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Politics

Key UN Official Sees Last Chance for Cyprus Reunification Fading Away

NICOSIA – With the 50th anniversary approaching of Turkish invasions that seized the northern third of the island, the United Nations Special Representative in Cyprus, Colin Stewart, said time is running out for reunification hopes.

He spoke as the 60th anniversary marked the arrival of a UN peacekeeping force that patrols a dividing line between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots occupying the isolated territory no other country in the world apart from Turkey recognizes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and hardline Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar have rejected reunification and demanded instead that the UN accept the occupied side, where Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong standing army.

“We have to seize whatever opportunities we have, however small. We don’t know if there is going to be another opportunity,” he told local civil society groups, reported the British newspaper The Guardian.

“I know how hard you have all worked and how tired you are, but it’s now or never,” he added. “This is the time to put all of your efforts into moving things into a solution,” echoing similar sentiments of a long line of diplomats who have failed to find one.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/07/its-now-or-never-for-cyprus-reunification-says-top-un-official

The Greek-Cypriot side of the island is a member of the European Union that Turkey has been trying to join since 2005, prospects worsening under the authoritarian rule of Erdogan who purged civil society, the military and education system after a failed 2016 coup attempt against him.

The last round of reunification talks collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when then-Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades balked at Turkey’s refusal to remove its troops and demands for further military intervention.

Tatar, elected in 2020, said there’s no hope for bringing the island back together and said he wants a permanent partition and two-state solution instead of a bizonal federation that’s been on the UN agenda and previously discussed.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres – who was at the Swiss talks – has appointed yet another envoy, Colombian diplomat María Ángela Holguín Cuellar to try to reboot the talks although none of her predecessors were able to make any progress.

“It doesn’t mean the problem is going to be solved but it means that this is a moment we can make something out of, if we want to,” said Stewart, offering nothing new in the way of ideas to try to convince Tatar to sit down with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides.

Cuellar has met with both sides for introductions without delving into any issues and she told reporters she’s hopeful that her experience helping bring a peace accord in her native country that had long years of civil war could help her find an answer for Cyprus.

“I was part of that team that finally reached a peace agreement” in Colombia, Holguín said, after holding talks with Christodoulides. “And I think I can collaborate and do all my best for … a good result for Cyprus.”

Another obstacle is that Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus and bars its ships and planes and Tatar said he has no intention of talking about anything other than his demands while he’s moved to further open the abandoned resort of Varosha, against UN resolutions.

“There is no way that we can be proud of the fact that we have been here for 60 years,” said Stewart of the peacekeepers. “The purpose of a peacekeeping mission is to help solve the problem and then get out. We certainly haven’t finished it.”

Stewart insisted there was a way forward if both sides had the political courage to help break the stalemate despite decades of failures by diplomats, envoys, representatives and talks going nowhere fast.

and win-win attitude to help break the logjam. In a ray of light, there were, he noted, Greek Cypriots who “are pushing” for talks to resume while a moment of rapprochement between historic Nato rivals Greece and Turkey, he said, could not be ignored.

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