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Cyprus Talks Moving Toward Endgame

  • Lisa Schlein

European foreign ministers attend the Cyprus reunification talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 12, 2017.

United Nations officials say negotiations aimed at wrapping up a reunification deal for the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus will resume next week.

The adviser to the U.N. secretary general on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, described Thursday’s international conference on the island as a turning point for negotiations. For the first time over decades of off-again, on-again negotiations, he noted the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides presented maps of their preferred internal administrative borders of a newly-formed federated union of Cyprus.

“It was seen by both sides as a sign that this thing is moving towards the endgame…. And I think there is a momentum now and I think that larger political developments remind us that it is probably, or quite securely, very important that we use these coming days as effectively as we can and in as constructive a spirit as possible,” Eide said.

A working group of senior technical experts will meet January 18 in Geneva to hold discussions on critical security issues. At the same time, leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities will continue negotiations in Cyprus to overcome remaining stumbling blocks on matters including property rights, territorial disputes and governance.

A couple walks past a U.N. guard post at the fence that divides the Greek and Turkish Cypriot areas, as they stroll at the Turkish Cypriot northern part of the divided capital Nicosia in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Jan. 11, 2017.
A couple walks past a U.N. guard post at the fence that divides the Greek and Turkish Cypriot areas, as they stroll at the Turkish Cypriot northern part of the divided capital Nicosia in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Jan. 11, 2017.

Hopes 'a united federal Cyprus can emerge'

The possibility of a reunification pact could hinge on a resolution of security guarantees for a unified Cyprus. Turkey currently has 30,000 troops stationed in the northern Turkish part of Cyprus. In recent statements, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected a full withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus unless Greece also agrees to withdraw its troops.

Eide said he understands the security concerns, but expressed hope that this long-standing dispute finally can be laid to rest.

“And a united federal Cyprus can emerge and also be embraced in a security arrangement that is mutually acceptable for all sides, hence the involvement of the guarantor powers,” Eide said.

Foreign ministers of Turkey, Greece and Britain, the three so-called guarantor powers, attended the international conference. Eide said it is likely that heads of those governments will attend a future international conference if negotiations are successful in removing remaining obstacles to a reunification deal.

Cyprus has been split between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkish forces invaded the island after a military coup aimed at reunifying Cyprus with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the separate Turkish Cypriot government.

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