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Politics

Four Years After Cyprus Unity Talks Fell Apart, Another Try

April 25, 2021

With signs of going nowhere, delicate talks aimed at trying to find common ground to reunify Cyprus divided since an unlawful 1974 Turkish invasion will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, the Turkish side already rejecting any plan except a demand for two states.

That would bring recognition to the isolated northern third occupied for almost 47 years, accepted by no other country in the world other than Turkey, which refuses to recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes.

The so-called 5 + 1 talks were organized by the United Nations to include Cyprus, the Turkish-Cypriots and also the three guarantors of security on the island: Greece, Turkey and the former Colonial ruler the United Kingdom, which still has military bases there.

But the European Union to which Cyprus belong has been excluded on the insistence of Turkey, which has been fruitlessly been trying to join the bloc since 2005 – with the backing of Greece.

“We go to Geneva… steadfastly committed to resuming negotiations for reunifying Cyprus in a bi-zonal bi-communal federation,” in line with UN resolutions, international and EU law, said Cyprus' Foreign Minister  Christodoulides, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP.)

But the Turkish-Cypriot self-declared foreign chief Tahsin Ertugruloglu indicated it's already a futile gesture because, “There is no common ground… the issue is ‘one island, two states’,”  wanting permanent partition.

On April 24, Cypriots on both sides of the island marched through the streets of the capital Nicosia calling for an end to division that Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot self-called government still want.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will oversee the talks four years after he also was at the last round that collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana over a refusal by the Turkish side to remove a 35,000-strong standing army and its demands for the right of further military intervention.

Guterres still wants to take another shot to “show that he has exhausted all options,” Kemal Baykalli, a Turkish-Cypriot analyst and UniteCyprusNow activist told the French news site.

Guterres “needs to hear officially that the two sides will not find an agreement within the framework currently proposed,” of a decentralized federation, he said.

The problems have only grown since the 2017 Swiss debacle, including Turkey continuing to drill for oil and gas in Cypriot waters which Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades saying he wouldn't talk as long as that was going on, changing his mind for the Geneva meeting.

He had been negotiating with a moderate Turkish-Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, who was beaten in October, 2020 elections by a nationalist hardliner, Ersin Tatar, who said he would follow Turkish President Recep Tayyip's two-state line.

“Turkey has changed the paradigm,” by drilling in Cypriot waters in defiance of soft EU santions, Giannis Ioannou, a journalist and founder of the think-tank Geopolitical Cyprus told AFP.

And Tatar, on orders of Turkey, also reopened a beach at the ghost town resort of Varosha on the occupied side that's been left the way it was in 1974, crumbling away, amid plans to try to resurrect it in defiance of a UN resolution.

The “Cyprus problem is now part of a broader geopolitical context” of “future relations between the EU and Turkey,” and on gas in the eastern Mediterranean, said Ioannou.

Cyprus remains “a small ship in the game of the Big Powers,” at the expense of Cypriots on both sides of the divide, said Baykalli. “Turkey could use the discussions to win certain issues… in exchange for compromises in Cyprus,” he said.

The goal in Geneva is “to open a breach… It will be an intermediate step, the parties could agree to continue discussions,” said Ioannou, the same plan that has failed for decades and shows signs it will again.

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