NEWS

UN chief heads to Cyprus Conference as expectations of deal take a nosedive

With talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana aimed at reunifying the divided island of Cyprus at an apparent impasse, reports on Wednesday said that pressure is growing for leaders of the island’s three guarantor powers – Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom – to attend in a bid to break the deadlock.

The return on Thursday to Switzerland of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is part of the bid to push rival sides closer to an agreement after expectations of a deal took a nosedive on Tuesday, with Turkey insisting that it won’t sign any agreement involving the withdrawal of all its troops from the island.

As speculation spread yesterday that Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras, Binali Yildirim and Theresa May would be heading to the Swiss resort on July 10, Athens remained adamant that their presence at the talks would depend on the progress made.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades acknowledged that the talks are a standstill, but insisted that the Greek side will persevere with new proposals in order to break the deadlock.

He also appealed to the people of Cyprus to ignore speculation that the Greek side was about to compromise the parameters for a solution outlined by the island nation’s council of party leaders in order to reach a settlement.

“What I expect is that the other side [Turkey and Turkish Cypriots] will show the same good will so that we can proceed and overcome the impasse,” Anastasiades said, adding that the Turkish proposals have deviated from parameters that Guterres put to negotiation last week to nudge them forward. He also warned against the climate of optimism that was being cultivated by some quarters. Sources yesterday said that despite claims to the contrary, not much progress has been made in the talks.

Meanwhile, May repeated her call for “flexibility by all sides” in a telephone conversation she had on Wednesday morning with Tsipras. According to the Cyprus News Agency, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The prime minister praised the constructive role that both parties have played to reach this point, and reiterated that there is a major opportunity to be seized. She added that any agreement requires all sides to show leadership and flexibility and that the UK will do it all it can to support a settlement.”

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