneva was led by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres almost four years after his last attempt at finding a solution collapsed when Turkey said it would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side, seized in an unlawful 1974 invasion.
Guterres, who after the 2017 negotiations at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana fizzled issued a report blaming neither side, now said he will try again in a few months although Turkish-Cypriot new leader Ersin Tatar said he will follow the line of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in wanting two states.
The United Nations chief said a new round of informal talks are planned, possibly in the next two to three months.
“The truth is that in the end of our efforts, we have not yet found enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations in relation to the settlement of the Cyprus problem," Guterres said. "But I do not give up.”
He summarized the two sides' positions: The Turkish Cypriots believe that decades of efforts to ensure a “bi-zonal, bicommunal federation” have been exhausted and they now deserve “equal international status” like that enjoyed by the Nicosia government run by Greek Cypriots in the south.
The Greek Cypriots held to their position for a federation "with political equality on the basis of relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Guterres said.
“As you can imagine, this was not an easy meeting,” he said. “To square the circle is an impossibility in geometry, but it is very common in politics.”
"Greece went to the unofficial five-part meeting called by the UN secretary general with aim of creating the conditions that would allow the restart of the negotiations within the context set explicitly by the UN Security Council, namely of a bizonal, bicommunal federation," said Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias after the conclusion of the meeting on the Cyprus issue in Geneva.
"We kept a constructive stance and did whatever possible along with the Republic of Cyprus to meet this goal," he stressed. "Unfortunately, it was not possible to find a common ground on the restart of the negotiations in this context due to the stance of the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish side," Dendias explained.
He also noted, "We made it clear that Guterres' effort must be exerted within the agreed framework and within the context of his order, namely the relevant decisions of the UN Security Council on seeking a solution in the context of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, and we reiterated that UN Security Council resolutions are binding for all sides."
Guterres said down with Tatar, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and representatives of the three guarantors of security on the island: Greece, Turkey and the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom which still has military bases there.
"The truth is that at the end of our efforts, we have not yet found enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations," he told reporters at a news conference, continuing decades of failure.
The focal point of the non-talks was Tatar’s submission to Guterres of a two-state plan that was quickly set aside as Anastasiades – who said he wouldn't take part as long as Turkey was drilling for energy off the island but did – still backs the idea of a federation of Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot separate zones.
Tatar's document, released to media, called on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution recognizing the occupied territory with a foreign army that Turkey said will never be removed.
The document said a peace deal would then be worked out between “two independent states” under UN auspices but had already been rejected out of hand by the Cypriot government.
Tatar’s adviser, Ergun Olgun, said the Turkish Cypriot side heeded Guterres’ encouragement to the two sides to be “creative” and “offered ideas that went beyond the status quo and failed federal talks and then quickly failed.
Anastasiades told reporters that he was “greatly disappointed” at the Turkish- Cypriot proposal that had long been in the news and that he would offer a detailed rebuttal to Guterres in writing.
“I’ve told the Secretary-General that our effort is to create a positive climate without provocations and without references to all the unacceptable things that we have heard,” said Anastasiades.
That repeats the same line that's been heard for decades and has not led anywhere, the problem of Cyprus' reunification evading so many envoys over the years that the island has been called “the graveyard of diplomats,” still happening.
While the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government is a member of the European Union, the Turkish side barred any officials from the bloc taking part, with Turkey facing soft sanctions for energy drilling.
The United Kingdom, which left the EU, also blocked the idea of a bloc official taking part and sent Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to sit in on the sessions.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)