The United Nations chief pledged to inject momentum to revive lifeless talks to reunify Cyprus, saying he will continue to work on preparing the ground for new negotiations.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is looking to bring together Cyprus’ rival leaders and the three “guarantors” — Britain, Greece and Turkey — for an informal meeting to reach consensus on those terms.
The terms will act as a guideline for negotiations to resume “at the earliest feasible opportunity” and aim at reaching a deal reunifying Cyprus as a federation “within a foreseeable horizon.”
Guterres said the leaders would first aim for a “strategic agreement” that would pave the way toward a comprehensive deal.
This was the outcome of the trio’s dinner date in Berlin which failed to secure a decisive breakthrough but did further engage the UN.
Numerous U.N.-sponsored rounds of peace talks have ended in failure, including the latest in 2017 when negotiations at a Swiss resort involving top diplomats from the three guarantor countries collapsed.
In fact, the last time the Cypriot leader met Guterres together was at the Swiss summit.
“It’s acknowledged that this time must be different,” Guterres said in written statement issued after an informal meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci in Berlin.
Both leaders hailed the meeting as nudging the process forward. Anastasiades called it a “first positive step” toward resuming negotiations while Akinci described it as putting the “derailed peace process back on track” that won’t go on endlessly.
The meeting may have offered some positive news after more than two years of stalemate, but key sticking points remain.
They include a Turkish demand for a continued troop presence on a reunified Cyprus and military intervention rights that Greek Cypriots reject.
The majority Greek Cypriots also oppose what they see as a Turkish Cypriot condition for veto powers in all decision-making on a federal level.
The Turkish Cypriot leader said he believed Guterres thought it necessary to personally re-engage in Cyprus peace efforts amid concerns that tensions over gas drilling in the east Mediterranean could escalate.
Turkey faces sanctions from the European Union for sending warship-escorted vessels to carry out exploratory drilling in waters were EU-member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.
Turkey, which doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state, opposes what it calls a “unilateral” Greek Cypriot gas search and says it is acting to protect its own interests and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves and claims almost half of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
Anastasiades repeated that Turkey must stop its illegal drilling off Cyprus and cease threatening the settlement of an uninhabited suburb under Turkish military control if substantial peace talks are to resume.