NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The Greek Cypriot president of ethnically divided Cyprus said Thursday he’ll attend a United Nations-hosted meeting in April with the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots with “full political will” to get dormant peace talks up and running again.
There was no immediate reaction from the Turkish Cypriot leader.
The U.N. announced late Wednesday that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was inviting the leaders to an informal meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on April 27-29 “to determine whether common ground exists for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem within a foreseeable horizon.”
The invitees also include the foreign ministers of the three “guarantors” of Cyprus’ independence — Greece, Turkey and Britain.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday expressed his “strong determination” to try and find common ground with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aiming to unify the eastern Mediterranean island with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the island nation’s northern third. The dispute has fueled tensions over newly-found hydrocarbon reserves off Cyprus and further complicated Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.
Numerous rounds of U.N.-mediated talks have ended in failure, with the last push for a peace deal in July 2017 ending in acrimony.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who announced the dates for the April meeting, was asked Thursday whether these would be “crunch talks.”
“We’re not in the business of doing ultimatums,” he replied saying the U.N. doesn’t give up “if something doesn’t happen.“
“We think this is an opportune time for an informal meeting and we very much hope there will be a positive outcome,” Dujarric said.
The last push in 2017 led to an apparent shift by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots toward seeking a two-state deal rather than pursuing the long-agreed aim of reunifying the country as a federation made up of Greek- and Turkish-speaking zones.
Earlier this month Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled out discussing a federal system to reunify Cyprus, insisting that a two-state accord is the only way forward. Tatar has strongly echoed Erdogan.
Greek Cypriots strongly reject any deal that would legitimize the island’s ethnic partition. Anastasiades instead is proposing a “decentralized federation” under which the Greek- and Turkish-speaking zones would be granted more authority to run their own affairs.
Secretary-General Guterres stressed in a report to the U.N. Security Council last month that “the primary responsibility for the future of the process remains with the parties.”
He said a meeting of the key players must help clarify “the true extent” of their common vision “and outline steps necessary to chart a way forward.”
The U.N. chief also warned that “time is working against a mutually acceptable political settlement in Cyprus.”
After decades of status quo, Guterres said, “changes are happening on the ground that may become irreversible, should the two communities not recommit themselves to resolving their differences peacefully, proactively and with determination.”