UN Cyprus envoy say sees no obstacle to new peace talks

UN Cyprus envoy say sees no obstacle to new peace talks

NICOSIA – Reuters
UN Cyprus envoy say sees no obstacle to new peace talks

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A U.N. envoy for the divided island of Cyprus said April 7 he expected stalled peace talks to resume “within weeks,” following a six-month suspension in a row over offshore gas reserves.

Norwegian diplomat Espen Barth Eide said he had met Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders earlier in the day and that they both agreed the “circumstances were now right” for the resumption of negotiations.

“I see no obstacle to a very early resumption of talks once the election process in the north of Cyprus is done,” said Eide, who oversees the Cyprus peace process for the United Nations.

Northern Cyprus will hold presidential elections on April 19.

Greek Cypriots suspended their participation in peace talks last October, furious at moves by Turkey to send research ships into areas Nicosia had unitarily licensed for offshore oil and gas exploration.

A maritime advisory for seismic research Turkey issued over the area expired on April 6, and companies licensed by Greek Cyprus have ceased drilling for gas after coming up empty.

“The stated reason why talks could not happen are gone, at least for the foreseeable future,” said Eide, speaking to reporters at Nicosia airport, a protected compound in a “buffer zone” splitting the sides and headquarters to one of the world’s oldest U.N. peacekeeping missions worldwide.

Speaking on what was once an airport apron, with the bullet-riddled, padlocked airport terminal in the distance, Eide added: “This problem is perfectly solvable.”

Turkey, and Turkish Cyprus, do not recognize Greek Cypriot sovereignty and say any natural resources should be equitably shared by both communities.

The island was split in a Turkish military intervention in 1974 triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. The stated aim of the talks is to achieve the reunification of Cyprus.

Eide is the latest in a small army of mediators who have attempted to make headway, but failed. Twenty-four have preceded him, and Eide said he hoped he would be the last.

“I think I will be the last one, but for a good reason,” he said, referring to settlement prospects. “There is of course the alternative, that the international community gives up.”