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Clearer Picture of Cyprus Peace Talks Expected on Wednesday

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(Photo by Eurokinissi)

GENEVA — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held brief meetings late Tuesday with leaders of war-divided Cyprus in the Swiss city of Geneva in an effort to revive talks toward a settlement. 

Guterres met with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Ersin Tatar, leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot republic in the north of the island, ahead of more detailed discussions planned for Wednesday. 

The general picture of the informal five-party (5+1) meeting on the Cyprus issue convened in Geneva by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will be clearer following the conclusion of a dinner on Wednesday, Cyprus Republic sources told Athens-News Macedonian Agency.

As the process bringing together the 5+1 is ongoing since Tuesday, it is too early for set conclusions, the sources said.

Scheduled on Wednesday (April 28) were presentations by Guterres, the leaders of the two communities on the island, and the foreign ministers of the three guarantor powers. Guterres was expected to hold several bilateral meetings with Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias (Greece), Mevlut Cavusoglu (Turkey) and Dominic Raab (Britain).

The informal talks will conclude on Friday (April 30).

The Mediterranean island was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when a coup aimed at union with Greece triggered a Turkish invasion.

The three-day meetings in Geneva are aimed at gauging willingness to resume formal peace negotiations that have been stalled since 2017. 

The foreign ministers of Turkey, Greece and the former colonial ruler Britain, which retains military bases on the island, will also be present at the talks. 

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias addressed the meeting, saying that Greece is attending with a constructive attitude and in good faith, according to diplomatic sources. Greece is present as a guarantor force, in full coordination with the Cypriot side.

He also pointed out that the Mitsotakis government wants the resumption of negotiations for the settlement of the Cyprus problem, the framework of which must be fully compatible with the UN Charter and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council - meaning a bicommunal, bizonal federation - as well as the European acquis.

Especially with regard to the last point, he made special reference to the fact that any solution should ensure the continuation of the substantial participation of Cyprus in decision-making within the EU, without external interference. He stressed that there is no room for consideration of any alternative outside the above framework, according to the same sources.

Referring to the status of guarantees, he stressed that there should be provision for the abolition of this anachronistic system and the possibility of intervention by third countries, as well as the complete withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces from the island.

On Tuesday, the foreign minister had successive meetings with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulidis and with the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades. The talks focused on the coordination of Greece and Cyprus ahead of the informal five-party meeting.

Afterwards, Dendias attended a reception given by the UN Secretary General. He had the opportunity to talk with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Çavusoglu, as well as with his British counterpart Dominic Raab.

The foreign minister is later scheduled to meet with the UN Secretary General (at around 14:45 Greek time), as well as his British counterpart.

European Union governments hoping to improve relations with Turkey after months of tension are likely to watch the process for signs that Ankara is willing to engage in the talks. 

Turkey is also at odds with NATO ally and neighbor Greece over boundaries and mineral rights in the eastern Mediterranean. The Geneva meetings could provide an opportunity to continue fence-mending consultations between the two countries despite generally low expectations over the Cyprus talks. 

Turkey is backing a two-state model for the island — a notion that Greek Cypriots say they would never accept as it would legitimize the country's partition.

The "secretary-general is realistic. This is an issue that he knows well," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said of Guterres. "He has participated in discussions before. So he is realistic."

After arriving in Geneva late Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: "The U.K. will work for the resumption of negotiations aiming at a fair and lasting settlement to the Cyprus issue." 

The US State Department welcomes the start of the informal 5+1 meeting on the Cyprus issue, being held in Geneva, under the aegis of the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The US continues to support a Cypriot-led settlement to reunite the island on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation that will benefit all Cypriots, as well as the broader region, it was added.