By George Gilson
The President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades is to hold talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York today to discuss a restart of substantial Cyprus talks and ways to transcend the huge divide between the Turkish Cypriot and Turkey on the one hand and the Republic of Cyprus and Greece on the other.
Exploratory talks in Geneva in late April, which were attended by Guterres, ended in deadlock, as the Turkish Cypriot side and Ankara insisted that they would accept only a two-state solution. That means recognition of the breakaway state – Turkey is the only country in the world that recognises it – established in 1983 in the Turkish-occupied north.
Anastasiades is expected to present to Guterres with new proposals regarding approaches that might facilitate a resumption of substantial negotiations.
The Republic of Cyprus and Greece remained steadfast in its insistence that a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, as agreed to in four decades of talks and confirmed in a string of UN Security Council resolutions, is the only feasible settlement plan.
In this, Nicosia is supported by the UN, the US, the EU, and Russia.
The Geneva talks were attended by representatives of the Republic of Cyprus’ “guarantor powers” – Greece, Turkey, and the UK.
Cyprus and Greece have repeatedly noted that abolition of the treaty is a precondition for a settlement.
When Cyprus was granted independence from British colonial rule in 1960, a Treaty of Guarantee was signed allowing the three countries to have a say in ensuring the independence of the island and the agreements on which its independence was based.
Turkey used a specious interpretation of the treaty to justify its invasion and occupation of the island in 1974.
Back to Crans-Montana?
The last substantive talks under UN auspices were held in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, in the summer of 2017, and collapsed in part due to the dispute over the Treaty of Guarantee and the issue of the army of Turkish troops that remain in the Turkish-occupied north to this day.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis underlined recently, echoing Nicosia’s position, that the abolition of the Treaty of Guarantee and the withdrawal of Turkish troops is a sine qua non for reaching an agreement. He also stressed that no formula other than the UN-backed bi-zonal, bi-communal federation is acceptable.
Anastasiades’, who is in New York to address the UN’s 76th General Assembly, laid his cards on the table in a news conference yesterday, where he said fresh negotiations should pick up where the Crans-Montana talks left off.
“The terms of the [UN Secretary General’s] mandate and the [UN] resolutions offer common ground for resuming the dialogue. One must not overlook the work that was done up to and during the Crans-Motana talks through convergences and agreements that have been reached,” he said.
Ankara and the Turkish Cypriot to date have rejected the framework and progress achieved at Crans-Montana.