The United Nations will host a meeting from 27 to 29 April on the conflict that has split the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus for almost five decades.
“The purpose of the meeting will be to determine whether common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The format of the talks will be an “informal 5 +1 meeting”, including Cyprus’ two rival communities, the three guarantor countries, namely Greece, Turkey and Britain — the island’s former colonial ruler — plus the UN.
The meeting, which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, will be the first attempt to resume talks since the last push for a peace deal collapsed in 2017.
The Cyprus conflict is known as the “graveyard of diplomats”. Numerous rounds of UN-mediated talks have ended in failure since 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at unifying the island with Greece.
A Turkish Cypriot breakaway “state” declared in the north is recognised only by Turkey, while the Republic of Cyprus has an internationally recognised government led by Greek Cypriots. Cyprus is also an EU member since 2004.
What are the chances for this latest UN push for peace to succeed?
Euronews takes a look at one of Europe’s longest, most intractable conflicts and the prospects to solve it.
Why a peace deal is unlikely
The experts interviewed by Euronews were not optimistic that the UN meeting would lead to a major breakthrough in the peace talks.
“The situation does not allow for much optimism as to where a common denominator can be found in negotiations forward,” said Anna Koukkides-Procopiou, a Senior Fellow at the Center for European and International Affairs at the University of Nicosia.
Two-state vs federal solution
The major issue, she told Euronews, is a shift in the stated position of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership from reunifying the country as a federation to a two-state deal.
The majority of Greek Cypriots insist that they would never accept a two-state solution that would formalise the island’s partition.
They argue it would fall outside the federal framework the two sides agreed on 44 years ago and enshrined in multiple UN Security Council resolutions since then.
On the other hand, Ugur Ozgoker, Vice-President of the World Diplomats Union and President of the Turkish-Northern Cyprus Chamber of Commerce, told Euronews that his fellow Turkish Cypriots would become a “minority” in the federal state envisioned by Greek Cypriots.
Greek Cypriots “say that they prefer a federal Cyprus Republic, but they don’t want it. They only declare it,” Ozgoker said, noting that they rejected a constitution with a federal arrangement in a 2004 referendum, while Turkish Cypriots endorsed it at the time.
“A peaceful solution for both Turkish and Greek Cypriots would be two independent and sovereign states within a confederation. I underline that within a Confederation, two sovereign and independent states can cooperate together, can keep a full EU membership and also become a NATO member,” Ozgoker told Euronews.
Disagreements over guarantor system
Koukkides-Procopiou furthermore noted “the objection of the Greek Cypriots to allow a very anachronistic system of guarantors and the presence of security forces in Cyprus”.
“Turkey is still a guarantor in the Republic of Cyprus and so are Britain and Greece. This is based on the 1960 treaties, the postcolonial treaties, which established the Republic of Cyprus,” the expert explained.
“Greece and Britain do not want to be guarantors anymore. It’s a non-question for them that the system can and should be scrapped.”
“But Turkey doesn’t want to forfeit the right to be a guarantor in a new state which will emerge in Cyprus. That’s a major sticking point because no Greek Cypriot will ever feel safe if Turkey has any kind of legitimisation for intervening militarily in Cyprus,” she noted, especially with Ankara’s human rights record going “downhill”.