UN urges patience in ongoing Cyprus peace talks

UN urges patience in ongoing Cyprus peace talks

UN urges patience in ongoing Cyprus peace talks

AFP photo

The United Nations’ new secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, has urged the parties in the Cyprus peace talks in Geneva to be patient to reach a “solid and sustainable” solution, as the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders were accompanied by the foreign ministers of the three guarantor powers for the first time. 

“From now on, you will have to be patient,” said Guterres, who chaired the opening of the conference while undertaking his first foreign trip as the U.N.’s new secretary general, speaking at a press conference alongside Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı and Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the U.N.’s Palais des Nations in Geneva on Jan. 12. 

“There is obviously a way to go; work will continue on Cyprus,” he said, adding that they were not looking for a “quick fix,” but rather a “solid and sustainable solution.”

Guterres also stressed that a peaceful solution to the more than 40-year-old conflict was very close. 

“We are coming very close to it: A bi-zonal, bi-communal federal state,” he said. 

Guterres said the opening session was “extremely constructive,” which was followed by a “very open debate at lunch.” 

Guterres’ comments came one day after Akıncı and Anastasiades, with the participation of one map experts each and a U.N. official, exchanged maps outlining their prospective proposals for territorial boundaries on Jan. 11, at the end of the three-day-long peace talks in Geneva before the five-party conference. 

“Never before have we had an exchange of maps, or a presentation of maps, created by the delegations themselves,” Espen Barth Eide, the United Nations envoy for Cyprus, said before the handover.

Turkish Cypriot leader have agreed in principle to return some of the land they have controlled since 1974, when the island was divided into two after Turkey intervened to the island’s north following a coup to unify the island with Greece.

Turkish Cypriot Presidential spokesperson Barış Burcu and Greek Cypriot government spokesperson Nikos Christodoulides said the presented map was “within the framework” agreed during previous negotiations, during which the Turkish Cypriots had proposed to hold 29.2 percent of the island, while the Greek Cypriots had proposed 28.2 percent. 

“We consider it as a particularly positive development,” Christodoulides said while noting that disputes remain and a final map has not been agreed, according to AFP.  

Burcu said the prospective maps had been presented to the U.N., which was keeping them in a vault and would not divulge them to the public. 

The five-party conference, which was attended by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, marked a first in the decades-old conflict. 
The foreign ministers attended the conference as the three guarantor powers of the island, a status they earned under the terms of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker were also present at the five-party conference as observers. 

Any peace deal will likely include significant changes to or even the elimination of the guarantor power arrangement.

Greece has called it out of date and Britain has said it was happy to give it up if Cypriots asked, but Turkey on Jan. 12 insisted that some form of the system needed to be preserved.  

“Taking into consideration the current situation in our region, the continuation of the security and guarantees system, which has been the solid basis of the 43-year-long security and stability on the Island, is a necessity,” Çavuşoğlu told the closed-door conference, according to a speech released from his office.  “We expect this issue to be discussed in line with the realities on the Island.”

Britain also retains military bases in Cyprus that are sovereign British territory but has offered to give up nearly half of its land as part of a final settlement.  

Çavuşoğlu also said the “political equality, legitimate rights and security of the Turkish Cypriots” remained a key foreign policy objective for Ankara.      

Speaking earlier, Johnson said: “The talks in Geneva on the Cyprus settlement offer both sides a unique opportunity to find a solution.” 

“The U.K. fully supports the settlement process and is ready and willing to help in any way it can,” he added.