New talks over the future of the divided island of Cyprus will be held in Geneva for three days, starting on Wednesday, but expectations of a breakthrough are low.
The talks, under the aegis of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, include representatives of the island’s two communities, the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot administration in the south and officials of the breakaway state in the occupied north (recognized only by Turkey), as well as the guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias departs on Tuesday for Geneva with few illusions of a breakthrough but hoping that discussions will not be mired in the usual differences that have persisted since the republic was founded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey, responding to a Greek-sponsored coup, invaded the island, occupying nearly 40 percent of it. Turkish occupation troops remain to this day.
The Turkish Cypriots will be represented by their new leader Ersin Tatar, Turkey by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the UK by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the Greek Cypriots by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.
There was no indication, at least until late Monday, of a planned bilateral meeting between Dendias and Cavusoglu, after their stormy joint press conference in Ankara on April 15. Dendias will have one-on-one talks with Anastasiades and Guterres’ special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen on Tuesday, Guterres himself on Wednesday and Raab on Thursday.
The informal talks will take place Wednesday and Thursday and, if there is a positive climate, there could be an extra meeting Friday.
Four years after the last Cyprus talks at the resort of Crans-Montana, also in Switzerland, collapsed, the gap between the Turks and Turkish Cypriots, on the one hand and the Greeks and the Cypriot administration, on the other, appears set in stone. The new Turkish-Cypriot leader, supported by Turkey’s Cavusoglu, openly talked about “one island, two states” while Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides has said that “(w)e go to Geneva… steadfastly committed to resuming negotiations for reunifying Cyprus in a bizonal, bicommunal federation,” in line with UN resolutions, international and European Union law.
The Greek Cypriots had requested EU’s presence, but Turkey and the UK objected.