UN envoy expected in Cyprus to plot way forward

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UN envoy Jane Holl Lute is expected in Cyprus this month to scope whether conditions are ripe to convene a meeting involving guarantor powers Britain, Turkey, and Greece in getting peace talks resumed.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has instructed his special advisor Lute to begin consultations with all involved parties to determine whether the preconditions are in place to convene an informal 5+1 Cyprus summit.

A diplomatic source told CNA the US diplomat is expected in Cyprus within the next fortnight while contacts with the guarantor powers UK, Greece and Turkey will probably be held remotely.

Guterres has waited for the election of the new Turkish Cypriot leader to launch an effort to resume stalled talks on Cyprus.

Last week, rival Cypriot leaders held a ‘break-the-ice’ meeting where they promised to back a United Nations-led Cyprus peace push involving Greece, Turkey, and Britain.

It was the first meeting of Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatas since the Ankara-backed hardliner was elected in the breakaway north.

In a carefully worded UN statement, there was no clear timeline for when talks about resuming peace negotiations would begin or whether the two leaders would meet again.

“Mr Tatar and Mr Anastasiades expressed their determination to positively respond to the UN Secretary-General’s commitment to exploring the possibility to convene an informal five-plus-United Nations meeting, in a conducive climate, at an appropriate stage,” a brief UN statement said.

There have been no official UN-sponsored Cyprus settlement negotiations since a conference in Switzerland – also involving Turkey, Britain, and Greece – collapsed in July 2017.

Britain, Greece, and Turkey are guarantor powers of the island’s sovereignty under a treaty signed by Cyprus to gain independence from British rule in 1960.

An advocate of a two-state solution, Tatar edged out previous Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, 72, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriots.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he wants to rekindle talks between the two sides after the elections in the north.

He hopes to get Greece, Turkey, and Britain more involved to build some momentum which is currently lacking.

Eastern Mediterranean tensions over Turkey disputing Greece and Cyprus oil and gas reserves could scupper UN moves.

Tatar was also behind reopening the Greek Cypriot resort of Varosha, a sealed-off ghost town since 1974.

Both Anastasiades and Tatar said after their first meeting that their positions on the way forward were “far apart”.