Cyprus talks end with parties failing to reach common ground

The parties in the Cyprus talks have failed to reach common ground, with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying that the meeting "was not easy." "We have not yet found enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations," he said. The Turkish side's insistence on a two-state solution for Cyprus has not found any support in the international arena.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (R) and Turkish Cyprus President Ersin Tatar (C) are seen leaving Geneva after Cyprus talks on April 29.

Duvar English - Reuters

The United Nations failed on April 29 to bridge disagreements over restarting peace talks on ethnically-split Cyprus, with the rival sides standing their ground in a conflict that spans half a century.

Diplomats had been trying to break a jogjam in talks between rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots, which collapsed in acrimony in 2017. Cyprus's split is a constant source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey, and has taken on sharper focus since the discovery of natural gas in the region.

"The truth is that at the end of our efforts, we have not yet found enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference in Geneva after a three-day summit.

"As you can imagine, this was not an easy meeting," he said.

Cyprus was split in two in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The seeds of division had been sown earlier, when a power-sharing administration of Greek and Turkish Cypriots crumbled amid violence, just three years after independence from Britain in 1960.

For decades, the United Nations has been attempting to piece Cyprus back together as a two-zone federation - the only thing the two sides had, until recently, been able to agree to in principle.

Two-state solution

Under a new leadership, Turkish Cypriots now say only a two-state solution can work.

"Nobody should expect us to be patched onto a unitary, single state. We are negotiating for a two-state solution," Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar said. Only Turkey recognizes the breakaway state Tatar leads in Northern Cyprus.

A two-state deal would imply recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), something Greek Cypriots who nominally run the whole island say is out of the question.

Greek Cypriots say a federation-based deal is enshrined in U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader who leads a government recognized internationally and within the European Union as representing the whole island, said Guterres had told the Turkish Cypriots he could not deviate from his U.N. mandate.

"He [Guterres] made it clear that he could not seek recourse, as was requested by the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish side, to the [United Nations] Security Council for a change to terms of reference," Anastasiades said, adding there was "not a single chance" of switching the basis of talks.

Anastasiades further said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had also told the Turkish side that the bloc can't accept a two-state deal for Cyprus.

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulidis contacted Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and American Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale regarding the U.N.-brokered talks. 

According to Greek Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Cousios, Lavrov and Hale reiterated their support for a solution to the Cyprus dispute based on the existing U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Christodoulidis also had a telephone conversation with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who similarly called on parties involved to resolve the Cyprus issue within the agreed framework of United Nations Security Council resolutions. 

The talks were attended by the foreign ministers of Britain, Turkey and Greece, who are guarantor powers for Cyprus and still maintain intervention rights to restore any constitutional breakdown.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the Greek Cypriot side had brought no new proposals to Geneva and had sounded "like a broken record." 

Guterres said the United Nations would make a fresh attempt in "probably two or three months." 

"Unfortunately today we are not able to reach the agreements that we would wish to reach, but we are not going to give up," he said.