ATHENS – Insistence by Turkish-Cypriot hardline leader ErsinTatar for two separate states on the divided island have made Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias doubt there will be any resolution to a decades-long dilemma.
There’s been a litany of diplomatic failures in trying to reunify Cyprus, split by a 1974 Turkish invasion, with the northern third of the island still occupied and holding 35,000 Turkish troops.
Dendias – Greece is, with Turkey and the former Colonial ruler The United Kingdom a guarantor of security for the island – told Greece’s financial newspaper Naftemporiki he doesn’t see any answers now.
“Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about the prospect of resolving the Cyprus issue,” he was quoted as saying, responding to a question about Turkey’s insistence for a two-state solution.
Tatar wants the United Nations and world to accept the occupied territory, which is a self-declared Republic, but that demand has for now ended any hopes of negotiations for reunification.
“Last April, I spent three difficult days in a basement in Geneva, at the informal meeting convened by the UN Secretary General with the participation of the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish-Cypriots and the three guarantor powers,” said Dendias.
“What I heard from the Turkish and Turkish-Cypriot sides unfortunately made me completely pessimistic. The Turkish and consequently the Turkish-Cypriot side insisted on a rhetoric that has nothing to do with reality,” he said, and he reiterated Greece’s position for a bizonal, bicommunal federation rejected by Tatar.
Dendias referred to an unofficial five-part meeting called by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in late April to see whether there was enough consensus to resume peace talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
The meeting ended in another failure as did talks in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish-Cypriots and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish army would never be removed and as they demanded the right to invade again when they wanted.
That has also damaged Greece’s relations with Turkey, already strained by Erdogan’s plans to send energy research vessels, backed by warships, to hunt for energy around Greek islands.
Dendias said that Greece does not want an escalation in tensions, but it “will not accept an attempt to usurp (Greek) sovereignty” in the Aegean although Germany and Spain – arms suppliers to Turkey – have blocked Greece’s call for European Union sanctions.
Dendias said that the only difference with Turkey is the delimitation of the continental shelf and of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Cyprus and Greek islands based on the International Law and particularly on the Law of the Sea Turkey doesn’t recognize.
“But we do not have any delusions. Unfortunately, Turkey continues not to accept the basic rules of the international behavior and in parallel it cultivates an aggressive rhetoric which is far beyond what would be considered diplomatically acceptable. We are always vigilant and are building alliances with friends and partners and enhancing our deterrence force,” he said.
Cyprus has become known as the “graveyard of diplomats,” and envoys, a long line of them – including Guterres, who was at the Swiss debacle – failing to make any progress after almost half a century of abject failure.