UN trying to revive troublesome Cyprus peace talks
AA photoThe United Nations, which has been the sole supporter of finding a peaceful solution to the more than 40-year-long conflict on Cyprus, is trying the revive the troublesome peace talks that came to a halt over a Greek Cypriot parliament decision to commemorate “Enosis” in public schools.
U.N. special envoy Espen Barth Eide said on Feb. 16 that although the meeting “was not a very happy one” and “ended up abruptly,” the next round would still go ahead as planned next week.
“I am glad to convey to you that both leaders are committed to the process and nobody sees this process as over, terminated or even suspended,” said Eide.
“There have been no cancellations as of now ... no change to the program,” he added, stressing the next round would take place as scheduled on Feb. 23.
Tensions soared over a law recently passed in the south that will now permit the celebration of a 1950 referendum, when 96 percent of Greek Cypriots voted for the island to be united with Greece, which is known as “Enosis” in Greek.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı said Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had walked out of the negotiations when the two leaders met at the U.N. Good Offices in Nicosia under the auspices of U.N. special envoy Espen Barth Eide.
Akıncı said that when the school issue was discussed, Anastasiades said there “was nothing else to say, slammed the door hard and left,” despite Eide’s effort to provide conciliation.
“At that point there was nothing more to do, as this meeting needs to be conducted in an atmosphere of respect. So we also left the meeting,” Akıncı told reporters.
But Anastasiades claimed that the Turkish Cypriot side was the first to leave the talks.
Akıncı’s walkout was “unwarranted and without cause or reason,” he said on television, according to AFP, adding that Eide, chairing the meeting, had also been “unaware of what happened.”
Anastasiades said Eide had tried to persuade Akıncı to return but he was “adamant” and left.
“The meeting ended abruptly, which is unfortunate,” said the U.N. envoy. “At some point in an emotional meeting that was difficult for all participants, Akıncı himself said that he left this meeting.”
The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops intervened in the northern third after a coup aimed at unification with Greece took place.
The two sides have been engaged in fragile peace talks since May 2015 that observers have described as the best chance in years to reunify the island.
On Feb. 15, Akıncı penned a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, saying the ongoing peace talks process and the efforts to build mutual trust between the two communities on the island would be seriously damaged if the law instituting the celebration of Enosis was not repealed. Akıncı urged Guterres to take the initiative to make the Greek Cypriot parliament repeal the decision.
Eide said there were “a number of people who want this process to fail and who don’t want reunification on these terms” and “those who want it to fail will be a bit more active.”
“We must be aware that this is happening,” he added.