The president of the ethnically divided island nation of Cyprus met with Greece’s prime minister on Wednesday before informal talks to be held in Switzerland next week.
The Geneva talks will be attended by representatives of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, the three guarantor powers – Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom – and the United Nations. They come after a hiatus of more than three years in negotiations aiming to resolve the island’s decades-long division.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades described the Geneva meeting as an “important … new effort” that would allow UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to gauge whether there is enough common ground to restart formal peace talks.
“Our effort is not to usurp anyone’s rights. Our effort is to find a way for … both communities to feel safe, and for the human rights of both communities of the entire Cypriot people to be guaranteed,” Anastasiades said at the start of his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Cyprus has been split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since a 1974 Turkish invasion sparked by a coup to unite the island with Greece. The breakaway state in the north is recognized only by Turkey, which doesn’t recognize the government in the south. Numerous rounds of UN mediated peace talks since have failed to reunite the island.
The last push for a peace deal came in mid-2017 but ended acrimoniously. It also led to an apparent shift in the stated aim of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots from reunifying the country as a federation of Greek and Turkish speaking zones to a two-state deal.
Greece and the internationally recognized Cypriot government in the south are adamant they wouldn’t accept a two-state solution formalizing the country’s partition.
The talks come at a time of frosty relations between Greece and Turkey over maritime boundaries and energy exploration rights in the Mediterranean. [AP]