GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Three days of U.N.-mediated talks are under way to try and reunify the island of Cyprus, which has been divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974. That was when Turkey invaded Northern Cyprus in response to a Greek-backed military coup on the island.
The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, as well as foreign ministers of three guarantor States - Greece, Turkey and Britain, the former colonial ruler of Cyprus -- will be holding so-called informal talks over the coming days.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened this meeting to test the waters, so to speak. His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said the aim of the meeting is to determine whether there is enough common ground for the parties to negotiate a lasting solution to the Cyprus issue within a foreseeable horizon.
“The secretary-general will move forward based on the outcomes of the informal talks. The parties are welcome to be creative and the secretary-general will be encouraging them to move—to use diplomatic language—in a sincere and frank manner,” he said.
The spokesman said Guterres will hold separate bilateral meetings Tuesday afternoon with the leaders of the two communities. In the evening, he will host a reception for the heads of delegations.
On Wednesday morning, Guterres will host a plenary meeting with all five parties, to be followed by bilateral meetings in the afternoon.
There have been three attempts to reunify Cyprus since 2004. All have failed. The last attempt occurred in July 2017, six months after Guterres took office.
Guterres took a hands-on approach to resolving this intractable issue, energized at the prospect of achieving a diplomatic win so soon after becoming the U.N. chief.
Ten days of negotiations in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana also ended in failure.
Dujarric said the secretary-general is unwilling to pre-judge the outcome of the talks. He said this is an issue that Guterres knows well as he has participated in discussions before. Dujarric said the secretary-general is neither cautiously optimistic nor pessimistic, but realistic.