East Med crisis, Varosha obstacles to talks resuming

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Nicosia has told the United Nations that efforts to resume frozen peace talks are hampered by Turkey raising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the opening of fenced-off Varosha.

UN envoy on the Cyprus problem Jane Holl Lute intends to visit the island at the end of November, she told President Nico Anastasiades during a telephone conversation on Monday.

Lute intends to visit Cyprus as part of her preliminary contacts in view of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ intention to convene an informal five-party conference, said government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos.

Anastasiades asked Lute “to convey to the UN Secretary-General his thanks for the UN SG’s readiness to provide his good offices for the continuation of the talks for the solution of the Cyprus problem”.

He also asked Lute to tell the UN Secretary-General that the political climate is not conducive to the compromise needed for a new peace process to begin.

“Unilateral actions like the ones that Turkey is undertaking in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus and in the fenced city of Famagusta do not contribute to the creation of a good climate for a productive negotiation for the solution of the Cyprus problem,” Anastasiades told Lute.

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.

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 Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatas since the Ankara-backed hardliner was elected in the breakaway north.

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 on 8 October, 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”.