Unity or Division? Cyprus Talks in Geneva Could Draw The Line

Αssociated Press

A boy plays with pigeons as a man wearing face mask walks at Elephtheria, Liberty, square in central Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

United Nations-sponsored informal talks in Geneva April 27-29 will try to determine whether there is common ground or political to try to decide whether Cyprus will be reunited or stay divided, almost 47 years after an unlawful Turkish invasion.

The UN and Greek-Cypriot side that’s a member of the European Union want to stick to the same agenda that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkey insisted on keeping a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied northern third and wanted the right of further military intervention.

That going nowhere for decades, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his hardline supporter, Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said they want only a two-state solution that would bring international recognition for the isolated occupied side.

But UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was at the Swiss debacle and later issued a report blaming nobody for anything, is going to take another shot at seeing if the barriers can be broken despite signs they won’t.

Still, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who said he would never sit at the bargaining table again as long as Turkey keeps up drilling for oil and gas off the coast, said he would as another attempt at diplomacy that’s failed constantly.

The meeting will take place a month after a March 25-26 European Union meeting that would take up Greece’s demand for sanctions for Turkey planning to drill off Greek islands too, although both sides are in exploratory talks over the seas.

The Cyprus talks would also involve the three guarantors of security on the island: Greece, Turkey and the former Colonial ruler The United Kingdom, which still has military bases there.

“This solution should be based on UN Security Council resolutions, be compatible with European law and lead to a functioning and sustainable bi-communal, bi-zonal Federation,” said the Greek Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu rejected that and said the only basis for talks is permanent partition, which would bring a huge victory to Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots who also want to be in the EU.

Cavusoglu said a federation-based solution hasn’t worked and is fruitless to keep attempting although he said Turkey tried but that “efforts failed” because of Greek-Cypriots, “who do not want to share anything with the Turkish side.”

He added that, “Since we cannot agree on the federation, we must meet to discuss what issue we will hold talks on and find a formula for a permanent solution,” said Kathimerini of Turkey’s stance.

Anastasiades expressed his “strong determination” to try and find common ground with Tatar who, with Erdogan’s backing, ousted moderate Mustafa Akinci in October, 2020 elections and immediately aligned himself with the Turkish President.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, asked whether this could be a last stand on solving the Cyprus dilemma said, “We’re not in the business of doing ultimatums,” and that the UN won’t give up “if something doesn’t happen.“

“We think this is an opportune time for an informal meeting and we very much hope there will be a positive outcome,” Dujarric said.

Greek-Cypriots strongly reject any deal that would legitimize the island’s ethnic partition. Anastasiades wants a “decentralized federation” under which Greek- and Turkish-speaking zones would be granted more authority to run their own affairs.

Guterres stressed in a report to the UN Security Council in January that “the primary responsibility for the future of the process remains with the parties.”

He said a meeting of the key players must help clarify “the true extent” of their common vision “and outline steps necessary to chart a way forward.”

The U.N. chief also warned that “time is working against a mutually acceptable political settlement in Cyprus.”

Guterres said, “changes are happening on the ground that may become irreversible, should the two communities not recommit themselves to resolving their differences peacefully, proactively and with determination.”

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