NICOSIA — Almost four years after the last round of talks aimed at bringing together the divided island of Cyprus collapsed in disagreement, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – who was there – will try again in Geneva.
There are signs any talks have already been undercut by demands from Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots they won’t discuss anything other than two states and recognition of the northern third occupied since a 1974 invasion.
Guterres took part in a debacle in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when talks fell apart after Turkey said a 35,000-strong army on the occupied side would never be removed and wanted the right of military intervention.
The so-called 5 + 1 April 27-29 meeting involves the two sides of the island along with the UN and the guarantors of security there, Greece, Turkey and the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which has military bases there.
"While we know that the talks are expected to start next week, we don't yet have all the information about the COVID-related assessment for these talks," said Alessandra Vellucci, spokeswoman for the UN Information Service.
Expectations are low with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissing the meeting as an informal affair. “There will be no new negotiations to be held there," he said, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu News Agency.
"We believe that we will no longer waste time on the federal solution and that new ideas and new vision should be discussed," he said, referring to the demand for two states that would bring recognition to a self-declared republic no other country in the world apart from Turkey recognizes.
And while Cyprus is a member of the European Union that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005, Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots didn’t want any bloc officials taking part after the EU imposed soft sanctions for Turkey’s drilling for oil and gas off the island and hasn't relented.
The Geneva talks will seek a common ground for negotiations, Cavusoglu said, adding: "We definitely and certainly will not continue where we left off at Crans-Montana (talks.). This is out of the question."
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, who walked away from the Crans-Montana meeting over Turkey’s demands, had said he wouldn’t negotiate again as long as Turkey kept a presence in Cypriot waters but did.
Cavusoglu has complained the EU is backing a fellow EU member and not Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes and is an authoritarian state ruled by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He said that the EU should be objective but accept only what Turkey wants. He also tweeted: "A federal solution has been negotiated for 53 years without any result. The Turkish Cypriot side promotes the two-state solution and cooperation based on sovereign equality.”