Turkey, Greece meet Cypriot leaders ahead of UN talks

Turkey and Greece are holding talks with the leaders of Greek and Turkish Cyprus ahead of informal negotiations on the divided island’s future next week.

Diplomatic contacts over Cyprus are ratcheting up under United Nations and Western pressure to reunite the island, divided since Turkey invaded in 1974 in response to a brief Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar will travel to Turkey’s capital Ankara on Monday to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ahead of the talks in Geneva the following day.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held discussions with Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades in Athens on Wednesday, during which they reiterated their commitment to a long-standing United Nations model for a bizonal, bicommunal federation as the sole solution.

Turkey and the pro-Ankara government in Turkish Cypriot-controlled northern Cyprus reject the UN solution, which is also supported by the United States and European Union, saying that talks on the model have failed numerous times and the north should be recognised as an independent state.   

The new policy of a “two-state solution and cooperation based on sovereign equality on the island” will be discussed with Erdoğan, Turkish Cypriot President Ersin Tatar said, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday. Tatar, a right-wing nationalist, was elected in October with strong support from Ankara.

The United Nations will chair the informal meetings on April 27-29. It has said that the five-party talks are aimed at deciding whether there is a common ground to resume peace negotiations. The five parties involved include the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides and the three guarantor powers of the island: Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom. The latter has military bases in the south.

A solution can only be reached under the UN model, “with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship, a single international representation and, of course, with the withdrawal of the occupying armies, but also the elimination of the anachronistic framework of guarantees", Mitsotakis said.

"We are not trying to usurp anyone's rights,” Anastasiades said after the meeting, the National Herald reported. The rights and interests of all citizens within a united Cyprus would be guaranteed, he said.  

The internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus controls the southern two-thirds of the island and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), a self-styled state recognised only by Turkey, governs the remainder.

A succession of talks to reunite Cyprus have failed over disagreements on core issues. A meeting in Crans Montana, Switzerland in 2017 constituted the last attempt at a solution.

The majority of Greek Cypriots opposed reunification of the island under the UN model in a referendum on April 24, 2004, a week before the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union. Turkish Cypriots approved it. Turkey keeps around 30,000 troops in the north and would have retained its military presence, which proved a significant factor affecting the referendum’s results.

Erdoğan cites the Greek Cypriot rejection of the UN plan and the failure of subsequent talks as the primary reason for pursuing a two-state solution.