UN Says Current Talks to Reunify Cyprus End Without Agreement

  • UN’s Guterres says Cyprus problem can still be addressed
  • Major differences on security issue prevents Cyprus solution

Efforts of the past 10 days to reach a landmark deal to end over four decades of division on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus ended without agreement, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

Despite the strong commitment and engagement of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot delegations, Greece, Turkey, the U.K. and the European Union as an observer, “I am deeply sorry to inform you that the conference on Cyprus was closed without an agreement being reached,” Guterres told reporters early Friday in the Swiss resort of Crans Montana.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority against a coup to unite the island with Greece. It went on to take more territory and thousands of people were displaced. An agreement to stitch Cyprus back together would draw a line under one of the world’s biggest diplomatic challenges.

While the current round of talks in Switzerland failed, “it doesn’t mean other initiatives can’t be developed in order to address the Cyprus problem and the UN is always at the disposal of all parties willing to come an agreement,” Guterres said.

The latest effort was seen as the closest to a breakthrough since a UN-imposed settlement was rejected by the island’s voters in 2004. In the background are the lure of riches from selling natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean and the security threat from turmoil in the Middle East. It would also remove a key barrier to Turkey joined the European Union.

The result of the conference “is in no way a positive development, but it’s not the end of the road, ” Cyprus government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides said, according to an emailed transcript of his comments Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades will strengthen efforts to create the conditions that will allow for reunification to happen, he said.

Security and guarantees

Guterres declined to specify the reason for the collapse in talks in Switzerland referring only to an important distance between delegations on certain issues. Officials from Greece, Turkey and the U.K., the three so-called guarantor nations, took part in the discussions in Switzerland together with Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot delegations.

Security and guarantees in a new federal Cyprus has been one of the key disputes in the talks. Turkey, Greece and the U.K. were given the role of security guarantor powers under the agreement that ended British colonial rule in Cyprus in 1960 that also allowed the U.K. to maintain military bases there.

“It’s important to maintain and increase stability on the island and in the region,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a twitter post. “We will continue efforts for a settlement within different parameters,” he said.

Greece and the U.K. are willing to give up their protector status and Greek Cypriots say that such powers wouldn’t be needed in a unified Cyprus that’s a member of the EU. Turkey, which maintains tens of thousands of troops on the island, wants to keep its guarantor role to safeguard Turkish Cypriots, a minority of about one-fifth of the island’s population whose self-proclaimed state is only recognized by Ankara.

“It wasn’t possible to accept Turkish intervention rights on the whole island,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias also said in a twitter post. “The dream and plan for a solution to the Cyprus problem remains alive,” he said.

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