Cyprus president ‘ready’ for UN conference

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Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told a United Nations envoy on Monday he was ready to attend an informal five-party conference involving Britain, Greece and Turkey to end peace talks deadlock.

UN special envoy Jane Holl Lute is on her second visit to the divided island to find common ground on a Cyprus conference since holding preparatory talks last December.

On Monday, Lute held talks with Anastasiades, before crossing the UN-patrolled ceasefire line to meet and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar later in the day.

Cyprus government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushios said Lute told Anastasiades that the UN Secretary-General intended to convene a five-party conference in February.

“During the meeting, the President of the Republic expressed his readiness to participate in the informal five-party meeting,” Koushos told reporters.

“He also expressed his expectation that the informal five-party meeting will lead to a substantial resumption of talks, with the aim of reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem,” he added.

UN chief Antonio Guterres instructed Lute to consult with all involved parties to determine whether conditions exist to convene an informal 5+1 summit on ending the island’s decades-old division.

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

There have been no official UN-sponsored negotiations on the island’s future since a conference in Switzerland –- also involving Britain, Greece, and Turkey –- collapsed in July 2017.

Guterres is hoping to get the three governments more involved to build momentum that is currently lacking.

In his Good Offices Mission report to the Security Council this month, Guterres said that both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and the guarantor powers have expressed a willingness to attend an informal conference under his auspices.

“I intend to invite the sides and the guarantor powers to this informal meeting as soon as practicable in 2021,” Guterres said in his report.

“This time must be different, and this informal five-plus-one meeting will help clarify the true extent of the commonality of vision and outline steps necessary to chart a way forward.”

Guterres also acknowledged “scepticism” on the prospects of peace talks resuming has risen in both communities in Cyprus.

In November, rival Cypriot leaders held a “break-the-ice” meeting at which they promised to back a UN-led Cyprus peace push involving the outside powers.

It was their first and only meeting since the Ankara-backed Tatar was elected leader of the breakaway north.

Tatar was elected in October on a hardline platform of seeking a two-state solution for Cyprus, rather than a bicommunal federation.

The two men have acknowledged their positions on the way forward are “far apart”.

Britain, Greece and Turkey act as guarantors of the island’s sovereignty under the treaty that gave Cyprus independence from British rule in 1960.

Rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over conflicting claims to offshore oil and gas could scupper UN moves to relaunch talks.