After nine days of intensive talks aimed at finally reunifying Cyprus, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared on Friday that UN-buffered peace talks had once again failed, marking the dramatic culmination of a process that lasted more than two years.
“Unfortunately… an agreement was not possible and the conference was closed without the possibility to bring a solution to this dramatically long-lasting problem,” Guterres told reporters at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana.
“I want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the leaders of the two communities and to wish the best to all Cypriots north and south,” he added, referring to Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the Turkish-occupied north, Mustafa Akinci.
Guterres sought to offer a glimmer of hope, however, that a new UN-backed effort might get the island’s leaders leaders back around the negotiations table. “The conference is closed,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that other initiatives cannot be developed to address the Cyprus problem.”
The UN leader avoided going into details about the reasons for the collapse of the latest peace drive.
It was clear, however, that an almost total lack of progress on the thorny issues of foreign guarantees and security on the island were the key problems despite the apparent willingness of the Greek-Cypriot side to readdress points of negotiation that had been considered closed.
Diplomatic sources indicated that Turkey’s insistence on maintaining troops on Cyprus and maintaining a security guarantee for 15 years was what essentially caused talks to collapse as such a deal would simply not fly with Greek Cypriots.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was quick to blame the Greek-Cypriot side for the failure of the talks, saying they “unfortunately did not show an expected constructive attitude.”
However, he indicated that Ankara would itself adopt a constructive stance if the UN or another organization makes another attempt to achieve peace.
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the outcome “shows the impossibility of reaching a settlement within the parameters of the Good Offices Mission,” using a term referring to the UN. “No use in insisting on them,” he added.
In Athens, government officials avoided taking a strong public stance on the outcome ahead of a scheduled appearance in Parliament on Tuesday of Prime Minister Alexis
Tsipras, who is to provide details of the doomed peace drive. However, Greek and Greek-Cypriot parties were unanimous in blaming Turkey’s negative stance for the failed negotiations.
Initial hopes that Ankara might concede in negotiations had led Guterres to communicate on Thursday morning with Tsipras, Yildirim and Theresa May, prime minister of Britain, which is one of Cyprus’s foreign guarantor powers.