UK to reaffirm ‘fair, lasting solution’ for Cyprus issue

The United Kingdom will reaffirm its support for a comprehensive, just and lasting resolution of the Cyprus problem during the two-day United Nations+5 talks that are scheduled to take place in Geneva Tuesday, according to a British Foreign Ministry statement.

The statement said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “will underline the potential of a reunited Cyprus, which includes greater opportunities on trade, investment and tourism, as well as bolstering security and stability in the region.”

On the eve of the meetings, Raab said, “Tomorrow’s talks offer an opportunity to restart negotiations aimed at delivering a fair and lasting solution to the Cyprus issue, and we hope that all parties approach them with creativity and flexibility.”

The foreign ministry’s statement contradicts recent rumors that the country would recognize Turkish Cyprus. Whitehall sources had told Sunday Express this week that U.K. ministers are considering officially recognizing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) as an independent country.

Furthermore, sources told Daily Sabah that “the U.K.’s position on the nonrecognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is long-standing and is not under review.”

Four years after their last peace talks failed, U.N. chief Antonio Guterres will host an informal gathering of the rival Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders in Geneva as well as the foreign ministers of Cyprus guarantors – Greece, Turkey and former colonial ruler, Britain. The goal is to get the two sides back on the same page and embark on a fresh round of formal talks.

The European Union also sent three senior diplomats to the U.N.-led talks on Cyprus, an official said Monday. “We have a sent a team of experienced, senior diplomats to Geneva to be on the spot and to help the U.N. in their current efforts,” Peter Stano, the European Commission’s lead spokesperson for foreign affairs, told a press briefing.

The U.N. is trying to mediate a deal, almost six decades since it first deployed peacekeepers following intercommunal clashes in December 1963.

The U.N. mission’s mandate was expanded after the 1974 conflict, and to this day, a buffer zone divides the island, carving through Lefkoşa (Nicosia) – the world’s last divided capital.

U.N. faces tough task

Normally, trying to get the two sides on ethnically divided Cyprus to sit down for yet another round of talks is preceded by plenty of well-wishing and messages of hope that perhaps this time a peace deal will be worked out.

This time it is different. The mood is dour, even before the two sides agree to sit down for real talks because they no longer seem to share the same vision of how a final peace deal should take shape.

Over 47 years of talks, the ultimate goal endorsed by the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) had been to reunify a Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south as a federation – two zones running their own affairs with a federal government overseeing the core elements of national governance, such as foreign policy and defense.

Yet, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership have dismissed further talks about a federation-based accord as a “waste of time” because nearly five decades of talks on that model have gone nowhere. They are proposing instead essentially a two-state model that Greek Cypriots say they would never accept because it would legitimize the country’s partition forever.

The Turkish Cypriots are demanding “political equality” or equal decision-making powers on all levels of government, while Greek Cypriots argue that granting veto powers to a “minority” defies democratic principles.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Turkish Cyprus President Ersin Tatar Monday ahead of the talks, while Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu paid a visit to the country a week ago.

On the other side, the leader of the Greek Cypriot administration Wednesday met with Greece’s prime minister in which Greek Cypriot administration leader Nicos Anastasiades described the Geneva meeting as an “important … new effort.”

Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong struggle between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

The island has been divided since 1964 when ethnic attacks forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power. The TRNC was founded in 1983.

The Greek Cypriot administration, backed by Greece, became a member of the EU in 2004, despite most Greek Cypriots rejecting a U.N. settlement plan in a referendum that year, which had envisaged a reunited Cyprus joining the EU.