UN envoy searching for way forward on Cyprus talks

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A United Nations special envoy meets rival Cypriot leaders on Tuesday to scope if conditions are ripe to involve Britain, Turkey, and Greece in getting Cyprus reunification back on track.

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

On Tuesday, Lute will hold talks with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, and newly elected Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar before departing for Athens, officials said.

She met Tatar first on Tuesday in the Turkish-held north of the island before crossing the UN-patrolled ceasefire line for talks with Anastasiades at 7 pm.

The UN is not expected to make any official comment about the envoy’s contacts on the island.

Tatar was elected Turkish Cypriot leaders on a hardline policy of seeking a two-state solution for Cyprus, rather than a federal arrangement.

Lute is also in consultation with the three guarantor powers Britain, Greece and Turkey on convening a five-party meeting on the way ahead for talks to resume.

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.

Guterres seeks to rekindle stalled talks between the two sides following October elections in the north.

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

Last month, 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 since the Ankara-backed hardliner was elected in the breakaway north.

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

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.

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.

A visit by Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Varosha last month was also condemned by the Greek Cypriots and Greece.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in 1974 in reaction to a Greek-engineered coup aiming to annex the island.