With lunch invite, UN chief tries to restart Cyprus talks

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Mark Garten / United Nations Photo

In this photo provided by the United Nations, Secretary General Antonio Guterres, center, meets Greek Cypriot Leader Nicos Anastasiades, left, and Turkish Cypriot Leader Ersin Tatar, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (Mark Garten/U.N. via AP)

CAMEROON – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hosted a lunch Monday for the leaders of divided Cyprus, hoping to bring them back to negotiations to reunite the Mediterranean island nation — talks that have been stalled since 2017.

The United Nations didn’t comment immediately on the discussion. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called the meeting “creative,” saying the divergence in the positions of the two sides had been noted by the U.N. chief.

Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 following a Turkish invasion that was triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece.

Numerous rounds of U.N. mediated talks have ended in failure, with the last push for a peace deal in July 2017 ending in acrimony. That meeting also led to a shift by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots toward seeking a two-state deal. That would be instead of pursuing their earlier-stated aim of reunifying the country as a federation made up of Greek and Turkish speaking zones, which has been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

Anastasiades, leader of the Greek Cypriot community, said Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar elaborated on his position on Turkish Cypriot sovereign equality and the two-state approach during the lunch.

“We discussed different ways through which we can overcome the stalemate, but also to create conditions for a resumption of a productive dialogue,” Anastasiades said. He wouldn't go into details of the discussion but said Guterres is considering the appointment of a special envoy who would explore confidence-building measures and “search for common ground for the possible resumption of talks in the future.”

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said in an interview later Monday with The Associated Press that the lunch meeting was “quite constructive" and also “positive because it shows the interest of the secretary-general to the Cyprus problem.”

He said the Greek Cypriots expect the new special envoy that the secretary-general appoints to visit Cyprus and the three guarantors of the island nation's independence — Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom — “to see if it is possible to resume negotiations.”

He said Greek Cypriots are ready to resume negotiations “even tomorrow” based on Security Council resolutions, and hope that by the end of the year there will be an indication from the new envoy of whether new talks are possible.

“Without negotiations, we understand, the situation is getting more and more difficult,” Christodoulides said. "The only way to solve the Cyprus problem is through negotiations.”

He said Greek Cypriots “cannot even discuss” the two-state deal Turkish Cypriots and Turkey want because it’s outside the framework of the Security Council resolutions and the Gutterres' mandate. The international community has also had a “negative” reaction to the proposal, he said.

“The only viable solution for Cyprus,” Christodoulides said, is as a federation.


Associated Press journalist Menelaos Hadjicostis contributed to this report from Nicosia, Cyprus.