NICOSIA — With worry they’re scuttled before they start, the European Union wants in on talks to resolve the decades-old dilemma of reunifying Cyprus under the aegis of the United Nations.
That could be a non-starter for the Turkish-Cypriot side that has occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion, with the Turks demanding recognition instead and pulling back from reunification.
The talks are due to be held in Geneva, Switzerland on April 27-29 with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres taking another shot at making progress after the last round fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
Those broke down when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and then-Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army on the occupied side and demanding the right of further military intervention.
Akinci, a moderate, was defeated in October, 2020 elections by hardline nationalist Ersin Tatar, devoted to Erdogan, and who said he would follow the Turkish President’s line to the letter, including wanting two states.
Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus, a member of the European Union that Turkey has fruitlessly been trying to join since 2005, prospects slipping away under Erdogan, who sent ships to drill for oil and gas in Cypriot waters.
The UN talks will include the three guarantors of security on the divided island, Greece, Turkey and The United Kingdom, the former Colonial ruler which still has military bases there.
Turkey’s pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper said that senior EU diplomat said it didn’t name, but who had taken part in the Swiss debacle as an observer, said the talks would pick up where they left off despite Turkey’s demands.
"The Cyprus issue is one of the most difficult diplomatic problems, but no matter how the solution is, since it will be on an island within the EU, as a natural and logical consequence of this, we will be there, as required by the EU acquis," the diplomat said.
For the EU to participate, Guterres – who participated at the Swiss talks – must make an official invitation. The EU has issued soft sanctions for Turkey’s drilling off Cyprus but been reluctant to further provoke Erdogan.
Earlier, the EU expressed that the bloc is ready to provide “whatever assistance” it can to both Turkish and Greek-Cypriot leaders as well as the UN, calling it an “EU problem.”
“The sooner the EU becomes fully involved in the renewed settlement talks, the better,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote on his blog after he went to Cyprus to meet Tatar and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
The Greek-Cypriot administration instead proposed a “decentralized federation” under which the Greek and Turkish speaking zones would be granted more authority to run their own affairs, the paper also said.