Ethnically-split Cyprus may be nearing a breakthrough in resolving its four-decade old partition, Britain's foreign minister said on Thursday, as momentum builds for a possible progress in peace talks this year.
The island was divided in a Turkish invasion in 1974, triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Greek Cypriots live in its south and Turkish Cypriots in its north, separated by a ceasefire line monitored by United Nations peacekeepers.
Its on-off peace process was given new impetus by the election of moderate Mustafa Akinci as the leader of the Turkish breakaway state last April. Both sides have reported progress in talks, though caution that plenty of issues remain unresolved.
”I've made several visits to Cyprus over the last few months, meeting members of both communities, and I am optimistic that we may be on the brink of a breakthrough in resolving this dispute,” Philip Hammond told reporters in Athens.
On Monday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara would fulfill its responsibilities to ensure the resolution this year of the dispute over Cyprus.
Nicos Anastasiades, who has been president of the internationally-recognized government of Cyprus since 2013, has supported initiatives in the past – most notably backing a U.N. reunification blueprint in 2004 which however failed to muster backing from Greek Cypriots in a referendum.
Hammond said Britain, Cyprus's former colonial master and a guarantor of the island's independence alongside Greece and Turkey, said had no interest in maintaining the current tripartite model.
”If the two communities in Cyprus agree a model that … requires Britain to play no role, we will be quite happy to play no role. If the model they develop requires Britain to play a role, then we are happy to consider playing any role the two communities ask us,” he said.
”What we want is to see a sustainable solution in Cyprus and we will everything in our power to bring that about.”