UN plans Cyprus talks in April as gap widens between two sides

The United Nations will hold an informal meeting on the Cyprus issue in Geneva, Switzerland on April 27-29.

The five-party talks are aimed at deciding whether there is common ground between the parties to proceed to negotiations to reunify the island, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday.

The Turkish Cypriot administration in the north of the island and Turkey have begun calling for a “two-state solution” to resolve a decades-old dispute over Cyprus’ political future, saying previous UN attempts at creating a federal model had failed. The Republic of Cyprus, the only internationally recognised government on the island, and Greece say a bizonal, bicommunal federation is the only solution.

Two weeks ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated his government’s position that a two-state agreement was the only way forward.

Jane Holl Lute, the UN special envoy to Cyprus, has held several consultations with the Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaderships as she sought to arrange face-to-face talks between them. The UN had previously touted March as a possible date for the informal 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.

Guterres said in January that the talks would not be subject to pre-conditions.

“It is important that there is a chance of all the people to frankly discuss among themselves how they see the future and to see how to move forward,” he said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a brief Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Since then, the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus has controlled the southern two-thirds of the island, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), only recognised by Turkey, the northern third.

A succession of talks to reunite Cyprus have failed over disagreements on core issues, including the presence of thousands of Turkish soldiers in the north. A meeting in Crans Montana, Switzerland in 2017 constituted the last attempt at settlement talks.